Western Canada Bantam Hockey Championships Preview
The Western Canada Bantam Championships are set to get underway in Warman, SK from March 30 – April 2 hosted by the Sask Valley Vipers. The Vipers will be joined by British Columbia representative BWC Bruins, Alberta representative Fort Saskatchewan Rangers, Saskatchewan representative Swift Current Kabos Broncos and the Manitoba representative Winnipeg Monarchs.
This years tournament will feature many top prospects who are expected to go in the first few rounds of the WHL Bantam Draft on May 4th. Ryan Helliwell of the BWC Bruins enters the tournament as the highest ranked prospect but college concerns have teams perhaps a little worried as to using a very high pick on him. Other players to watch would be: Kyler Kovich (BWC), G – Koen McInnis (BWC), Kyler Kovich (BWC), Josh Pillar (Sask Valley), Reed Jacobson (Swift Current), G – Sebastian Cossa (Fort Saskatchewan), Noah Boyko (fort Saskatchewan).
Top 10 ranked Prospects – WCBHC Tournament
|Ryan Helliwell -CO||D||BWC Bruins||PCAHA||5’11||175||5/8/2002|
|Sebastien Cossa||G||Fort Saskatchewan Rangers||AMBHL||6’3||195||11/21/2002||1.80||15-4-0||.934|
|Josh Pillar||F||Sask Valley Vipers||SBAAHL||5’10||140||2/14/2002||25||18-36-54||48|
|Koen McInnis||G||BWC Bruins||PCAHA||6’1||160||1/31/2002|
|Kyler Kovich||F||BWC Bruins||PCAHA||5’11||157||1/31/2002|
|Noah Boyko||F||Fort Saskatchewan Rangers||AMBHL||6’0||155||8/29/2002||33||25-27-52||14|
|Reed Jacobson||F||Swift Current Broncos||SBAAHL||5’8||142||4/72002||29||39-31-70||41|
|Raphael Pelletier||F||Fort Saskatchewan Rangers||AMBHL||5’9||140||3/20/2002||36||23-29-52||42|
|Reece Belton||F||Winnipeg Monarchs||WPG B1||5’9||145||4/9/2002||31||30-23-53||47|
|Damon Cyr||D||Fort Saskatchewan Rangers||AMBHL||5’10||140||2002||36||7-18-25||28|
|Mac Gross||F||Swift Current Broncos||SBAAHL||5’11||158||1/22/2002||19||7-12-19||28|
|Alex Thacker||F||Fort Saskatchewan Rangers||AMBHL||5’8||145||3/29/2002||36||23-34-57||34|
|Kalen Szeto||F||BWC Bruins||PCAHA||5’4||125||12/1/2002|
|Braden Fischer||F||Winnipeg Monarchs||WPG B1||5’6||130||10/2/2002||30||25-32-57||12|
|Brett Murphy||F||Winnipeg Monarchs||WPG B1||5’8||140||3/24/2002||1.15||10-3-0||4SO|
Host – Sask Valley Vipers
Team Record: 18-8-4 132GF – 95GA (4th in the 10 team SBAAHL North Division)
The Sask Valley Vipers came very close to entering the WCBHC through the front door as they made the SBAAHL final and lost in the final to the Swift Current Broncos. The Vipers had three players who averaged better than a PPG during the regular season with leading scorer Josh Pillar (18-36-54) in 25 games, Ryan Conlon (26-15-41) and Jesse Nash (15-23-38). The Vipers rely on a pair of dman heavily in Austin Tkachuk and Chase Taggart to play heavy minutes in all situations. Brodie Guenther and Matt Hennessey basically split duties in goal this season. The Vipers will try to play things close to the vest and do play a defense first style of system.
What to watch for: Can Josh Pillar carry the Vipers to some upsets to earn perhaps a bronze medal? Pillar is your prototypical WHL 3rd line type forward who is a good leader and can put up points as evidence by him leading the playoffs in scoring in the SBAAHL with 10-9-19 in 10 games.
Kingpin: Josh Pillar
Saskatchewan – Swift Current Kabos Broncos
Team Record: 19-4-7 161GF – 74GA (2nd in the 11 team SBAAHL South Division)
The Swift Current Kabos Broncos had a pretty successful season, losing just 4 times in regulation all season long. The Broncos, who averaged better than 5 GPG this season, had 88 of their 161 goals scored by three players. Reed Jacobson, who we expect to be a 2nd round selection on draft day was among the league leaders with 39-31-70 while underrated Riley DeKowny had 31-25-56 and 2003 born Hayden Wilm with 18-18-36. Keagan Little also came on in the playoffs for the Broncos as he finished tied for the team lead with 4-10-14 in 10 games, this after he had 8-20-28 in 27 games during the regular season. The Broncos also get ample production from its defense core with Hendrik de Klerk leading all SBAAHL dmen in scoring this season with 7-30-37, Mac Gross had 7-12-19 in 19 games and 2003 born dman almost had a PPG as well. In goal, both Josh Dueck and Jacob Herman basically split duties with 2003 born Dueck having slightly superior numbers with a stellar 2.17 with 3 SO. But it was Herman who took the reins in the playoffs going 6-1-0 with a 1.75 GAA. He was instrumental in helping the Broncos finish out their final 6 playoff games allowing just 9 goals.
What to watch for: The Broncos are excelling in all areas right now from offence, to strong goaltending and timely scoring. As is the case with all teams, strong goaltending will be key but captain and leading scoring Reed Jacobson is a major key to success for the team in all areas.
Kingpin: Reed Jacobson
Manitoba – Winnipeg Monarchs
Team Record: 28-5-1 212GF – 47GA (1st place in the WPGAAA East Division)
The Monarchs finished first place once again in the regular season by just 2 points over the Winnipeg Hawks, scoring over 7 GPG in the process. They then went 8-0-0 in a pair of City playoff sweeps before sweeping the Pembina Valley Hawks in the provincial final. The Monarchs had a very balanced scoring attack led by Reese Belton’s team leading 30 goals and Braden Fischer’s team leading 25-32-57. Fischer is a small forward who has good hands, decent shot and really benefited with the departure of Seth Jarvis to RHA. Belton is a tall, lanky forward who really has a knack for scoring goals and wicked on the PP while another forward you want on the ice in key situation is Riley Zimmerman who has grit, compete and scores some big goals. The Monarchs boast a big, strong defense core who keep players to the outside well and give up very few shots. Anton Uruski would be one player to keep an eye on. He plays a very responsible game and is a character type of player. Evan Toth and Lucas Fry are both players to keep an eye on as possible draft picks in May. Both Monarchs goalies are decent prospect but have faced very few shots this season. Fraser Senebald started the game playing the first 10 or so games with injured Brett Murphy on the shelf. Senebald has stealed a few more games but Murphy had slightly better numbers this year with a 1.15, .942 and 5SO compared to Senebald at 1.42, .921 and 7SO.
What to watch for: Look for the Monarchs to play a structured defensive first system and roll their lines.
Kingpin: Reese Belton
Alberta – Fort Saskatchewan Rangers
Team Record: 27-7-2 176GF – 83GA (1st place in the 6 team Charger North and 3rd in the 21 team AMBHL).
The Rangers were 3rd in the 21 team AMBHL in goals scored with just a shade under 5GPG. They however didn’t have a player within the top 15 leading scorers in the league as they relied on a high-scoring balanced attack. Alex Thacker led the team in scoring with 23-34-57 and finished 17th in league scoring. Thacker was followed by highly ranked WEHP prospect Noah Boyko (25-27-52), Raphael Pelletier (23-29-52), Jacob Boucher (19-24-43) and Riley Fiddler-Schultz (22-18-40). All 6 of those players who play on the top two lines for Fort Saskatchewan Finished in the top 30 in league scoring. Fiddler-Schultz really came on in the playoffs and caught our attention. Boyko likely goes in the top 60 range. Daron Cyr anchors the defense for Fort Saskatchewan and is a player who has really come on as the season has progressed. Sebastien Cossa is the top ranked goalie for the WHL Bantam Draft and is a good reason not to bet against Fort Saskatchewan winning Westerns!
What to watch for: Look for the Rangers to play the heck out of their top two lines and rely on the outstanding goaltending of Sebastien Cossa to lead the way for them to the final.
Kingpin: Sebastian Cossa
British Columba – BWC Bruins
Record: 27-0-1 165GF – 24GA (1st in the 9 team PCAHA)
The Bruins rolled through the PCAHA Division 1 league this season with a 7-0-1 record in placement with 51 GF and just 6 GA. Then in the regular season, they went 20-0-0 with 114 GF and 18 GA. Then finally in the playoffs, they went 6-0-0 with 42 GF and 3 GA. All told, the Bruins went 39-0-1 with 244 GF and 36 GA this season in BC Hockey!
The Bruins have one of the best coaches in Western Canada in legendary bantam coach John Batchelor. Expect many of the Bruins to hear their names called on draft day on May 4th as well. One of the highest ranked defenders entering the draft is Ryan Helliwell. Helliwell though, is likely to fall a bit from where he would be selected due to the fact that he has a verbal commitment to a US College already. Helliwell would be a top 5 pick if 100% committed to the league. Kyler Kovich is a good size two-way forward who will garner attention as his game is perfectly suited for the WHL game. Kovich should go somewhere in the 3-4 round range. Kalen Szeto would be another fairly high pick but like his skilled brother from a few years ago – Justin Szeto, Kalen is likely to take the BCHL route and go to College. Walker Erickson, G – Koen MacInnis are just a couple of the other players who should garner attention.
What to watch for: The Bruins rely on a few top players to play big minutes and usually produce. The depth players will need to chip in though for the Bruins to make the final. Look for Ryan Helliwell to be a force in all areas.
Kingpin: Ryan Helliwell