(In our ongoing season preview series, today we look at the Brandon Wheat Kings)
Brandon Wheat Kings (2016-17 season: 31-31-7-3 72 points, lost to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first round of the playoffs)
The Brandon Wheat Kings have some of the largest question marks heading into the 2017-18 WHL season. Namely, will we see the return of Nolan Patrick? The second overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft is currently with the Philadelphia Flyers vying for a roster spot. Another major question is: will see Kale Clague wear the black and gold for the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign? There has been some goaltender movement, namely bringing in Dylan Myskiw after dealing Hunter Arps and Travis Child. Will we see some moves made at or before the deadline? Only time will tell as the Wheat Kings may be headed closer to the basement this year than the attic after their WHL title run from two seasons ago.
The team had to say good-bye to Tyler Coulter, who aged out and is headed to the University of Calgary. Reid Duke also aged out but was signed by the Vegas Golden Knights. Their import overage d-man Dimitry Osipov also aged out and is in camp with the Golden Knights on a tryout. The Wheat Kings also dealt Goaltenders Hunter Arps (to Victoria for Dylan Myskiw and picks going both ways) and Travis Child (to Edmonton for a conditional fifth round pick in ’18).
A player to watch this season is 2015 WHL Bantam Draft first round pick Caiden Daley. The now 17-year-old played in 60 games last year for the Wheat Kings putting up two goals and adding eight assists. With the turnover Brandon has experienced, as well as the potential loss of Nolan Patrick, the Wheaties will be expecting Daley to take the next step and add some needed offense. He was an assistant captain for Team Canada Red at this year’s U17 World Hockey Championships.
The Wheat Kings currently have an opening on their roster for an import as they drafted Martin Kaut out of the Czech Republic but he elected to stay home and play for HC Dynamo Pardubice. This leaves last year’s import pick and Boston Bruins prospect Daniel Bukac as their lone foreign player. Will the Wheat Kings look to add to their roster later this season when the import situation is cleared up? Maybe they will elect to make a play at grabbing someone like unsigned Portland import pick Samuel Fagemo. Time will tell.
Are the Wheat Kings happy with their current overage situation? At first glance you might think they are. There were only three of them through camp: defensemen Kade Jensen and James Shearer and goaltender Logan Thompson. One would imagine that there are other options available for the Wheat Kings but at what cost? Will General Manager Grant Armstrong be interested in paying for a player that will be there for a season or less? Does it make sense to mortgage some of the future for respectability? This is another one of those situations where the loss (or return) of Nolan Patrick plays a large part in what the team will do. It could be that Nolan Patrick is sent back later than hoped and then the GM is forced to make a move that isn’t as favorable. Interesting times for the Wheat Kings for sure.
Desert Wheat! Logan Thompson, Dmitry Osipov and Reid Duke at the Las Vegas Ice Center after Thursday's scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/JH48QwoVN5
— Mark Thompson (@thomper08) June 30, 2017
The first part of the season may be very difficult for the Wheat Kings as they adjust to not having Nolan Patrick(PHI), Stelio Mattheos (CAR) and Tanner Kaspick (STL) on the front end while they are at NHL camps. Joining them at NHL camps are: goaltender Logan Thompson (VGK) and defensemen Daniel Bukac (BOS) and Kale Clague (LA). Patrick and Clague could be gone for longer than the rest of the group due to having signed contracts with their NHL clubs.
This is a season of adjustment for the Wheat Kings. Either the team will be without Nolan Patrick or they will be with him but on the Philadelphia Flyers timetable. If he does come back to the team, it is the hope of the Brandon faithful that it is not too late in the season to make a push for a playoff spot. If they lose Patrick, one would suspect that other pieces will be moved for the sake of the future of the Wheaties. Playing a role in all of this is the other talent-laden clubs within the East Division. Regina is hosting the Memorial Cup and looking to make a run and Moose Jaw and Swift Current both appear strong on paper. If Brandon starts out poor, their hockey operations staff may have to look hard at dealing assets like Clague or the rights to Patrick, in hopes for a hefty haul in return.
If the likes of Mattheos, Kaspick and Daley can keep Brandon contending though and Patrick is returned at some point, we could be looking at dangerous team come playoff time.