This is an ongoing series as we start the long road to the 2019-20 WHL season. We went 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.
We end the series with the team that won the Ed Chynoweth Cup, the Prince Albert Raiders.
2018-19 WHL Season: This season was a long time coming for the Prince Albert Raiders. They were the toast of the town as they rolled out to the second best win percentage in franchise history and a 54-10-2-2 record for the Scotty Munro Trophy as the team with the best regular season record in the league.
They rolled out to a fast start with Brett Leason leading the way on offense and Ian Scott holding down the back end. They won their first seven games and 26 of their first 27.
Acquisitions Noah Gregor and Dante Hannoun paid huge dividends for the Raiders with Gregor compiling 88 points and Hannoun coming over at the deadline and putting up 31 in 28 games and scoring the Game 7 overtime winner in the WHL Final.
Scott was named regular season goalie of the year and WHL Playoff MVP for good reason as he provided consistency between the pipes and gave them a chance to win every single night.
The Raiders also saw the emergence of rookies Aliaksei Protas – who had two hat tricks in one playoff series and Ozzy Wiesblatt – a 16-year-old who notched 39 points.
Prince Albert did not have to mortgage the future too much and mostly stuck with a core of guys like forward Sean Montgomery up front and a group of older d-men on the blue line.
They won their first WHL title since 1985 and moved on to the Memorial Cup in Halifax.
Unfortunately the Raiders lost 4-1 in the opener to the host Halifax Mooseheads, 6-3 to the QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and 5-2 to the OHL champion Guelph Storm. In the final two games, they were tied after 20 minutes but had the other league champion pull away. Gregor led the team in scoring with five points in three games, while Scott posted a 4.36 GAA and 0.860 save percentage.
2019 WHL Bantam Draft: The Raiders were the first team to sign someone from the draft as they inked their first round pick Niall Crocker to a WHL education contract. They drafted 11 other 2004-born players, Crocker being one of six forwards to go with two drafted goalies and four defensemen.
Signed Players (29):
1999 – Brian Harris, Brett Leason, Parker Kelly@
2000 – Spencer Moe, Justin Nachbaur, Cole Fonstad~
2001 – Akiaksei Protas, Eric Pearce
2002 – Ozzy Wiesblatt, Jakob Brook, Cohner Saleski*, Evan Herman*
2003 – Tyson Laventure*
2004 – Niall Crocker*#
1999 – Jeremy Masella, Brayden Pachal, Zack Hayes, Max Martin, Sergei Sapego
2000 – Loeden Schaufler, Konrad Belcourt*, Lane Kirk
2001 – Bryce Bader
2002 – Kaiden Guhle, Braydon Clark*
2003 – Nolan Allan*
1999 – Ian Scott~@
2000 – Donovan Buskey
2001 – Boston Bilous, Brett Balas*
~=Drafted by an NHL team
@=Signed by an NHL team
*=Played less than 10 games in the 2018-19 WHL regular season.
#=Drafted in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Aged Out: The Raiders lose the services of forwards Gregor, Hannoun and longtime Raider Sean Montgomery. Montgomery played in 345 regular season and 35 playoff games.
Going Pro: Parker Kelly and Scott appear to be long gone as both are signed by the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maples Leafs respectively and will start 2019-20 in the AHL. Toronto does have a plethora of goalies in their pipeline but it still would be surprising if Scott came back to the Western league.
There is also a real danger for the Raiders that Leason has played his last game with them as well. He is expected to go in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft and the team that drafts him could sign him right away and slot him in the pro ranks.
Sergei Sapego as an overage European is a threat to sign a pro deal overseas also.
Overage Shuffle: Leason is the most likely to take one of three spots if he comes back. Taking out Scott and Kelly and counting Leason, there are seven players available to come back, which is four too many.
Vancouver has a lot of 1999-born forwards to decide between, but the team that defeated them in the 2019 WHL Final has that issue with their d-men.
They will have to parse between a bunch of key blue liners in captain Brayden Pachal, Zack Hayes, Sapego, Jeremy Masella and Max Martin. The best guess at this point is their 2019-20 overage trio will include Leason and two of those five.
Brian Harris was on their playoff roster but did not get into any games and will likely not be back.
Import Issues?: Protas had an incredible playoff run and has shown glimpses of incredible potential with his frame and shot. Joining him will either be Sapego, taking up both an import and an overage spot or a player drafted from Europe in June’s CHL Import Draft.
2019 NHL Draft: Leason was ranked 25th among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final list and Protas came in at number 44.