Wednesday, September 20, 2017
WHL 2017-18 EAST DIVISION PREVIEW
General Manager: John Paddock
Head coach: John Paddock
Pre-season record: 3-2-0-1
2016-17 record: 52-12-7-1, First in East Division
2017 Playoffs: Lost in WHL Championship to Seattle (4-2)
Top scorers: Sam Steel (50-81-131), Adam Brooks (43-87-130), Dawson Leedahl (35-54-89)
20-year-olds: C Wyatt Sloboshan (11-20-31), C Matt Bradley (34-43-77), Tyler Brown (33-8-5-1, 2.64, 0.911, 5 SO)
Imports: LD Egor Zamula (Russia), RW Emil Oksanen (Finland)
Forwards: If you know a goaltender in the East Division not playing for the Regina Pats, now may be a good time to say a prayer for them. The forward core for the Pats is built to score and will be taking another run at being the top scoring team in the league as they were last year with 353 goals. The loss of Adam Brooks does subtract some of the team’s firepower, but the addition of Medicine Hat Tigers center Matt Bradley in an off-season trade could set the stage for the Surrey, B.C. native to have a career year.
Sam Steel remains a question mark for the Pats as he attends camp with the Anaheim Ducks. It would seem crazy for the CHL Player of the Year to miss out on such a huge season for the Pats franchise and an opportunity to play in the Mastercard Memorial Cup, but stranger things have happened. Nick Henry tallied 35 goals and 80 points last season and will likely be an offensive threat for the team again.
Defence: In addition to scoring the most goals last season, the Pats also gave up the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference. Josh Mahura was a mid-season acquisition who contributed his fair share offensively as well as defensively. Other important pieces like Connor Hobbs and import Sergei Zborovskiy are eligible to play and would certainly be welcomed back with open arms, but the logistics of where they fit in the depth chart of their respective NHL clubs has yet to take shape. Once it does, it may shed more light onto what this team will look like at the blue line.
Goal: There won’t be too much change between the pipes for the Pats. Tyler Brown is back and looking to build on a 33-win campaign. The price to acquire a forward piece like Bradley came at the cost of Jordan Hollett. His void will be filled by Max Paddock, who appeared in five games with the Pats last season, sporting a 4-1 record, 3.01 goals against average and .901 save percentage. He may find himself on the bench often with Brown in front of him, but he’ll gain a valuable year of development with the team in such an important year.
Player to watch: Of all the players whose statuses are unclear with their NHL clubs, one forward that will certainly be back with the Pats this year is Red Deer, Alta. native Jeff de Wit. With seven goals in four pre-season games, the team’s reliance on his offensive contributions could grow exponentially over the coming season. How he measures up to those expectations will play a key role in the team’s chances.
The status of players like Steel, Henry, Hobbs and Austin Wagner remain uncertain, but it seems inevitable that Vegas Golden Knights second round selection Jake Leschyshyn will come back to the Pats at some point soon. His 17 goals and 40 points in 47 games was a solid campaign for the then 17-year-old, but how he elevates his play and of those around him will be interesting and fun to watch at the same time.
Prognosis: Of all the years to win it all, the Regina Pats want it to be this year. In their 100th season, the Pats play host to the 100th edition of the Mastercard Memorial Cup. The stage literally couldn’t be bigger for the club. That’s why every game, streak, slump and play will be under the microscope.
The Pats haven’t made it to the Mastercard Memorial Cup on their own merit since they won it all in 1974. Previous hosting opportunities in 1980 and 2001 have resulted in the Pats coming up just short of their championship.
Do the Pats have the right formula of players to go all the way? Time will tell. They seem to be set in net and could return strong defensive and forward cores if NHL camps and injury rehabs shape up in their favour.
The tough part of this process for John Paddock and his players is not knowing what the right formula is until it may be too late. Their tickets to the big dance are already punched, it’s just a matter of how they use them.
MOOSE JAW WARRIORS
General Manager: Alan Millar
Head coach: Tim Hunter
Pre-season record: 3-2-1-0
2016-17 record: 42-21-8-1, Second in East Division
2017 Playoffs: Lost in Eastern Conference quarter-final to Swift Current (4-3)
Top scorers: Jayden Halbgewachs (50-51-101), Brayden Burke (19-63-82), Brett Howden (38-43-81)
20-year-olds: C Jayden Halbgewachs (50-51-101), LW Brayden Burke (19-63-82), LW Tanner Jeannot (19-33-52), RW Spencer Bast (9-8-17)
Imports: LD Oleg Sosunov (Russia), LD Dmitri Zaitsev (Russia)
SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS
Director of Player Personnel: Manny Viveiros
Head coach: Manny Viveiros
2016-17 record: 39-23-4-6, Third in East Division
2017 Playoffs: Lost in Eastern Conference semifinal to Regina (4-3)
Top scorers: Tyler Steenbergen (51-39-90), Aleksi Heponiemi (28-58-86), Ryley Lindgren (27-47-74)
20-year-olds: C Glenn Gawdin (26-33-59), Connor Chaulk (10-13-23), Arthur Miller (7-12-19), RW Brandan Arnold (3-4-7), Taz Burman (18-12-4-1, 2.96, .907)
Imports: RD Artyom Minulin (Russia), C Aleksi Heponiemi (Finland)
BRANDON WHEAT KINGS
General Manager: Grant Armstrong
Head Coach: David Anning
Pre-season record: 3-1-0-0
2016-17 record: 31-31-7-3, Fourth in East Division
2017 Playoffs: Lost to Medicine Hat in Eastern Conference quarter-finals (4-0)
Top scorers: Reid Duke (37-34-71), Ty Lewis (30-38-68), Tyler Coulter (30-33-63)
20-year-olds: LD Kade Jensen (4-10-14), LD James Shearer (8-23-31), G Logan Thompson (14-17-5-2, 3.24, .908, 1 SO)
Imports: RD Daniel Bukac (Czech Republic)
General Manager: Colin Priestner
Head coach: Dean Brockman
Pre-season record: 4-2-0-0
2016-17 record: 28-35-7-2, Fifth in East Division
2017 Playoffs: Did not qualify
Top scorers: Braylon Shmyr (35-31-66), Jesse Shynkaruk (31-25-56), Mason McCarty (21-16-37), Josh Paterson (17-20-37)
20-year-olds: LW Braylon Shmyr (35-31-66), C Cameron Hebig (26-43-69 in 2015-16), RD Evan Fiala (4-15-19), G Logan Flodell (22-20-4-0, 2.81, 0.912, 3 SO)
Imports: LD Libor Hajek (Czech Republic), LD Mark Rubinchik (Russia)
PRINCE ALBERT RAIDERS
General Manager: Curtis Hunt
Head coach: Marc Habscheid
Pre-season record: 2-3-0-0
2016-17 record: 21-44-5-2, Sixth in East Division
2017 Playoffs: Did not qualify
Top scorers: Simon Stransky (22-26-48), Parker Kelly (21-22-43), Curtis Miske (20-23-43)
20-year-olds: C Curtis Miske (20-23-43), RW Devon Skoleski (14-20-34), C Jordy Stallard (14-23-37)
Imports: LD Vojtech Budik (Czech Republic), LW Simon Stransky (Czech Republic)