With the start of the 51st BCHL season here, I put together the following season preview for the latest edition of Smart Hockey Magazine. This will appear in the magazine itself and online on the BCHL website.
As always, your feedback is encouraged in the comments section below!
Alberni Valley Bulldogs
The Dogs, who became the BCHL's sixth community-owned franchise during the off-season, look to return to the playoffs after missing the post-season dance in 2011-12. Coach Kevin Willison starts his first full season behind the bench in Alberni Valley after being hired last December. Newly hired GM Spiros Anastas comes with an impressive resume, including his most recent stint as Assistant Coach and Video Coordinator at Western Michigan University.
Key Arrivals: Jay Deo (Calgary - AJHL), Zack Funk (Shattuck St. Mary's), Nathan Craft (Cariboo - BCMML)
Key Departures: Yan Kalashnikov (released), Artsiom Kalashnikov (released), Justin Morello (traded to Drumheller - AJHL)
The BCHL experienced a warm welcome back to the Fraser Valley in 2011-12 as the Chiefs finished second overall in attendance and made the playoffs for the 19th straight season. Hosting the inaugural BCHL Showcase with hundreds of pro and college scouts in attendance provides a further profile boost for Coach and GM Harvey Smyl's program. A return to the Mainland Division comes games with more geographic rivals in Surrey, Langley and Coquitlam.
Key Arrivals: Austin Plevy (Merritt - BCHL), Ryan Donohoe (Lindsay - OJHL)
Key Departures: Derek Huisman (traded to Merritt - BCHL), Malcolm Gould (Michigan Tech - NCAA), David Bondra (Michigan State - NCAA)
The Express are built up of a strong group of returnees, led by Coastal Conference Rookie of the Year and Most Sportsmanlike Player Alex Kerfoot, who recently committed to Harvard. They also boast the highest scoring group of returnees in the entire BCHL. Coquitlam finished just seven points out of first in their division in 2011-12, despite winding up in fourth place. Jon Calvano returns for his third season behind the bench and first after adding general manager to his title.
Key Arrivals: Callum Hofford (The Hill Academy Varsity), Adam Rockwood (Vancouver NE - BCMML), Mark Begert (Boston College - NCAA)
Key Departures: Cody Michelle (traded to Okotoks), Joona Kunnas (Jokerit U20 - Finland), Clinton Atkinson (Miskolci Jegesmedve - Hungary)
Cowichan Valley Capitals
The Caps look to build off the third best season in franchise history, but are looking for offence as their top five scorers from a year ago have moved on. General manager Jim Ingram enters his first season as Head Coach after sharing duties with Dale Purinton in 2011-12. Dave Johnston has come on as an assistant to Ingram. Cowichan finished just four points out of first in the division last season, thanks to an 8-1-0-1 run in its last ten games.
Key Arrivals: Corey Scammon (Cushing Academy - USHS), Jamie Waddington (Vancouver NE - BCMML), Grant Nicholson (Penticton - BCHL)
Key Departures: Devin Gannon (Mount Royal - CIS), Brett Knowles (University of Minnesota-Mankato - NCAA), Brady Rouleau (Victoria - BCHL)
The Rivermen had a tough time in their first BCHL season, scoring the fewest goals in the Coastal Conference. A number of high end recruits up front should help boast Langley's goal total in 2012-13 though. Assistant coach Bobby Henderson was promoted to Head Coach and GM following the resignation of Steve O'Rourke in March. The Rivermen are returning a solid group including Bo Pellah, who finished first among under-17 defencemen in scoring a year ago.
Key Arrivals: Jakob Reichert (Merritt - BCHL), Mitchell McLain (Brainerd High - USHS), Trevor Cope (Victory Honda U18 - MWEHL)
Key Departures: Darnell Dyck (Lindenwood - ACHA), Austin Plevy (Chilliwack - BCHL), Jim Kruger (Dartmouth - NCAA)
One year ago, the Cents posted their highest point total in over 30 years, advancing to the Interior Conference Final and allowing the third fewest goals-against in the BCHL. Merritt returns a large group of forwards and stalwart Tyler Steel in goal, but only three defencemen. The Cents were dominant at home in 2011-12, losing only six times in regulation, but want to improve on a road record that saw them finish just three games over .500.
Key Arrivals: Derek Huisman (Chilliwack - BCHL), Sebastien Pare (Langley - BCHL), Diego Cuglietta (Kamloops - KIJHL)
Key Departures: Evan Stack (UMass-Amherst - NCAA), Reece Willcox (Cornell - NCAA), Brandon Pfeil (Brown - NCAA)
Despite being hosts of the inaugural 2013 Western Canada Cup, the Nanaimo Clippers want to win their way into the tournament. Mike Vandekamp enters his second full season in the Harbour City after the Clippers missed the playoffs in 2011-12 for the first time in 26 years and only the third time in franchise history. With some of their recruits, the offence should be improved after finishing with the second fewest goals-for in the Coastal Conference.
Key Arrivals: Jayson Argue (Swan Valley - MJHL), Kevin Miller (St. Albert Raiders - AMHL), Greg Fraser (Prince George - WHL)
Key Departures: Billy Faust (University of Vermont - NCAA), Andrew Gladiuk (Bentley - NCAA), Graeme McCormick (Bemidji State - NCAA)
After the best season statistically in BCHL history, what do you do for an encore? That's the task for GM and Head Coach Fred Harbinson and the Vees as they look to build upon a magical 2011-12. There are big shoes to fill as just four players return from the RBC Cup winning squad of a year ago. Among those returning to the Peach City is forward Wade Murphy, who averaged 1.5 points-per-game as an 18-year-old and finished fourth in BCHL scoring. Troy Stetcher should be a solid anchor on the blueline.
Key Arrivals: Sam Mellor (University of Alaska-Anchorage - NCAA), James De Haas (Toronto Lakeshore - OJHL), Louie Nanne (Edina High/Team Southwest - USHS)
Key Departures: Mike Reilly (University of Minnesota - NCAA), Mario Lucia (University of Notre Dame - NCAA), Steven Fogarty (University of Notre Dame - NCAA)
Powell River Kings
The Kings have been the bridesmaids four years running in the Fred Page Cup Final and with the recruits Head Coach and GM Kent Lewis has brought in, Powell River should contend once again in 2012-13. Derek Bachynski joins the Kings staff as an assistant from the University of Windsor's men's hockey program after Geoff Grimwood was hired by the WHL's Victoria Royals. Evan Richardson looks to improve on his 55 points in 48 games before heading off to Boston College next season.
Key Additions: Robbie Murden (Toronto Lakeshore - OJHL), Luke Ripley (Dawson Creek - NAHL), J.J. Coleshaw(Tisdale - SMHL)
Key Departures: Craig Dalrymple (Ohio State - NCAA), Sean Maguire (Boston University - NCAA), Cohen Adair (Northern Michigan - NCAA)
Prince George Spruce Kings
It was an off-season of change for the Spruce Kings as Prince George only returns six players from the 2011-12 edition. After returning to the playoffs for the first time in two seasons, the Spruce Kings will rely on the experience of those six returnees to lead them back to the BCHL post-season and beyond the first round. On the bench, Brad Rihela was hired by PG as an assistant coach replacing Kurt Walsten, who went to Drumheller of the AJHL. Blane Buckham is also on board as goaltending coach.
Key Arrivals: Coltyn Hansen (Victoria - BCHL), Tanner Fjellstrom (Cariboo - BCMML), Bradley Ryan (Oakville - OJHL)
Key Departures: Jujhar Khaira (Michigan Tech - NCAA), Paul DeJersey (Providence - NCAA), Fitzgerald triplets (Victoria - BCHL)
Salmon Arm Silverbacks
It was uncharted territory for fans in the Shuswap in 2011-12 as the Silverbacks missed the playoffs for the first time since joining the league in 2001. Troy Mick is in as Head Coach, GM and Minority Owner and brings with him a decade of experience behind the bench in the KIJHL, BCHL and WHL. Mick has never endured a losing season as a coach and Salmon Arm should content for a top four spot in the Interior. Brandon West joins as an assistant coach after leaving West Kelowna.
Key Arrivals: Colin Dzijacky (Grande Prairie - AJHL), Brayden Sherbinin (Cowichan Valley - BCHL), Ryan Schwalbe (Shattuck St. Mary's Midget Prep - USHS)
Key Departures: Morgan Zulinick (Wisconsin - NCAA), Devin Muller (Davos - Switzerland), Myles McCauley (University of Windsor - CIS)
The Eagles finished 2011-12 just just three points out of first place in the Coastal Conference, thanks to a stellar home record of 20-5-2-3. Surrey lost five of its' top six scorers to college commitments, but Head Coach and GM Matt Erhart has brought in a number of high-end recruits that could make up for the losses. Ex-NHLer Peter Schaefer was hired as an assistant coach. The Eagles should vie for top spot in the Mainland Division once again in 2012-13.
Key Arrivals: Edward Dyson (Dawson Creek - NAHL), Harlan Orr (Okanagan Rockets - BCMML), Craig Wyszomirski (Providence College - NCAA)
Key Departures: Andrew Hunt (Clarkson - NCAA), Tyler Morley (University of Alaska-Fairbanks - NCAA), Steve Koshey (University of Alabama-Huntsville - NCAA)
Trail Smoke Eaters
There are plenty of new faces in the Kootenays as the Smoke Eaters look to bounce back from missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. A big deal brought impact forward Alex Holland in from Victoria (via Penticton). Head Coach and GM Bill Birks added longtime KIJHL coach Brent Heaven as an assistant coach to replace Bob Dever. Hopes are high that with all the changes, the Smokies will contend for a playoff spot this season.
Key Arrivals: Austin Adduono (Dawson Creek - NAHL), Tyler Berkholtz (Alberni Valley - BCHL), Alex Holland (Victoria - BCHL)
Key Departures: Luke Bertolucci (Edmonton - WHL), Erik Cooper (St. Norbert - NCAA III), Clayton McEwan (Over-Age)
Coming off their worst season statistically in ten years and missing the playoffs, the collective eye in Vernon is on not only this season, but next as well since the Vipers host the RBC Cup in 2014. Jason Williamson, in his second season as Head Coach and GM, has added some strong newcomers to a returning group that includes top players like Adam Tambellini and Aaron Hadley. Jason Read and David Robinson have joined Williamson behind the bench as assistant coaches.
Key Arrivals: Pearce Eviston (Portland - WHL), Craig Martin (Beaver Valley - KIJHL), Landon Robin (Beardy's - SMHL)
Key Departures: Michael Zalewski (RPI - NCAA), Patrick McGillis (Queen's University - CIS), Darren Nowick (Northern Michigan - NCAA)
The only thing that was consistent in Victoria during the off-season was change. The Grizzlies have new ownership, a new coach and GM in longtime BCHL bench boss Bill Bestwick, and a host of new players. A number of 'Future Considerations' transactions from 2011-12 deals have been relied upon to restock the cupboards. After allowing an average of more than five goals against per game last season, the addition of DJ Jones and Zach Urban to the blueline should help.
Key Arrivals: Fitzgerald triplets (Prince George - BCHL), Zach Urban (Penticton - BCHL), Brady Rouleau (West Kelowna - BCHL)
Key Departures: Braxton Bilous (West Kelowna - BCHL), Wes Myron (Boston University - NCAA), Coltyn Hansen (Prince George - BCHL)
West Kelowna Warriors
The Warriors bring back a lot of experience to their roster and look poised to return to the upper echelon of the BCHL after missing the post-season for the first time since relocating to West Kelowna in 2006. Rylan Ferster enters his second season as Head Coach and GM, having brought Shane Naka in as part-time assistant coach to replace Brandon West. Marcus Basara and Max French lead the way up front and could be poised for breakout seasons.
Key Arrivals: Tyler Briggs (Lloydminster - AJHL), Jetlan Houcher (Lloydminster Midget AAA - AMHL), Adam Plant (Penticton - KIJHL)
Key Departures: Connor Dempsey (Dartmouth - NCAA), Travis Blanleil (Penticton - BCHL), Ben Betker (Everett - WHL)