This is an ongoing series as we start the long road to the 2019-20 WHL season. We will be going in the order that teams were eliminated from contention. Keep in mind that the roster guesses vary because of information made available to us. We did our very best to capture all of the signings, but could be missing some.
2018-19 WHL Season: The Calgary Hitmen stumbled hard out of the gate. They lost their first six games, eight of their first nine and 11 out of 15. Then they brought in play maker James Malm from Vancouver and Kaden Elder from Swift Current. led by Malm (62 points in 51 games), Elder (59 in 67), Mark Kastelic (77 points), Carson Focht (64), Riley Stotts (67) and blue liner Egor Zamula (56) they were one of the hottest teams over the last half of the season.
With that depth and a sudden number one goalie emerging in Jack McNaughton, they finished 36-26-5-1, good for third in the Central Division.
Kastelic and co. then upset the high-scoring Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first round, eliminating them in a thrilling seven-game series.
In the second round, they did not go away quietly against the Edmonton Oil Kings. They lost in overtime in Game 1 and Game 3, ultimately falling in four straight games to the Central Division champions.
2019 WHL Bantam Draft: They moved one of their two first round picks as part of a deal for defenseman Jett Woo. They took defenseman Grayden Siepmann with their other first-round pick, 13th overall. Following were forward Brandon Whynott (2nd round), goalie Ethan Buenaventura (4th), forward Billal Noori (4th) and forward Mason Finley (5th). Overall they took 10 players. Six of them were forwards, three were d-men and one was a goalie. Siepmann won the CSSBHL with Yale Hockey Academy and had 29 points in 29 games. Finley is the younger brother of Spokane’s Jack Finley.
Signed Players (26):
1999 – Mark Kastelic, James Malm
2000 – Riley Stotts, Josh Prokop, Carson Focht, Orca Wiesblatt*
2001 – Cael Zimmerman, Hunter Campbell, Tye Carriere, Connor Brock*
2002 – Riley Fiddler-Schultz
2003 – Sean Tschigerl, Zac Funk
1999 – Dakota Krebs
2000 – Jett Woo@~, Layne Toder, Egor Zamula@, Andrew Viggars*
2001 – Devan Klassen, Jackson Van De Leest
2002 – Luke Prokop
2003 – Tyson Galloway
2000 – Carl Stankowski
2001 – Jack McNaughton
2002 – Ethan Hein, Brayden Peters
*=Played less than 10 regular season games in 2018-19.
@=Has been signed to an NHL contract.
~=Acquired from Moose Jaw on 5/2/19.
Going Pro: Zamula (Philadelphia) and Woo (Vancouver) are the only two NHL-signed guys so far. Both would have to play in the NHL as 19 year olds. It does not seem likely at all that either will. There is a danger if you are Calgary that Kastelic will be signed to a pro deal as a 20-year-old and play in the AHL for a team.
Overage Shuffle: They’ve got a really good trio in forwards Malm and Kastelic and defenseman Dakota Krebs. You’d be hard pressed to find a better set as of now.
Import Issues?: Trading away Vladislav Yeryomenko set them up with an open spot to use in June’s CHL Import Draft.
2019 NHL Draft: Kastelic was ranked 132nd in the last NHL Central Scouting rankings. Defenseman Jackson van de Leest also found his way into the list at 138.