Tuesday, December 22, 2015

BCHL News & Trades:

I found these press releases off team websites, other hockey blogs or online.

BCHL News & Trades:

Rockets Close To Landing Vees' Star Players?

Kelowna GM denies pursuing rights to Jost, Fabbro. Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro would look great in Kelowna Rockets jerseys, wouldn’t they? Don’t get your hopes up, says Bruce Hamilton, the team’s president and general manager. The Penticton Vees’ dynamic duo are committed to NCAA Division 1 programs for next season — Jost to North Dakota and Fabbro to Boston University — and most assumed that was the direction their careers were headed. But Sportsnet’s Damien Cox opened a can of worms Friday night by suggesting the Rockets could acquire their WHL rights and lure them to Kelowna ahead of the Jan. 10 trade deadline. The thought sparked much debate on social media — mostly over whether the promising prospects would jump ship? — but Hamilton was quick to put the lid back on. “It’s purely speculation,” Hamilton said Saturday ahead of the Rockets’ rematch with the Royals in Victoria. It was there that Cox’s intermission segment aired during Friday’s 3-1 win for Kelowna, hinting at the potential for the Rockets to land the former top-10 picks from the 2013 WHL bantam draft. “For everybody to be talking like this . . . that’s Damien Cox’s opinion, that’s not Bruce Hamilton’s opinion,” Hamilton continued. “Damien phoned me during the week, they always do, and never once did I say we were in the running for (Jost and Fabbro).” Jost, a high-scoring forward from Leduc, Alta., who relocated to Kelowna to play for the major-midget Okanagan Rockets, was selected seventh overall by the Everett Silvertips. Fabbro, a two-way defenceman with size from Coquitlam, went eighth to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Two years later, both are being projected as first-round picks in the 2016 NHL draft. Jost and Fabbro are currently lighting it up in their second season with the Vees and haven’t wavered in their commitment to the college route. For that reason, those WHL teams have been unsuccessful in their recruiting efforts to date. Jost’s name did come up in Hamilton’s conversation with Cox, albeit briefly. “He asked me about Jost and I said ‘yeah, he’s a great player,’” Hamilton said. “There’s not a team in our league that wouldn’t like to have him, but he belongs to the Everett Silvertips.” Everett and Seattle have retained the players’ rights but haven’t reached out to Kelowna regarding any such moves. Nor has Hamilton been knocking at their doors with offers in hand. “We’ve never even talked to Everett about him, and they’ve never approached us,” Hamilton said of Jost, later echoing that sentiment for Fabbro. “I’m sure there are some teams that have been granted the right to talk to this guy (Jost), and he’s so far said he’s staying where he is (in Penticton). “I can’t (pursue the player) because he doesn’t belong to us — that’s tampering.” The chances are slim to none, at least for this season. Come next season, once Jost and Fabbro are drafted by NHL teams, their futures could play out differently. It’s becoming somewhat common for top prospects to sign contracts and report to major junior rather than attend college. Jonathan Toews has been the poster boy for the NCAA route over the last decade, with the likes of Travis Zajac and Kyle Turris also going down the road less travelled. But major junior remains the fast track to the NHL because of the similarities, from schedule length to rules. Out east, the OHL has welcomed a couple of NCAA defectors in recent years with Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Jeremy Bracco leaving Boston College to join the Kitchener Rangers this season and Columbus Blue Jackets first-rounder Sonny Milano opting for the Plymouth Whalers last season. The WHL has benefitted from similar cases in the past, including Mike Comrie (from the University of Michigan to the Kootenay Ice) and even Duncan Keith (from Michigan State to the Rockets). It can happen, but he’s playing where he is, and the Everett Silvertips have his rights, so they control what goes on,” Hamilton concluded on Jost, doing his best to kill this speculation as opposed to fuelling it. As of today, there are no blockbusters in the works for Kelowna — at least not involving Jost and Fabbro — unlike last season when the Rockets plucked Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey out of Prince Albert on their way to winning the WHL championship.

Alberni Valley-Merritt Trade:

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are excited to announce the acquisition of Ryan Finnegan from the Merritt Centennials in exchange for Future Considerations. Finnegan will bring speed and skill to an already quick group of Bulldogs forwards. This season with the Centennials, Finnegan has scored 7 points in 22 games but has yet to hit his stride. Prior to that, Finnegan was a standout for the Skipjacks Hockey Club in the Under 18 United States Premiere Hockey League. The Tecumseh, Kansas, native is known for his intelligence on the ice and can play and compete in small areas. “We are thrilled to add a player with the credibility that Ryan has,” says Head Coach and General Manager Kevin Willison. “It is always nice to add someone that can make things happen on the ice and we are looking forward to working with Ryan as he continues his development towards the NCAA Division 1 level.” The 5-foot-8 Finnegan is committed to play NCAA Division 1 hockey at Quinnipiac University for the 2017-18 season. He will join the Bulldogs in time for this weekend’s 3-game road trip that sees the Bulldogs visit the Trail Smoke Eaters, Penticton Vees, and Coquitlam Express. Earlier this week, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs reassigned 1996-born forward Logan Savard to the Oceanside Generals of the VIJHL. In 20 games with the Bulldogs this season, Savard failed to register a point. This leaves the Bulldogs with an active roster of 21 players and one open spot. This allows the Bulldogs to bring in a player leading up to the January 10th roster deadline without necessarily having to move a rostered player. It is also expected that this weekend Bulldogs affiliate forward Kyle Kaufmann will make his BCHL debut. Kaufmann is a 16-year-old forward on the BC Major Midget League leading North West Giants where he has 17 points in 20 games. Kaufmann was the star forward on the Hollyburn Huskies midget team the year prior, recording 45 goals and 62 assists (107 points) in 51 games.

Nanaimo-Brooks Trade:

The Nanaimo Clippers have acquired the CJHL playing rights to Taylor Karel(96)(D) from the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL in exchange for the CJHL playing rights to Jonathan Reinhart(96)(G) and future considerations

Victoria-OCN Trade:

The Victoria Grizzlies have transferred the CJHL playing rights to Colby Livingston(96)(F) to the OCN Blizzard of the MJHL in exchange for future considerations

Warriors Acquire Veteran Goaltender Clark:

The West Kelowna Warriors have added veteran 20 yr old goaltender Brett Clark after goaltender Stephen Heslop returned to the KIJHL. Clark played in 32 games last season with the Smoke Eaters going 8-24 with a 4.42 GAA

Vees Streak Ends, But Excellence Remains:

What an incredible streak it was, but in the end that old saying stood true — all good things must come to an end. On Nov. 20, The Penticton Vees lost a game for the first time since opening night of 2015-16 season. Their impressive efforts earned them 23 straight wins, a commanding lead atop the BCHL standings and a prime position in the CJHL's Top 20 rankings at every step so far this season. The streak ended in a road game in the Lower Mainland at the hands of the Langley Riverman — a team that will no doubt be the answer to a future BCHL trivia question. The Rivermen outshot the Vees 30-29 en route to a 4-2 final to end Penticton's impressive run. The game remained tied as time ticked off the clock and overtime loomed for the Vees, who had narrowly escaped OT with the streak intact twice before in November. With a power play goal from Langley's Max Kaufman at 18:40 and an empty netter for insurance in the final minute of regulation, the streak was over and it's now etched in the history books. Jost told HockeyNow that he felt the team's work ethic started to wane as the wins piled up. "We're happy that we accomplished that (win streak), but we're glad its done with and now we can just focus on the future," Jost said. Vees goalie Anthony Brodeur, a 20-year-old who came to the Vees this year for his last season of junior hockey after a two-year stint in the QMJHL, said that keeping the streak alive came with added pressure to perform – but at the same time said it was all about playing good hockey and learning. "I think I've won more games on this win streak than my two years in (major) junior," Brodeur said. He said a win streak like this establishes confidence, something that's important for a goalie. Penticton bounced back right after that loss with a massive 8-2 thrashing of the Coquitlam Express. While this latest win streak is impressive, it's just the latest example of the success the Vees have had in the BCHL over the years. First place finishes have been commonplace in recent years as the Vees have won their division in each of the past four seasons. In fact, the 23-game win streak actually pales in comparison to the 42-game win streak back in the 2011-12 season, a year in which the Vees won the Fred Page Cup as BCHL champions, the Doyle Cup as winners of the CJHL's B.C. and Alberta league champions and the RBC Cup as CJHL national champions. Those 42 wins also stand as a league record. Jost said that win streak was a model this year's team tried to live up to, although they weren't necessarily expecting to break it. The Vees, however, were within striking distance of breaking the 1989-90 New Westminster Royals win streak of 29 games. But while win streaks come and go, the Vees remain competitive year-after-year, despite the challenge of graduating good players every season, which one might think would be harder on teams that have the success Penticton does. Coming off wins in both the Fred Page Cup and Western Canada Cup in 2014-15, the Vees lost their number one goalie and had just four returning players to the roster this season. However, the Vees scouting persevered, bringing in highly touted players such as Conway and Brodeur this year to keep the team competitive yet again — not to mention the return of Jost and defenceman Dante Fabbro, who are expected to be first round picks in the upcoming NHL draft. Vees head coach and general manager Fed Harbinson has coached either Junior A or NCAA hockey for 21 years, which has helped build him a network of trustworthy contacts. He told HockeyNow that he doesn't buy into the thought process in the BCHL that a team should try and build two years down the road. "There's just too many moving parts. I know some teams might feel that's the way they have to do it, but it's a hard way to do it," Harbinson said, noting that the number of returnees can change in an instant due to unforeseen circumstances. "I've coached in college where you're out recruiting and you go out and work hard and get the best players available, and that's what the BCHL is," said Harbinson. "We really work hard in the offseason and throughout the second half of the year to identify our import players to make sure that this thing keeps moving in the right direction," he added, noting that their training camps will identify most of their future roster years in advanced. Having been with the organization for eight seasons now, Harbinson credits owner Graham Fraser for implementing continuity by putting together a staff that includes two full-time assistant coaches, one of whom has been with Harbinson for six seasons. "Our owner takes care of the people that work here, so that they're not looking to leave real quick, and I think continuity makes a big difference when you're trying to build something. It's allowed us to keep adding different pieces year after year to the on-ice product (and) to the off-ice product," Harbinson said. Harbinson's leadership showed immediate results with the Vees, who won the league title for the first time since 1986 in 2007-08, Harbinson's first year with the club. In fact, under Harbinson, the Vees have been to the league final four times, winning three, and have been to the RBC Cup twice –  winning once. There have been plenty of players along the way who have helped make this team dominant year-after-year, Harbinson said, noting the likes of Ron Hextall's son Brett Hextall,  Dallas Star's prospect Curtis McKenzie as well as current Pittsburgh Penguin Beau Bennett and Minnesota Wild prospect Mike Reilly as examples. "There's been a lot of good character kids that have come through here and captains that have built this culture, (so) that even if we only have four guys returning, they know what's expected and they know how to get that point across and be an extension of our coaching staff right away year after year, and set the tone for what's important here in Penticton," said Harbinson. While all good things — including win streaks — must come to an end, the Penticton Vees are proving sustained success is a symptom of an organization doing all the right things.

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