The term rebuild is always one that sports teams shy away from. The rebuilding of sports teams is often a perceived negative, associated with required patience of their fan base, while the team works toward their set direction. Seemingly more appealing is the term “youth movement”, signalizing a changing of the guard and opportunity for younger players to shine.
The 2018-19 version of the Victoria Royals are indeed undergoing a youth movement. Like most WHL teams, through training camp and into the preseason, the younger players on the roster are given plenty of ice-time to show their abilities. For the Royals however, season roster spots are in play as the team looks for depth. Through their preseason, in addition to their three 20-year-old players in Griffen Outhouse, Dante Hannoun and Ralph Jarratt, Victoria only has three 1999 born players listed in Igor Martynov, D-Jay Jerome and Tanner Sidaway. That is a far cry from last year’s end of season roster, which featured nine 19-year-old players (Outhouse, Hannoun, Jarratt, Phillips, Kaspick, Gregor, Zablocki, De Wit, Freadrich, Buziak).
By the Numbers- Victoria Royals roster (as of Sept.7th versus the Vancouver Giants)
’98- Griffen Outhouse, Dante Hannoun, Ralph Jarratt
’99- Igor Martynov, D-Jay Jerome, Tanner Sidaway
’00- Dean McNabb, Kaid Oliver, Dino Kambeitz, Tyler Lees, Phillip Schultz, Brandon Culter, Mitchell Prowse, Matthew Smith
’01- Brock Gould, Tarun Fizer, Tyus Gent, Remy Aquilon, Kaden Reinders, Parker Malchuk
’02- Connor Martin, Ty Yoder, Alex Bolshakov, Noah Lamb, Carson Golder
’03- Nolan Bentham
Although they are featuring a young roster, opposing teams would be wise to not take the Royals lightly. Victoria’s hockey operations team led by President and General Manager Cameron Hope have always made it clear that they plan to be competitive. As Hope told the DUBNetwork earlier this summer “Our plan as Victoria Royals hockey operations has always been to make the team a sustainable success, strive for excellence every year, trying to avoid the sine wave of terrific years followed by years of drought and do that at all costs.” The Royals have been methodical in building this season’s roster and the pieces are seemingly coming together.
Although it is only preseason, at time of writing, Victoria is 3-0 so far with their young players stepping up according to plan. Import forward Philip Schultz has been a force, looking exceptionally strong versus the Kelowna Rockets. Tarun Fizer looks to continue his upward trend, and recorded a hat-trick versus the Giants in preseason action. D-Jay Jerome, along with offseason acquisitions Tyler Lees and hometown player Tanner Sidaway also look to be making the most of their opportunities thus far.
There is a precedent as well with the 2015-16 Royals initially looking like a “rebuild year” following the departures of Brandon Magee, Austin Carroll, Travis Brown and Greg Chase. However, the team rallied behind captain Joe Hicketts and was powered by Alex Forsberg, along with emerging snipers Tyler Soy, Jack Walker and a rookie Matthew Phillips. The result had the team awarded the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the regular season champion of the WHL with 106 points.
The Royals are coming into this season as underdogs in the competitve BC Division. After making the playoffs for each year that they have been in Victoria, seven years total, it would be expected that the team will not let that streak easily slip away.