Calgary, AB. -- The WHL opens its 45th regular season on Friday, September 24th as the WHL Champion Calgary Hitmen begin defense of their title against Central Division rivals the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Saddledome, along with seven other regular season games scheduled.
As the 2010-11 season draws closer, fans can look forward to many exciting storylines: Will there be a 50 goal scorer this season? Who will shine among the rookies this year? Who will take this year’s scoring title? And which team will prevail as Ed Chynoweth Cup – WHL Champions?
The 2010-11 WHL Eastern Conference team-by-team preview will be released tomorrow.
Please find below and attached a team-by-team WHL Western Conference preview for the 2010-11 WHL season.
2010 WESTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW
General Manager / Head Coach: Marc Habscheid
2010 pre-season: (Games Played, W-L-OT-SO) 6gp, 1-5-0-0
2009-10 Record: 32-33-2-5, 71 pts (4th in B.C. Div., 8th in Conf.) GF: 215 GA: 239
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 13th (18.5%) PK 11th (79.4%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in six games to Tri-City in first round
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Ryan Howse 72gp-47g-25a-72pts
Kevin Sundher 72gp-25g-36a-61pts
Brandon Manning 69gp-13g-41a-54pts
Up Front: With eight of their nine top scorers from last year coming back, the Bruins should improve on their 17th-ranked offense from last season. 47-goal man Ryan Howse returns to pace the Bruins’ attack. The Calgary Flames prospect should again be among the WHL’s top goal-scorers this season. Howse is joined by 18-year-olds Kevin Sundher, Dylen McKinlay and Jamie Crooks who all topped the 20-goal mark last season, and Chris Collins, who potted 32 points in 69 games as a rookie last year. Czech sophomore Roman Horak, who also topped the 20-goal mark last year, is also back to round out two very solid Bruins scoring lines. Talented 16-year-old Steven Hodges, the Bruins’ first-round pick in 2008, could add some offensive depth should he find himself in the team’s plans this season.
On The Blue Line: The Bruins could return up to five rearguards from last year’s team that finished in the middle of the pack in terms of goals-against. 20-year-old Brandon Manning will be the lynchpin of the defense corps should he return to the Bruins this season. The 20-year-old Prince George, B.C., product put up 13 goals and 54 points in 69 games last year, and also led the team with a solid +20 rating. 20-year-old veteran Jeff Einhorn could provide valuable defensive stability and leadership should he be in the team’s overage plans. Also returning is the physically imposing Tyler Stahl, impressive 17-year-old Mitch Topping and 18-year-old sophomore Zach Habscheid, who should all take on more responsibility this season.
Goaltending: 20-year-old Lucas Gore and 19-year-old Braden Gamble, who formed last year’s goaltending tandem for the Bruins, are both back. Gore posted a respectable 20 wins and a .902 save percentage in 41 games last season while Gamble got into 20 contests as a rookie. Gore has proved his worth as a dependable and solid starting netminder. 17-year-old Cole Holowenko, the Bruins’ second-round pick in 2008, will push for a spot on the roster as well.
Player to Watch: Dylen McKinlay
McKinlay has worked his way up the Bruins’ depth chart over the last two seasons, and has established himself as a bona fide offensive weapon for the Club. The Langley, B.C., product had such a strong showing in the second half of the season and into the playoffs last year that he turned the heads of many NHL scouts and wound up getting drafted by the Minnesota Wild. A shifty and skilled player with a good nose for the net, McKinlay has the versatility and the smarts to take on any role given to him. Expect McKinlay to continue to build on his strong finish to last season and become a pivotal player for the Bruins this season.
General Manager: Craig Bonner
Head Coach: Guy Charron
2010 pre-season: 6gp, 4-2-0-0
2009-10 Record: 32-33-2-5, 71 pts (3rd in B.C. Div., 7th in Conf.) GF: 237 GA: 284
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 7th (23.2%) PK 20th (75.3%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Vancouver in first round
2009-10 Top Scorers:
C.J. Stretch 68gp-30g-51a-81pts
Brendan Ranford 72gp-29g-36a-65pts
Chase Schaber 68gp-18g-31a-49pts
Up Front: The Blazers return nine forwards who helped the team to the WHL’s 12th-ranked offense. Brendan Ranford, the team’s leading returning scorer and a 2010 NHL draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, should be able to build on a solid 29-goal campaign last year while veteran Chase Schaber expects to make a big impact in his first full season as a Blazer. Also back are talented sophomores Jordan DePape and Colin Smith, who are capable of putting up points, and veteran Dalibor Bortnak, who has put up 55 points in 113 career games. The Blazers acquired 21-goal man JT Barnett from Vancouver to bolster the attack while veterans Dylan Willick and Jake Trask add scoring depth to what should be a strong offense in Kamloops this season.
On The Blue Line: The Blazers will look to improve on what was the WHL’s 20th-ranked defense last season. Coming back to the team this season are six rearguards from last year’s squad, including Bronson Maschmeyer and Linden Saip who combined for 19 goals and 68 points from the blue line. Austin Madaisky, who came over from Calgary at last season’s trade deadline, will look to build upon his excellent performance down the stretch and into the playoffs. The Atlanta Thrashers prospect could be in line for a breakout season on the Blazers’ blue line. Another rearguard who could have a tremendous impact is 20-year-old Cory Fienhage. The Buffalo Sabres prospect joined the Blazers in the offseason after leaving the University of North Dakota, and will bring toughness and grit in the defensive zone, a booming shot and good leadership skills.
Goaltending: The Blazers acquired 20-year-old Jeff Bosch from Moose Jaw, giving them a bona fide No. 1 starter. Bosch, a veteran of 122 WHL games, is a workhorse and has shown the ability to steal games for his team. Jon Groenheyde, 19, got into 31 games last season for the Blazers, and has also shown he can be a capable starting netminder in the WHL.
Player to Watch: Colin Smith
The Blazers’ first-round pick at the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft, Smith showed great potential as a 16-year-old rookie last season after potting five goals and 26 points in just 48 games. Blessed with top-notch puck skills, high-end vision and hockey sense, and great skating ability, Smith has the tools to be a go-to guy for offense for the Blazers. Heading into his NHL Draft-eligible season, expect to see Smith among the Blazers’ top scorers during the 2010-11 WHL season.
General Manager: Bruce Hamilton
Head Coach: Ryan Huska
2010 pre-season: 6gp, 5-1-0-0
2009-10 Record: 35-31-2-4, 76 pts (2nd in B.C. Div., 6th in Conf.) GF: 224 GA: 225
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 8th (22.5%) PK 6th (81.7%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Tri-City in second round
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Tyson Barrie 63gp-19g-53a-72pts
Shane McColgan 71gp-25g-44a-69pts
Brandon McMillan 55gp-25g-42a-67pts
Up Front: The Rockets lose very few forwards from last year’s squad, and return four of their top 5 scorers. Rising star Shane McColgan is back after an outstanding 16-year-old rookie campaign last year where he posted 25 goals and 69 points. The Manhattan Beach, CA, native should again be an offensive catalyst for the Rockets this season. Also back are veterans Geordie Wudrick, who is coming off back-to-back seasons of 25 or more goals, and Mitchell Callahan, who put up 20 goals while also proving to be one of the WHL’s most agitating players. Brett Bulmer is poised for a breakout season after finishing strong last year, while Evan Bloodoff will look to bounce back after missing almost all of last season due to injury. Cody Chikie adds even more secondary scoring after putting up 18 goals in 58 games last season in his first full WHL campaign.
On The Blue Line: The Rockets return five defensemen who helped the team to the League’s ninth-best defense last season. Leading the way is reining WHL Defenseman of the Year Tyson Barrie. The Colorado Avalanche prospect led all WHL rearguards in scoring while being the only defenseman to lead his team in scoring. Look for Barrie to be among the top blue liners in the League again this year. Also returning are 18-year-olds Mitchell Chapman, Antoine Corbin and Colton Jobke and 17-year-old MacKenzie Johnston. Corbin and Jobke impressed enough last season to earn tryouts at NHL camps. 19-year-old Kevin Smith and 20-year-old Brendon Wall were brought in to add experience and veteran leadership.
Goaltending: 19-year-old Adam Brown is back for his third campaign with the Rockets. The Yorba Linda, CA, product got into 59 games for the Rockets last year, posting an impressive 31 wins and a .905 save percentage. Brown provides a consistent last line of defense for what should be a strong Rockets’ blue line. 18-year-old Chase Martin and 17-year-old Jordan Cooke are battling for the back-up role.
Player to Watch: Shane McColgan
McColgan may have only been 16 last season, but he produced offense like a seasoned first-line vet. The Manhattan Beach, CA, native scored 25 goals and 69 points in 71 games to lead all Rockets forwards and finish second on the team in scoring, and finished as the runner-up for the WHL Rookie of the Year award. With supreme offensive talent, creativity and vision, McColgan is a scoring threat whenever he’s on the ice. Though not the biggest player, McColgan is a tough competitor who finds ways to create scoring chances while fighting off the opposition’s top checking players. Expect the NHL Draft-eligible forward to hit the score sheet regularly again this season.
Prince George Cougars
General Manager: Dallas Thompson
Head Coach: Dean Clark
2010 pre-season: 6gp, 1-4-0-1
2009-10 Record: 12-56-1-3, 28 pts (5th in B.C. Div., 10th in Conf.) GF: 172 GA: 327
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 21st (14.5%) PK 22nd (73.2%)
2010 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Alex Rodgers 68gp-20g-41a-61pts
James Dobrowolski 70gp-23g-21a-44pts
Parker Stanfield 69gp-13g-23a-36pts
Up Front: The Cougars welcome back many of the forwards from last year’s squad, and look to improve on their 21st-ranked offense. The biggest boost to the Cougars’ offense will be having a healthy Brett Connolly in the line-up. The 18-year-old missed all but 16 games last season – he still managed 10 goals – with a troublesome injury. Drafted sixth overall by Tampa Bay this summer, Connolly should be one of the top players in the WHL this season, now that he has recovered. Also back is veteran James Dobrowolski – a 23-goal man last year – and sophomores Nick Buonassisi, Brock Hirsche, and Taylor Makin, who all topped the 10-goal mark as rookies last year. The Cougars bolstered their offense by acquiring sparkplug Charles Inglis from Saskatoon. Inglis brings grit, intensity and some offense to the mix. 16-year-old Troy Bourke, the team’s second-round pick in 2008, scored three goals in five games as a 15-year-old for the Cougars last season. He could add some depth in the scoring department.
On The Blue Line: The Cougars are looking to greatly improve their team defense this season after allowing a WHL-high 327 goals last season and owning the last-ranked penalty killing unit. Though their defense corps will again be young, they should see improvements. At 19, Art Bidlevskii is the elder statesman on the blue line. Yet, 17-year-old sophomore Jesse Forsberg could emerge as a force on the team’s blue line with his strong two-way abilities. 18-year-old Slovakian rearguard Martin Marincin, an Edmonton Oilers prospect, should step into a top-two role with his strong skating and puck-moving abilities. Sophomores Daniel Gibb and Mattia Bortolotto should take on more responsibility in their second campaigns.
Goaltending: The Cougars acquired 20-year-old veteran Morgan Clark from Swift Current, giving them plenty of experience between the pipes. Clark, from Flower Mound, TX, appeared in 46 games for the Broncos last season, posting 24 victories and a solid .907 save percentage. He’ll bring consistency to the Cougars. 19-year-old James Priestner also brings experience and a veteran presence to the Cougars’ net.
Player to Watch: Jesse Forsberg
The Cougars’ first-round pick in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft, Forsberg enjoyed a strong showing as a 16-year-old rookie last year, notching 16 points in 51 games and suiting up for Team West at the 2010 World Under-17 Challenge. The Waldheim, SK, product is a well-rounded defenseman who is solid in his own zone, moves the puck well, and can skate. Forsberg also boasts a physical edge, doesn’t get intimidated easily, and sticks up for his teammates when called upon. Expect the NHL Draft-eligible rearguard to play a large role in helping the Cougars improve defensively this season.
General Manager: Scott Bonner
Head Coach: Don Hay
2010 pre-season: 5gp, 2-3-0-0
2009-10 Record: 41-25-3-3, 88 pts (1st in B.C. Div., 2nd in Conf.) GF: 267 GA: 211
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 3rd (26.4%) PK 2nd (84.7%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in six games to Tri-City in WHL Western Conference Final.
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Craig Cunningham 72gp-37g-60a-97pts
Brendan Gallagher 72gp-41g-40a-81pts
Kevin Connauton 69gp-24g-48a-72pts
Up Front: The Giants will need to fill some holes in their forward ranks this season following the departure of veterans Lance Bouma, Tomas Vincour, Milan Kytnar and James Wright. However, they will return their top goal scorer from last year, Brendan Gallagher, who potted 41 goals last season. 20-year-old Craig Cunningham may be back, but could play in the AHL this year. The loss of Cunningham would mean replacing 37 goals and 97 points worth of offense. Veteran James Henry will be asked to improve upon the 21 goals and 59 points he had last season. The Giants acquired 20-year-old veteran Matt MacKay from Medicine Hat to bolster their attack and add experience. MacKay notched 23 goals for Moose Jaw last season. 18-year-old rookies Jordan Martinook and RJ Reed could step in and add offensive depth, while Nathan Burns should make an impact once he recovers from injury.
On The Blue Line: The Giants may have been young on the blue line last season, but they still managed to maintain the WHL’s sixth-best goals-against. They return four blue liners who played significant time with the team last year, led by 19-year-old veteran Neil Manning who put up a career-best 17 goals and 56 points last season. Sophomore David Musil played with the poise of a veteran as a 16-year-old last season. A top prospect for the 2011 NHL draft, Musil will be a key two-way presence for the Giants this season. Also returning are 17-year-olds Luke Fenske and Zach Hodder, who should be in line for more responsibility with a year of experience under their belts. 19-year-old Tanner Sohn was acquired from the Medicine Hat Tigers to add experience, grit and a veteran presence.
Goaltending: Mark Segal returns as the Giants’ starting netminder. The 19-year-old posted an 18-12-2 record with a .910 save percentage in 36 games after joining the Giants in November, and performed well in the post-season. 17-year-old Brendan Jensen and 18-year-old Derek Tendler each saw time in the back-up role last season, and will battle for the back-up role this season.
Player to Watch: Brendan Gallagher
At 5’8”, 170-lbs, Gallagher may not be the biggest player on the ice at any given time. Yet, his small stature didn’t prevent him from scoring 41 goals last season. A Montreal Canadiens prospect, Gallagher is a talented offensive forward with a gift for putting the puck in the net. The scrappy Delta, B.C., product has shown a willingness to go into tough areas to score, and is not easily intimidated. Gallagher will be a key cog in the Giants’ offense as they set out to claim their sixth consecutive B.C. Division title.
General Manager: Doug Soetaert
Head Coach: Craig Hartsburg
2010 pre-season: 7gp, 4-3-0-0
2009-10 Record: 46-21-3-2, 97 pts (2nd in U.S. Div., 3rd in Conf.) GF: 232 GA: 175
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 12th (19.0%) PK 19th (75.6%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Kelowna in first round
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Shane Harper 72gp-42g-38a-80pts
Tyler Maxwell 72gp-33g-36a-69pts
Kellan Tochkin 72gp-28g-40a-68pts
Up Front: The Silvertips return a strong contingent of forwards from last year’s team, plus made a few additions to ensure they will be a dangerous group this season. Tyler Maxwell and Kellan Tochkin, the team’s second and third-leading scorers last year, are both back. The two have combined for 103 goals over the last two seasons in Everett. The ‘Tips also traded for Detroit Red Wings prospect Landon Ferraro during the offseason. At his best, Ferraro is a potential 50-goal man, and should help replace some of the goals lost by the graduation of veteran Shane Harper. 19-year-old Scott MacDonald enjoyed a terrific finish to last season and has impressed during the pre-season. He could be a valuable offensive contributor this season. The ‘Tips are high on 19-year-old Josh Birkholz, a Florida Panthers prospect who left the University of Minnesota to play in Everett. Birkholz will add speed and a good shot to the ‘Tips’ forward group.
On The Blue Line: The Silvertips boasted the top defense in the WHL last season, allowing only 175 goals. Although they may lose a couple of pieces to their League-leading defense, the ‘Tips should remain strong on the blue line. Sophomores Ryan Murray, Rasmus Rissanen and veteran Paul Sohor are back, while the ‘Tips acquired 20-year-old Chad Suer from Moose Jaw to add a veteran presence in the defensive zone. Murray was a revelation as a 16-year-old rookie last year, and should be even better this year with a year’s worth of experience. 16-year-old Nicholas Walters, the team’s first-round pick in 2009, could step in and add defensive depth, as will 17-year-old Evan Morden and 18-year-old Gabe Minville.
Goaltending: 18-year-old Kent Simpson is set to take on the starting job for the ‘Tips this season. After two years backing up Thomas Heemskerk, the 18-year-old Chicago Blackhawks prospect has shown he is ready to take on the No. 1 job. Simpson boasted outstanding numbers in 34 games last season, and will embrace a heavier workload. 16-year-old Andy Desautels and 17-year-old Luke Siemens will vie for the back-up role.
Player to Watch: Ryan Murray
Murray was one of the youngest full-time defensemen in the WHL last year, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he played. The White City, SK, product notched five goals and 27 points in 52 games last season, and posted a spectacular +33 rating. The captain of Canada’s Under-18 team this summer, Murray led Canada to a Gold medal at the Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic. Murray’s two-way play, skating, puck handling and shot are exceptional, and his leadership skills are already apparent. Not NHL draft-eligible until 2012, Watch for Murray to be one of Everett’s key performers on the back end this season.
General Manager / Head Coach: Mike Johnston
2010 pre-season: 6gp, 4-0-0-2
2009-10 Record: 44-25-2-1, 91 pts (4th in U.S. Div., 5th in Conf.) GF: 266 GA: 241
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 11th (19.4%) PK 12th (79.2%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in six games to Vancouver in second round
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Chris Francis 72gp-26g-56a-82pts
Ryan Johansen 71gp-25g-44a-69pts
Brad Ross 71gp-27g-41a-68pts
Up Front: The Hawks took a major step forward in the offensive zone last season, ranking sixth in the WHL in goals scored. This year, the Hawks return many of their key forwards, meaning they should be an offensive force. Ryan Johansen broke out for 69 points as a 17-year-old rookie last year, and was rewarded by being the first WHL player selected in the 2010 NHL draft (4th overall, Columbus). He’ll be a major force for the Hawks this season. Also back are feisty winger Brad Ross, who put up 68 points while leading the League in penalty minutes, and veteran Luke Walker, who is coming off back-to-back seasons of 27 or more goals. Ty Rattie should be able to build on what was a strong rookie campaign last year while Oliver Gabriel, Spencer Bennett and Riley Boychuk will provide consistent secondary scoring. Swiss standout Nino Niederreiter may well play in the NHL this season with the New York Islanders. If he is returned to the WHL, it will be a massive boost for the Hawks.
On The Blue Line: The Hawks return a talented group of rearguards who should be able to help the team improve their 14th-ranked goals-against from last season. Veteran Brett Ponich is back to anchor the defense. The 6’7”, 225-lb St. Louis Blues prospect is a steady defensive defenseman who plays a physical game and has a low panic level. 18-year-olds Joe Morrow and Troy Rutkowski provide plenty of offense and puck-moving from the blue line, having combined for 19 goals and 74 points last year. Taylor Aronson, a 2010 draft pick of the Nashville Predators, also adds strong two-way play and can put up points. 16-year-old Derrick Pouliot, the first overall pick of the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, could add some depth to the back end while 17-year-old Tyler Wotherspoon will be able to handle more responsibility with a year of experience under his belt.
Goaltending: 20-year-old Ian Curtis and 18-year-old Mac Carruth are both back and looking to secure the top job in Portland’s cage. Curtis appeared in 38 games for the Hawks last season, posting 20 wins, while Carruth got into 26 games after joining the Hawks in November. Also in the mix for a roster spot in 18-year-old Keith Hamilton, who backed up Kurtis Mucha in 2008-09 as a 16-year-old.
Player to Watch: Ryan Johansen
Johansen joined the Hawks for last season after playing for the BCHL’s Penticton Vees the previous season. He quickly showed Hawks fans that he could not only play at the WHL level, but dominate. A tall, lanky center with outstanding vision, passing skills and puckhandling skills, Johansen established himself as one of the League’s most creative and dangerous playmakers, notching 44 assists and 69 points in 71 games. With a strong group of forwards to work with, expect Johansen to rack up even more points this season.
General Manager: Russ Farwell
Head Coach: Rob Sumner
2010 pre-season: 8gp, 4-3-1-0
2009-10 Record: 19-41-7-5, 50 pts (5th in U.S. Div., 9th in Conf.) GF: 172 GA: 255
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 15th (17.7%) PK 14th (78.5%)
2010 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Prab Rai 67gp-41g-28a-69pts
Charles Wells 70gp-21g-34a-55pts
Jeremy Schappert 64gp-10g-38a-48pts
Up Front: The Thunderbirds iced one of the WHL’s youngest groups of forwards last season. Though still a young group, the T-Birds should see improvements with many of their forwards now having a season of experience. 19-year-old Charles Wells is the elder statesman of the group, and comes into the season following a 21-goal, 55-point campaign last year. Expect Wells to play a huge role in the team’s offense. 19-year-old Burke Gallimore will be counted on to increase his output from the 19 goals he potted last season, while more will be expected from sophomores like Chance Lund, Tyler Alos and Brendan Rouse. Colin Jacobs showed flashes of offensive brilliance as a 16-year-old last year. The Coppell, TX, native should be a key cog in Seattle’s attack this season. Look for 16-year-old Brandon Troock to make an impact as well. The T-Birds did add a veteran presence with the acquisition of towering forward Travis Toomey from Saskatoon, who should bring toughness and some offense to the group.
On The Blue Line: The Thunderbirds return six defensemen from last year’s squad that finished 17th in the WHL in goals-against. 20-year-old Brendon Dillon, and 19-year-olds Scott Ramsay and Erik Bonsor are the oldest of the group, with a combined 476 games of WHL experience between them. Also returning are 18-year-olds Ryan Aasman and Erik Fleming, who will be expected to step up and take on more responsibility this season. 18-year-old Swiss rearguard Dave Sutter has impressed in pre-season play, and could step into a big role with the team this season. A big question for the T-Birds is where the offense will come from on the blue line. The returning defense corps scored a combined three goals last season.
Goaltending: The T-Birds boast one of the WHL’s best goaltenders in Calvin Pickard. The 18-year-old from Winnipeg, MB, was outstanding last season, posting an impressive .914 save percentage while appearing in the most games, facing the most shots and making the most saves of any WHL goalie. A finalist for the WHL goaltender of the Year award last season, expect Pickard to be among the best netminders again this season. 18-year-old Michael Salmon and 19-year-old Matt Krahn are vying for the back-up role.
Player to Watch: Colin Jacobs
The first of two fourth-round picks for Seattle in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft, Jacobs made his full-time debut for the T-Birds last season as a 16-year-old, notching 13 goals and 26 points. A 6’2”, 204-lb power forward, Jacobs has the offensive tools to be a consistent scorer, and the size and disposition to be a physical force on the ice. Jacobs is a great skater, has great hands and a high level of hockey sense, and has a terrific shot. He’s the type of player who makes those around him better. Many feel Jacobs is ready for a breakout season, and could see his NHL draft stock soar over the course of the 2010-11 WHL season.
General Manager: Tim Speltz
Head Coach: Don Nachbaur
2010 pre-season: 7gp, 3-3-0-1
2009-10 Record: 45-22-3-2, 95 pts (3rd in U.S. Div., 4th in Conf.) GF: 240 GA: 197
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 5th (24.9%) PK 3rd (84.4%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Portland in first round
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Mitch Wahl 72gp-30g-66a-96pts
Kyle Beach 68gp-52g-34a-86pts
Tyler Johnson 64gp-36g-35a-71pts
Up Front: The Chiefs will see some turnover among their forwards this season. Gone are high-scoring veterans Mitch Wahl and Kyle Beach, who combined for 82 goals and 182 points last season. Thankfully, they should have 20-year-olds Tyler Johnson and Levko Koper back to pace the offense. Johnson scored a career-high 36 goals last season and is a valuable two-way presence, while Koper put up 27 goals and 54 points. Both will play massive roles on the team this season. 19-year-old Kenton Miller and 18-year-old Blake Gal are the only other returning forwards who cracked the 10-goal mark. The Chiefs will need bigger contributions from sophomores like Dominik Uher, Brady Brassart and Steve Kuhn. 17-year-old Marek Kalus, the younger brother of former Regina Pat Petr Kalus, could make an impact on the score sheet for the Chiefs this season, too.
On The Blue Line: With the departure of veterans Jared Spurgeon, Stefan Ulmer and Brett Bartman, the Chiefs lose a lot of experience and offense from their defense corps. Should he not make the NHL’s Ottawa Senators this season, Jared Cowen, 19, will take the reins and lead what will be a younger blue line crew. Cowen can be a dominant force for the Chiefs with his blend of size, skill and smarts. Also returning this season is 18-year-old Brendan Kichton, who will look to take on more responsibility this season and could fill some of the offensive void left by the departure of Spurgeon. 19-year-old veteran Corbin Baldwin and 17-year-old sophomore Tanner Mort are also back from last year’s squad while 18-year-old Bruin McDonald was brought in from Prince George to add experience and depth.
Goaltending: James Reid, 20, enjoyed a stellar season last year in his first campaign as a starter, boasting a WHL-leading 38 wins and a spectacular .920 save percentage. He returns to give the Chiefs top-quality goaltending this season. 18-year-old Chris Sharkey and 17-year-old Mac Engel are options for the back-up role.
Player to Watch: Tyler Johnson
Entering his final season of WHL eligibility, Johnson is Mr. Everything for his hometown Spokane Chiefs. The 5’9”, 175-lb center can skate like the wind, has a great shot and good offensive instincts, and works as hard as any player in the defensive zone. In three seasons with the Chiefs, Johnson has seen his goal total jump from 13 in 2007-08 to 26 in ’08-09 to 36 last season. As effective on the penalty kill as he is on the power play, Johnson brings a complete game to the Chiefs. He’ll be an integral part of the Chiefs’ plans for 2010-11.
General Manager: Bob Tory
Head Coach: Jim Hiller
2010 pre-season: 8gp, 6-2-0-0
2009-10 Record: 47-22-1-2, 97 pts (1st in U.S. Div., 1st in Conf.) GF: 272 GA: 193
2009-10 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP 2nd (28.0%) PK 15th (78.5%)
2010 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Calgary in WHL Championship Series
2009-10 Top Scorers:
Brendan Shinnimin 70gp-27g-55a-82pts
Justin Feser 72gp-36g-37a-73pts
Brooks Macek 72gp-21g-52a-73pts
Up Front: The Americans were the third-highest scoring team in the WHL last season. Their offense should be just as deadly this season with almost all of their top guns returning for 2010-11. Back are Brendan Shinnimin, Brooks Macek, Justin Feser, Kruise Reddick and Jordan Messier, who all scored at least 20 goals last season, as well as Adam Hugesman, who netted 19 times. Those six, alone, form one of the WHL’s best top-two line combinations. With Patrick Holland, who managed 16 goals and 36 points as a rookie, and fellow sophomore Mason Wilgosh returning as well, the Ams boast plenty of offensive depth. Youngster Connor Rankin has made a good impression while 20-year-old veteran Mike Brown has done a good job during the pre-season in making his case to claim one of the three overage spots.
On The Blue Line: The Ams only return four regular defensemen from last year’s team that boasted the WHL’s 4th-best defense. 20-year-old veteran Tyler Schmidt picked up 38 points, including seven goals, last season. He’ll be charged with providing strong two-way play and leadership for what will be a younger Ams defense corps this season. Also back is veteran Brock Sutherland, the only other returning rearguard with more than one season of WHL experience. Sophomores Drydn Dow and Zach Yuen will take on bigger roles this season while Russian rookie Nikita Kardashev appears capable of stepping into a top-four role.
Goaltending: 19-year-old Drew Owsley returns after enjoying a fantastic season in his first year as a starter last year. Owsley was among the top five WHL netminders in just about every category last year, and was very good in the Ams’ run to the WHL Championship series. Potentially back is 20-year-old Alex Pechurskiy. The Russian netminder was very good in the 27 games he played, and was excellent in the post-season as well, when called upon. Pechurskiy, however, is eligible to play professionally in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ system. 16-year-old rookie Chris Driedger has shown promise, and could slot into the back-up role.
Player to Watch: Brooks Macek
A second-round pick, 43rd overall, in the 2007 Bantam Draft, Macek broke out last season with 21 goals and 73 points to establish himself as a top-notch playmaker. The 5’11”, 175-lb Winnipeg, MB, product is a very good skater and has excellent vision and passing abilities. Though not the biggest player, Macek competes hard and doesn’t shy away from physical play. Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2010 NHL Draft, Macek will be a catalyst for what should be a very strong Americans offense this season.