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: With Jordy Bellerive entering his last WHL season, highly-ranked 2019 NHL Draft prospect Dylan Cozens and a strong trio of overage players, the Lethbridge Hurricanes were one of the 2018-19 preseason favorites.
When they swung or the fences and acquired two of the best 1999-born forwards in the WHL, they were expected to run away with the Central Division and perhaps make it to their third straight Eastern Conference Final.
Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn came in and provided offense as expected. The Hurricanes were second in the WHL in goals with 268 and were never out of a game. They had seven players with 65 points or more.
They even added Liam Hughes from the Seattle Thunderbirds, further loading up that 19-year-old group.
Lethbridge struggled to live up to expectations though after Hughes unexpectedly left the team and 17-year-old Carl Tetachuk was handed the reigns.
They did make a late run and won their last eight games, nearly winning the Central.
In the first round, they played a tight series with the Calgary Hitmen, falling in part due to not being able to keep the puck out of their own net.
2019 WHL Bantam Draft: Lethbridge did not draft in the first two rounds due to trades. They ended up picking up nine, 2004-born players. Those included forwards Reid Mackay (3rd round), Jakin Lawrence (6th), Chase LaPinta (8th), Ayden Peters (9th) and Evan Raines (11th), defensemen Logan McCutcheon (3rd), Camden Shasby (4th), Kaden Dyck (8th) and goalie Erick Roest (10th). Shasby was the top drafted American player.
Signed Players (32):
1999 – Nick Henry@, Jordy Bellerive@, Jake Leschyshyn@, Scott Mahovlich, Zachary Cox
2000 – Jackson Shepard, Hayden Clayton*
2001 – Logan Barlage, Dylan Cozens, Justin Hall, Adam Hall
2002 – Noah Boyko, Jett Jones*, Alex Thacker*^, Jacob Boucher*, Nick Dorrington*, Chase Wheatcroft*
2003 – Zach Stringer*
1999 – Ty Prefontaine, Koletrane Wilson
2000 – Calen Addison@, Tyler Lowe*
2001 – Rylan Thiessen*, Nolan Jones, Alex Cotton, Danila Palivko
2002 – Jonah Regier*, Tyson Phare~, Dylan Ashe*
2003 – Joe Arntsen*
2001 – Carl Tetachuk
2002 – Bryan Thomson
*=Played less than 10 regular season WHL games in 2018-19.
@=Has signed to an NHL ELC
~=Acquired on 5/2/19 from the Prince George Cougars
^-Acquired from the Swift Current Broncos on 5/2/19
Aged Out: Gone are overage forwards Taylor Ross and Jake Elmer. The latter had such an amazing season that he got signed to a contract by the New York Rangers. Also out the door is overage import d-man Igor Merezhko.
Going Pro: Their trio of 1999-born star forwards are all going to move on to professional hockey. Henry, Leschyshyn and Bellerive were three of the players to hit 81 points or more last season. Their offense will surely be missed. Calen Addison is also signed to an NHL Entry-Level Contract but should be back as a 19-year-old. The big question looming for the Hurricanes is whether they move Addison and try to get back some assets after going all-in last season.
Overage Shuffle: So with Henry, Bellerive and Leschyshyn out of the mix, there are four skaters vying for three spots. Defensemen Koletrane Wilson and Ty Prefontaine have been mainstays on the blue line and should be back. The other spot could go to either Scott Mahovlich or Zachary Cox. Both were depth forwards who could be more productive in what would be an increased role in 2019-20.
Import Issues?: Merezhko leaves which opens one import spot. The returning import on the roster is d-man Danila Palivko.
2019 NHL Draft: Cozens has been on the radar for a long time. If he lasts past the top-five picks that would be surprising. Logan Barlage was also a constant on the NHL Central Scouting rankings. His final ranking was 188.