For the most part, teams in the WHL heading into a new season usually have a number of questions regarding their rosters. The Hurricanes seem to have an abundance of quandaries to ponder as they head into training camp this weekend.
What does the loss of former Captain Tyler Wong mean to the Hurricanes?
This is no-brainer! Simply put; leadership on and off the ice, heart, 51 goals and 109 points. He will be missed.
Where does the scoring come from?
With the departure of Tyler Wong and Egor Babenko (signed to a pro contract in Russia) the ‘Canes lose 75 of their 280 goals scored last season. The Canes brass will be looking for significant numbers from Giorgio Estephan, Jordy Bellerive, Brennan Menell and improved production from Ryan Bowen, Tyler Nagel, Ryan Vandervlis, Calen Addison. General Manager Peter Anholt may be forced into making deal or two for more scoring if the offense is lacking through the first third of the season.
Which one of the 4 overages is moved?
This is a tough call. Alec Baer was brought in from the Vancouver Giants and played 30 games last season. Alec showed continual improvement and due to injuries in the top six, he found himself thrust into a key roll for the Canes. He registered 12 goals in those 30 games. Giorgio Estephan is the other forward who hopes to stay with the club. Estephan was second in team scoring with 35 goals and 89 points, behind Tyler Wong. His point production has increased each year. The other positive he has going for him is his role as Kisio’s key face-off centre. On the blueline, Brennan Riddle was a huge surprise as he responded as a regular rearguard. He was solid, tough to play against and was +8 over the season. Brennan Menell put up excellent offensive numbers, 12 goals and 71 points with a bulk of them on the power play. If the Hurricane brass want to maintain offensive production, then fans would like to see Estephan and Menell stay put. Goaltender Stuart Skinner is the backbone of the Hurricanes and will carry the work load between the pipes. Skinner will be gone for the World Junior tryouts and could make Team Canada.
Who gets the nod as backup?
The two prime candidates are Ryan Gilchrist (19) and Adam Swan (17). Gilchrist posted a 9-3-1 record in 13 appearances. But can he carry the load when Skinner is gone? Gilchrist is a hard worker, good team player, but has he shown enough? Swan on the other hand only played in 3 games and looked ok in his one win. Swan has good size, but will need more action in order give Anholt and Kisio an indication of his abilities. Both should get lots of action when Skinner heads to the Edmonton Oilers training camp.
Any player a lock to make this team?
In my books, Dylan Cozens! He made a statement in 12 playoff games with 3 goals and 11 assists. Dylan is game ready for a regular spot in the lineup. He could be the surprise of the season.
What will the newcomers bring to camp?
The Canes recently traded for the rights to Austin Wong. The younger brother of Tyler will be at camp. Interesting to see how Austin does, under the shadow of his brother. Euro draft pick Yegor Zudilov is certainly an unknown, but he has size at 6’3’ and put up good numbers in the U-17 league in Russia. (Zudilov just signed a standard contract this morning).
Will GM Peter Anholt be able to sign Carson Dyck, whose rights he received in the Swift Current deal for Ryley Lindgren?
It was rumored that Carson (son of former Canes’ coach Mike Dyck) was heading south to a college in the States. Is Mike is a fan of coach Brent Kisio? If so, did Kisio’s coaching Canada to a goal medal at the U-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament improve the signing possibilities?
Who to watch for?
Calen Addison who had a key role at the Ivan Hlinka, should have an increased roll on the powerplay; centre Josh Tarzwell should earn a regular spot on the club; defenseman Koletrane Wilson likely will see more ice time; and there is always some player invited to camp who stands out.
Final question. When the regular season begins, who gets the letter “C”?
Stuart Skinner should, but won’t. Therefore, I see three potentials; Giorgio Estephan, Jordy Bellerive or Jayden Joseph.
Rookie camp start Thursday and the Vets have taken to the Emnax ice already.