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Saturday, 13 June 2015

TRANSACTION TRACKER: OFFSEASON 2015

The off-season for Junior hockey is officially halfway over, which means we're that much closer to opening weekend in early September. Teams have started announcing their player commitments for the 2015/16 season, and there is lots of new information to take in. This tracker will have information for all 20 teams, and will be updated as transactions and new information are announced.


OKANAGAN DIVISION


Osoyoos Coyotes
 - Former Co-Captains Aaron Azevedo (Iowa State) and Troy Maclise (Selkirk College) are off to play college hockey after completing their 20 year old seasons.

- Luc Gradisar will forgo his final Jr year and play college hockey at the University of Arkansas


 - Ryan Roseboom and the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL have a mutual commitment for 2015/16


- The Coyotes commit to local product Evan Loura ('99) and ('97) F Reid Wilson, out of the Seafair Midget program


 - Osoyoos trades Darryl Senholt ('95) to the Campbell River Storm in exchange for Daine Elphicke ('97) and future considerations


 - Osoyoos trades Bailey Shaver ('96) to the Sicamous Eagles for Scott Robinson ('97)


- Coyotes name Rainer Glimpel as Captain for 2015/16. Returning D-man Daniel Stone will serve as one of his assistants


Thoughts: Osoyoos is in good shape for the 2015/16 season. They've moved a ton of players on from their 2014/15 Regular Season Championship run to higher junior levels and universities, but should have no problem putting a competitive product forward for their fans and the KIJHL. Ken Law is a veteran coach and a great recruiter and will have no problem finding solid talent for 2015/16





Summerland
Steam


- Franchise leading goaltender Brett Huber and 3 year vet Nelson Hurry commit to Selkirk College for 2015/16


- The Steam and Penticton native Michael MacLean ('98) have reached a mutual commitment for 2015/16


- Forward Tyson Klingspohn has accepted a Tier 2 Junior commitment with the Springfield Express of the Western States Hockey League in 2015/16.

- The Steam announced that franchise leader for points in a single season with 65, Jordan McCallum, will join the coaching staff for 2015/16. McCallum joins the Steam staff alongside Head Coach John Depourcq and assistant coach Wade Parker after playing the last 4 seasons between the CSSHL, KIJHL, BCHL, and MJHL, most recently with the Winnipeg Blues in 2014/15. 

Thoughts: Summerland will put forth a strong squad again in 2015/16 looking to build on the success of the past 2 seasons. They'll have to do it with a new backstop, however, as Brett Huber has moved on from the KIJHL to the BCIHL. With the amount of returnees eligible from last season with TONS of players born in 1996, they'll be a more veteran team looking to improve on last year's second round playoff exit.



Kelowna Chiefs
- 20 year old F Ethan Rusnack and Assistant Coach Matt Sheeran commit to the University of Central Oklahoma for 2015/16

- Chiefs add former Vernon Vipers Captain and '99 RBC Cup Champion Lenny Rampone to coaching staff for 2015/16 along with former pro player Ryan Jorde. Both will join Head Coach Jason Tansem behind the Kelowna bench in 2015/16


- Kelowna trades Braeden Cyra ('95) to the Campbell River Storm of the VIJHL in exchange for Future Considerations


- 2014/15 Captain Anthony Ruggiero ('95) will not return for 2015/16. Ruggiero has been accepted to the Fire Fighter's Academy. 


- Jeran Knorr ('97) has committed to play Junior A in 2015/16 for the Cochrane Crunch of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.


- Chiefs announce a committment to Jeffrey Schlegel ('98, Okanagan Rockets, MML), Jaden McNulty ('97, Kelowna Midget Tier 1) and Kohlmann Brinsky (NEBC & Yukon Trackers) 


Thoughts: Kelowna is always a competitive team. Just like Osoyoos, they have great recruiters and a good market where kids love to play. With the additions behind the bench, and surely more additions to the roster to come, they'll be a tough team again in 2015/16

Princeton Posse
- Defenceman Estevan Hale ('95) has accepted a commitment to Concordia University in Edmonton, AB for 2015/16

- Princeton parted ways with former GM/HC Bill Rotheisler at the end of the 2014/15 season and brought in former Osoyoos Coyotes Assistant Coach Geoff Goodman to take the helm for 2015/16 and beyond.


- Princeton Posse D Cooper Prechel ('98) has accepted a BCHL level commitment to spend 2015/16 with the Prince George Spruce Kings

Thoughts: Goodman is an intelligent hockey man and a great person to deal with off the ice, as well. Kids will take to his coaching style and surely will be competitive in 2015/16.






North Okanagan
Knights
- The Knights have changed ownership this off-season, with Dean Keller taking over as the principle owner of the Armstrong based hockey club. 

- Keller's first move was to hire a new Head Coach and GM to replace Jim Armstrong and Chuck Gallacher, respectively. The man he chose is former Penticton Panthers, Merritt Centennials and Alberni Valley Bulldogs Head Coach Bryant Perrier. Perrier comes with a strong coaching pedigree after spending the last several years coaching at the division 2 professional level in France. Prior to his pro experience, Perrier spent 10+ years in the BCHL and 2+ years in the MJHL with the now defunct Neepawa Natives. 


Thoughts: The hire of Bryant Perrier as HC/GM is an absolutely brilliant move for the North Okanagan Knights. After a tough season last year that saw them finish 5th in the Okanagan Division and miss the playoffs, they've got the right guy in place to guide the franchise back to the form they were in when they won the KIJHL Championship in 2012/13. Perrier (at least in his BCHL days) brings a tough but fair coaching style to the table, and always seems to get the best from his players.



DOUG BIRKS DIVISION

Kamloops Storm

- Have yet to announce any changes to the roster or staff

Thoughts: They'll be tough again in 2015/16. They always are. As one of the biggest markets in the KIJHL it is a big draw for kids to come and play in a big city, and it's no secret that Kamloops has a great program led by GM Barry Dewar and Head Coach Ed Patterson. They've made the playoffs each of the past 4 seasons including a trip to the KIJHL Final this past season and a Regular season title in 2013/14. 
Chase Heat 


- In an effort to get younger, the Heat traded local product Cody Hodges ('96) and D Connor Harding ('96) to the Victoria Cougars of the VIJHL, who host the Cyclone Taylor Cup in 2016

Thoughts: The Doug Birks Division was the tightest division in the KIJHL last season, and I would expect that to remain true for 2015/16. Chase is a hockey team with a good management and coaching staff who deploy systems that are incredibly hard to play against. 



100 Mile House Wranglers
- Wranglers' star defenceman Jayden Syrota ('97) and standout goaltender Kristian Stead ('96) have both accepted SJHL level commitments to play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in 2015/16. Syrota will join the Weyburn Red Wings while Stead will spend 2015/16 with the Nipawin Hawks

- Captain of the 2014/15 squad, Devan Suidy, has accepted a collegiate commitment to play for Portage College in 2015/16

Thoughts: Head Coach and GM Dale Hladun had a successful first year in 100 Mile House. Yes, they finished 3rd and started the playoffs on the road in Chase, but they were in the hunt for home ice advantage up until the final day of the regular season. They dispatched of the Heat in the first round before bowing out to a very strong Kamloops Storm squad in the second round. Expect 100 Mile to be competitive again in 2015/16. Hladun coaches a 'heavy' style of game, meaning his teams are always big, tough, and talented.



Sicamous Eagles
- The Eagles parted ways with long time Head Coach and GM Blair Robinson after 21 seasons. 

- The Eagles replaced Robinson with former Golden Rockets Head Coach and GM Ty Davidson. Davidson left Golden at the end of the 2014/15 season in order to be closer to his family in Salmon Arm.

- Sicamous completed a trade with the Osoyoos Coyotes, acquiring Bailey Shaver ('96) in exchange for Penticton product Scott Robinson ('97)

- Sicamous trades G Olivier Charest ('95) to the Comox Valley Glacier Kings of the VIJHL in exchange for Franco Colapaolo

- Sicamous transfers the playing rights of G Patrick Kasper ('96) to the OCN Blizzard of the MJHL.

Thoughts: The addition of Bailey Shaver gives the Eagles a physical element that will be needed in a division that includes the 100 Mile House Wranglers and Kamloops Storm. Ty Davidson comes from the ultra competitive Eddie Mountain Division, and knows how to coach in tight situations. He will be a good asset for Sicamous and I'd bet they'll improve on their 4th place finish in the Doug Birks Division in 2014/15.



Revelstoke Grizzlies
- Defenceman Nii Noi Tetteh ('98) has accepted a commitment from the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL to play Jr. A. next season.

- Tyler Chavez-Leach, the Grizzlies' second leading scorer last season, has accepted a commitment to play Jr. A for the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL in 2015/16

- Revelstoke acquired G Brody Nelson ('95) from the Kimberley Dynamiters. Nelson spent last season split between Columbia Valley, Kamloops, and Kimberley.

- The Grizzlies announce that Carter Huber has accepted a commitment from the AJHL's Okotoks Oilers for the 2015/16 season. 

Thoughts: The acquisition of Brody Nelson in goal gives Head Coach Ryan Parent some foundation to build on. The Grizzlies finished 5th last season, but missed the postseason by way of a tie breaker with the Sicamous Eagles. The crop of returning players they have eligible for 2014/15 includes leading scorer Steven Fiust, and is as good as any group of eligible returnees in the KIJHL. Look for them to improve on that 5th place finish in 2015/16.


EDDIE MOUNTAIN DIVISION

Kimberley Dynamtiers
- Forwards Braden Saretsky ('96) and Coy Prevost ('97) accept commitments to play Jr. A for the Canmore Eagles of the AJHL in 2015/16

- Brady Revie, Tyler Kinnon, and Charlie Dagostin have all accepted collegiate commitments for 2015/16.

- The Nitros have agreed on mutual commitments with James Rota ('98, Kimberley), Tyler Van Steinburg ('98, Cranbrook) and Austyn Moser ('98) 

- The KIJHL Champion Nitros have shuffled their staff. Longtime GM Dave Smith moves to an assistant GM's role, while Assistant Coach Mike Reid will take over General Manager duties. 

Thoughts: Kimberley might need every single day of the off-season to rest after they played 29 games in 45 days to win a silver medal at the Cyclone Taylor Cup in 2015. A key returnee for the Nitros will be goaltender Tyson Brouwer, who captured the eyes of the entire KIJHL with his play during the postseason and through the Cycole Taylor Cup.

- Josh Lockhart has an offseason tracker going as well for the Nitros. Check it out here.
Fernie Ghostriders
- The Fernie Ghostriders have acquired the playing rights to D Ryan Teslak ('98) from the Castlegar Rebels in exchange for Future Considerations.

Thoughts: No worries about Fernie. They'll be in the top 3 in their division this season, as they always are. They have one of the best fan bases in Jr. hockey all across BC and always put a good product on the ice. 



Creston Valley Thunder Cats
- Jesse Collins (last played for Creston in '13/14) has committed to play college hockey in the BCIHL at Eastern Washington University (EWU). 

- Connor Kidd has accepted a collegiate commitment to Becker College (Mass.)

- Joe Martin, who coached the T-Cats many years ago, has accepted the position of Head Coach & GM with the BCHL's Merritt Centennials. Martin joins the Cents to fill the spot vacated by former HC/GM Luke Pearce, who accepted the same role with the WHL's Kootenay Ice early in the offseason.

- The Thunder Cats swung a deal with the Campbell River Storm, acquiring Zack Sanderson ('96) in exchange for Future Considerations

- Creston Valley has announced a player commitment to F Justin Podgorenko ('98) and G Jason Mailhiot for 2015/16. Podgorenko and Mailhiot both spent last season with the Kootenay Ice in the BC Major Midget League.

- The Thunder Cats have acquired the playing rights of F James Severs ('96) from the Westshore Wolves of the VIJHL in exchange for Future Considerations.

- Thunder Cats D Maverick Lynes ('96) has accepted a Junior A commitment from the MJHL (Manitoba Junior Hockey League) Selkirk Steelers for 2015/16

Thoughts: Head Coach and GM Jeff Dubois is a great hockey coach and an even better recruiter. After joining the Thunder Cats last season off of back to back BCIHL titles with the Castlegar based Selkirk College, Dubois went to work shaping his roster and building his team and staff. He built a squad that was extremely tough to play against and got better as the year went on. With the crop of eligible returnees for the 2015/16 season, the T-Cats will surely be competitive again this season.



Golden Rockets
- Golden did not extend the contract of Head Coach & GM Ty Davidson at season's end due to Davidson wanting to return home to Salmon Arm to be with his family. 

- The Rockets found themselves a quality hockey man to take the helm in the person of Jason Stephens. Stephens is a qualified hockey man who has coached at the Midget AAA and Junior levels in Alberta as well as with the National Inline Hockey Association of Canada. 

Thoughts: To go along with arguably (in my opinion) the best road jerseys in the KIJHL, the Rockets will have a veteran team this season with lots of players eligible to return from last year. They were an extremely tough team that nobody liked to play last season, and that says a lot in a division with Kimberley, Fernie, and Creston. 



Columbia Valley Rockies
- Forward Braydon Barker has accepted a commitment to play Jr A for the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL in 2015/16

- Tyson Kapty has accepted a collegiate commitment to Mount Royal University

- Randy Teeple has accepted a collegiate commitment to the University of Lethbridge

- Rockies Captain Ryan St. Jean has accepted a commitment from the SJHL's Weyburn Red Wings for the 2015/16 season.

Thoughts: It will be an interesting year for Head Coach Wade Dubielewicz and the Columbia Valley Rockies. After a year of ups and downs last year that ended in a 5th place finish in a very tough division, they'll be looking to improve. Dubielewicz, a former NHL goaltender, knows his way in the game of hockey and surely will be able to improve on the 12 wins they accomplished in 2014/15.


NEIL MURDOCH DIVISION

Beaver Valley Nitehawks
- "Super Rookies" Spencer McLean ('98) and Ross Armour ('98) have accepted Jr A commitments with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL. 

Thoughts: BV is always one of the top teams in the Murdoch Division. A great program run by great people that always puts a good product on the ice for their fans and the rest of the league. Look forward to seeing them play the Okanagan Division again in 2015/16. 



Castlegar Rebels
- Rebels' Captain Aaron Petten, a native of Fort MacMurray, AB, has accepted a collegiate commitment to Concordia University of the ACAC, based in Edmonton. 

- The Castlegar Rebels trade the playing rights of '98 F Dawson Haines to the VIJHL's Kerry Park Islanders in exchange for Future Considerations. 

Thoughts: Castlegar is always strong and they recruit well. Their crop of eligible returnees is strong, and they'll surely have a couple of new additions that will open some eyes as well. 



Nelson Leafs
- The Leafs have voted on a new Board of Directors for 2015/16 with a couple of incumbents but a lot of new blood. Will be interesting to see where they take the franchise from here. 

- Former player Aaron Dunlap has accepted a collegiate commitment from the BCIHL's Eastern Washington University Eagles for 2015/16. 

- Standout defencemen Robson Cramer and Darnell St. Pierre have both accepted collegiate commitments to Simon Fraser University. They will play for the Clan in the BCIHL in 2015/16

Thoughts: Nelson is in good shape. They have lots of young players eligible to return for 2015/16 and have a Head Coach and GM in Dave McLellan who now has a year of KIJHL coaching under his belt. The Leafs had a good year in 2015/16. They were a first place team that finished third on a technicality, and ultimately went out in the first round of the KIJHL playoffs. They'll likely have another strong squad in 2015/16 and contend for a division championship again. 


Spokane Braves
- No news to report on any roster moves or staff changes

Thoughts: The KIJHL's only American team had a good year in 2014/15. They started a little slow but were buoyed by the arrival of standout goaltender Trevor Dilauro ('97) and the offensive power of Kurtis Redding, Tanner Stolz and Jonny Marzec up front. They were led on offense by their veteran players, and will have to replace at least Tanner Stolz based on age. They'll likely be competitive again in 2015/16 and I look forward to what they'll have to offer.


Grand Forks Border Bruins
- Matt Lucero has accepted a collegiate commitment to Eastern Washington University. He'll play for the Eagles in the BCIHL in 2015/16. 

- After spending most of the offseason searching for the right candidate, the Grand Forks Border Bruins have found their new Head Coach and General Manager in Emery Olauson. Olauson comes from Canmore, AB, and has transitioned to coaching after a long playing career highlighted by an 88 pt season with the Knoxville Ice Bears of the Southern Professional Hockey League in 2011/12. Olauson spent the 2013/14 season as an associate coach with the SJHL's Flin Flon Bombers before taking on the position of Head Coach with the Fayetteville FireAntz of the SPHL in 2014/15. You can read the Bruins' release here.

Thoughts: Grand Forks had a tough year last year. No question about it. They only recorded 8 wins and did not record a win (except by default) after the departure of leading scorer Max Newton to the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL in November. They are still looking for a new Head Coach and GM and I hope the storied franchise in Grand Forks finds the right person to make the team competitive in a very tough division to play in.





Wednesday, 10 June 2015

THE OFF-SEASON IS A BUSY PLACE

The off-season in junior hockey is a time for the young men who play this sport to re-charge the batteries and train for things to come. For fans and media types like myself, it's an empty abyss that forces us to find things to fill the void that hockey occupies during the winter months. So while we're all busy training, golfing, spending time with friends and/or outdoors, team owners and GM's in the KIJHL are hard at work. They do all they can through the summer months to find ways to improve their individual programs and the league as a whole, and this off-season that started early.

After the grind of the 2014/15 playoffs there were serious questions about the schedule and how much hockey a team like the Kimberley Dynamiters had to play just to get to the final of the Cyclone Taylor Cup, let alone try to win it. The two numbers you need to know in this context are 29 and 45. The first, 29, is the number of games it took the Kimberley Dynamiters to bring home a silver medal from the Cyclone Taylor Cup. The second, 45, is the number of days it took to complete that task.

Pure. Insanity.

The schedule crunch was brought into question at the first round of off-season meetings and GM's and owners from around the league came up with a rather simple solution to 'decompress' the schedule a little bit.

They had a discussion about the number of days in which they had to play the playoffs in 2014/15, and ultimately realized it was too much for a lot of teams. Having taken this into account, it was discussed that the KIJHL season would start one week earlier in 2015/16, and end at the same time, giving teams more off-days during the season. This small adjustment allows two things:

1) It allows teams to avoid "3in3" situations, meaning there will be less weekends where teams play Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

2) It allows teams to play less weekday games, which is important to the league's bottom line in a lot of markets.


As for the Cyclone Taylor Cup, which in 2016 is hosted by the VIJHL's Victoria Cougars, it was pushed back a week to April 7-11, 2016.

This amendment was made to give the leagues more time to complete their playoffs and also give teams extra off days in the post-season. Doing this allows teams more rest, and a better opportunity to put their best foot forward at the most important time of year.

The buzz early on in the off-season was that the KIJHL Final would be a 5 game series between the winners of each conference. My first thought was, "Great. Gives teams more time to prepare and be healthy to make it the best final possible."

This brings us to the KIJHL AGM.

At the KIJHL's Annual General Meeting this past weekend hosted by the regular season Champion Osoyoos Coyotes, the question about the final was raised again. It was ultimately decided that it would go back to a 7 game series during the KIJHL Final with a format of 2-2-1-1-1 or 2-3-2 depending on what teams decide.

It was also announced that the crossover will stay once again, meaning that the two conferences will intertwine in the 2015/16 season. This season it's the Okanagan Division's turn to play the Neil Murdoch Division, while the Eddie Mountain Division will meet the Doug Birks Division. This means we'll get 2 rematches this season of last year's KIJHL Final between the Kimberley Dynamiters and the Kamloops Storm, which was an absolute classic.

Some of the topics covered at the AGM last weekend include a review of officiating for all 3 leagues under BC Hockey's rule, a review of the services provided by PlayFullScreen, as well as scheduling and some other housekeeping items. New Golden Rockets Head Coach and General Manager, Jason Stephens, covered some of the events that took place in this post.

One of the most interesting bits from the above post is the 30-day suspension enforced on players for failing to report after a trade. That means that if a kid feels he'd be better off returning to Midget and going to school at home rather than going to a new team far away (or nearby) that he will be penalized for doing so. It'll be interesting to see how that shakes out.


Random Tidbit:

A week or so prior to hosting the KIJHL AGM, the Osoyoos Coyotes announced an impending deal with the Town of Osoyoos on a 5 year renewal of their arena lease, which means there will be competitive hockey in the desert for years to come.

A 5 year commitment is great to see from a KIJHL franchise, particularly one in a market where they've had teams come and go over the past couple of decades.

What's to come:

I'm working on a list of off-season moves for all 20 KIJHL teams. Look for that over the next few days here on the blog and don't forget to follow along on twitter with myself, the Summerland Steam, and the KIJHL