Welcome to the first ever edition of BCHL Today, a daily (Hopefully. Not promising anything. Get off my back!) look at what’s going on around the league.
We start with the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Prospects Game, which was played last night at the Port Credit Memorial Arena in Mississauga, Ont.
Team West downed Team East 5-2.
The BCHL is generally viewed as the strongest junior A league in the country, a notion that is reinforced every time rosters are released for a showcase event like this. Team West’s roster of 22 included 10 BCHLers; Max Crozier (Nanaimo), Seth Barton (Trail), Angus Crookshank (Langley), Brendan Budy (Langley), Corey Andonovski (Chilliwack), Josh Prokop (Vernon), Ethan De Jong (Prince George), Brett Stapley (Vernon), Stanislav Demin (Wenatchee) and Jonathon Tychonick (Penticton).
The AJHL supplied six. Saskatchewan and Manitoba sent two apiece.
Austin Wong of the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers scored twice for Team West. The BCHLers accounted for the rest of the offence with Crookshank, Andonovski and Prokop lighting the lamp.
You can find a game report here.
The CJHL says close to 200 scouts from the pro and collegiate ranks watched the game.
– Which brings us to the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau and their mid-term rankings.
CSB put them out Monday and you can view them here.
Again, it’s weighted heavily in the BCHL’s favour. Of the 20 draft-eligible North American skaters from junior A leagues across the country, 10 hail from the BCHL, including nine of the top 12.
Wenatchee’s Demin is seen as the top pro prospect, rated 32nd overall, which is a second or third round grade.
Penticton’s Tychonick is close behind at 45th followed by Barton (81), Crozier (115), Budy (138), Crookshank (139), Stapley (146), De Jong (154) and Prokop (175). The only BCHLer on the CSB list who didn’t appear in Tuesday’s CJHL Prospects Game is Penticton goaltender Adam Scheel, who is the 23rd rated North American stopper.
– There were two regular season games played Tuesday night.
In West Kelowna, the surging Coquitlam Express were stopped 5-0 by the Warriors at Royal LePage Place.
Twenty year old goalie Nik Amundrud stopped 21 pucks for his first BCHL shutout in his 33rd career appearance.
Prince Edward Island native Ryan Steele had himself a night, scoring three goals. Steele was a trade deadline pickup from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (for Spencer Hora and futures) who had two points (one goal) in five games as a Warrior coming into this one. This was the first career hat-trick for Steele. West K will be hoping this is a sign of things to come for the 20 year old, who had seven goals and 28 points in 38 games with Alberni Valley.
Not to be out-done, Williams Lake native Chase Dubois produced a four point night with a goal and three helpers.
It was a bad night for Coquitlam, but give the Express credit for what they’ve done so far in 2018.
Coming into Tuesday night, they’d won three of their last four, including a 2-1 win over the Interior conference powerhouse Vernon Vipers.
Coquitlam is building something good with new bench boss Jason Fortier.
– The other mid-week matchup saw the Salmon Arm Silverbacks score a big road victory with a 5-2 win in Langley.
The Silverbacks held a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes on goals by Tanner Campbell and Rhett Kingston.
The Rivermen cut into the lead 4:40 into the final frame on an Ethan Leyn snipe and tied it at 2-2 at 12:35 on a power play goal by Sean Gulka.
But Salmon Arm scored three in the final 7:25 to win their fourth straight game.
Justin Wilson restored the Silverback lead 110 seconds after Gulka’s goal, and Nick Unruh added insurance at 18:09.
Campbell’s second of the game, into an empty net, wrapped up the scoring.
Watch out for Salmon Arm. Like Coquitlam, they seem to be finding their way as we head into the stretch run. A 6-2-0-1 record in January has the streaking Silverbacks six points ahead of the last-place Merritt Centennials in the Interior conference, though the Cents hold three games in hand.
– Finally, Chilliwack Chiefs defenceman Powell Connor has announced a commitment to Michigan State U and the Spartans.
The physical blueliner is only 17 years old, in his second year with the Chiefs.
Kevin Mitchell of the Vernon Morning Star wrote an excellent article on Powell’s commitment that you can see here.
The Spartans are in the midst of a tough season where they list last in the Big 10 standings with a 3-12-1-1 record.
Their roster isn’t heavy on ex-BCHLers, with most of the MSU players hailing from either the USHL or NAHL, with a small contingent from the US National Team Development Program.
Salmon Arm Silverbacks grad Damian Chrcek is a sophomore on defence and another ex-Silverback, Taro Hirose, is in his second season at forward. Chilliwack Chiefs grad Jake Smith is a freshman forward.
Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.