Saturday, September 1, 2018
MIKE STACKHOUSE'S 2018-19 SJHL PREVIEW
Lots to like about the Mustangs, who figure to have Justin Ball, Carson Albrecht, and Tanner Zentner as a top line. The defense has four or five veterans coming back and then goaltender Hunter Arps appears ready to take over the number one job between the pipes. Trevor Blevins has the benefit of two league championships as well as last year’s 39 win season under his belt in his four years running the program.
Water is wet, sky is blue, and Chris Lewgood always has good teams. The recent acquisition of Turner Ripplinger is huge for a team that has a lot of strength on the blueline but not a lot up front as far as top end skill after Michael McChesney. Johnny Witzke may be the best defenseman in the league. Good balance and a good bet to be a strong club.
FLIN FLON BOMBERS
Chrystopher Collin and Ethan Daniels are two players who will not be back that the Bombers were counting on and they are good enough to bring a bit of doubt as to how good Flin Flon will be. Still, lots of depth with Nate Hooper, Caleb Moretz, Brandson Hein, Donavan Houle, Daylan Marchi, and Dawson McKenzie as a top six (and that’s before we know anything about the recruiting class). Calvon Boots will be one of the best defenders in the league and it’s hoped Pierce Diamond will be an upper echelon goalie.
BATTLEFORDS NORTH STARS
The Stars have been very good for a long time and, eventually, that catches up to you. Not to mention they’ve had four coaches in the last four years (including Brayden Klimosko this year). Defenseman Levi Kleiboer is an unexpected loss; but there’s still plenty of skill up front and if Joel Grzybowski comes back from the WHL, they’ll be more than fine in goal.
Sounds like the Hawks have to replace more players than originally planned after their Canalta Championship from this season; but don’t count out teams operated by Doug Johnson. Johnson has a way of bringing in players nobody has ever heard of and they end up stars. To that end, Patrick Pugliese is a goalie to keep an eye on and forward Arik Breton was picked up from the AJHL and could get a chance to show his offensive upside. Nevertheless, Josh McDougall is a once-in-a-decade defenseman that can’t be replaced by any one player.
Can Mat Hehr teach these guys to play defense? If he can, this will be the most improved team in the league. Ben Laidlaw was inconsistent as a rookie netminder, but the Terriers are very high on him. The blueline is thin after Brendan Mark and Ben Solomon. But, the additions of Jared Legien and Branden Klatt from the WHL and Colby Brandt from Notre Dame means there is a top line over and above the excellent offense produced by Cody Bruchkowski and Chantz Petruic last year (and both of those guys are also back). For the first time in years, the Terriers will be a treat to watch. They will definitely score.
The Klippers have been a middling team in recent years with only one season in the last three in which they had a better than .500 record. There isn’t a lot of firepower up front; but Blake Kleiner should be an impact defenseman in his final year. Justen Close projects as the league’s top goaltender, so they have workable pieces for new coach Clayton Jardine. There is some pressure here on the rookie bench boss to have this club in contention.
WEYBURN RED WINGS
The Wings have some high end talent with Ben Hiltz, Jordan Kazymyra, and Cade Kowalski up front. Jevon Schwean figures to take a step forward on defense. Riley Lamb is expected to take over in goal after playing 73 games over the last two years with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. There is potential here for a big year if the depth is true to form. They need the motto of ‘a year older and a year better’ to be true.
Colby Entz is a central figure for the Mils, who may not have star power up front or on the back end; but do look to have more depth than at any point in Devin Windle’s tenure. Dayton and Ryan Heino are reunited as the younger brother, Ryan, was aquired in a trade with Waywayseecappo that saw Isaac Embree go the other way. Eric Soar and Daniel LIberty are a nice foundation for the blueline.
Not a lot is known about this club after the April bus tragedy. But, the coaching staff comes with great credentials and the Broncos have been very active in the offseason acquiring talent. They won’t be as young as some think and they should be one of the SJHL’s top teams once they establish chemistry and get comfortable with the atmosphere that will follow them throughout the season.
NOTRE DAME HOUNDS
Notre Dame has a new coach in Phil Roy, but all reviews so far have been rave so the chances that the Hounds have taken a step back from Clint Mylymok aren’t great at all despite Mylymok being one of the best in the league. Roy does appear to be going a little younger and the Hounds won’t have much experience; but like every other Hound team, they will be a mystery until the season gets going as some of their key players aren’t necessarily on the radar.
LA RONGE ICE WOLVES
It looks like it’s been a good offseason for second year coach Evan Vossen as the recruits have fairly good credentials. There’s also a bit to work with from last year’s foundation that was laid in the form of goalie Merek Pipes and forward Mitchell Zambon. It’s a big hill to climb when you struggle to win double digit games in a season; but there’s reason to be optimistic.
(By: Mike Stackhouse)