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: It was a long road back since 2013 for the Saskatoon Blades in 2019. They fell just short of the playoffs in 2017 and 2018. Smartly at the trade deadline of the 2017-18 season, the Blades made moves setting themselves up more for the 2018-19 season.
Max Gerlach was acquired via one of those moves. He and fellow overage Dawson Davidson paced the Blades with 74 and 75 points respectively. 2001-born phenom Kirby Dach was right behind them with 73.
As the season went though, general manager Colin Priestner had the pulse of his team and made the right moves. The trades not only had an effect on the 2018-19 team, but they also seemed to be designed with 2019-20 in mind.
Priestner acquired Gary Haden who after just three points with Medicine Hat, put up 65 points in 55 games with the Blades. Haden is eligible to come back as an overage this season.
He also dealt for Ryan Hughes from Portland. He had 29 points in 25 games after coming over. Hughes can also come back as an overage.
Nolan Kneen was another 1999-born player coming over in a trade. After being acquired from Kamloops, he had 25 points in 33 games from the blue line.
With the new blood helping the depth scoring and more, Saskatoon, under first-year coach Mitch Love was one of the hottest teams in the last two months of the season.
They cruised into the two seed in the East Division, giving the franchise its first taste of the playoffs since their Memorial Cup hosting season. They then ousted the Moose Jaw Warriors in four straight, setting up for an incredible match up with the top seed in the WHL, the Prince Albert Raiders.
They pushed the Raiders but ultimately fell to them in six games. It was Saskatoon’s first trip to the second round since 2011.
2019 WHL Bantam Draft:
Signed Players (27):
1999 – Gary Haden, Ryan Hughes, Riley McKay, Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen
2000 – Eric Florchuk, Randen Schmidt, Zach Huber, Chase Wouters, Cyle McNabb
2001 – Kirby Dach, Tristen Robins, Brady Nicholas*
2002 – Kyle Crnkovic, Braden Plaschewsky*
2003 – Colton Dach*, Sammy May*
1999 – Nolan Kneen
2001 – Emil Malysjev, Majid Kaddoura
2002 – Alex Ozar*, Aidan De La Gorgendiere
2003 – Charlie Wright*, Marek Schneider*, Spencer Shugrue*
1999 – Dorrin Luding
2001 – Nolan Maier
2002 – Koen MacInnes*
Aged Out: Some big losses with their top scorers from 2018-19 in Davidson and Gerlach. they also lose shutdown defenseman Brandon Schuldhaus.
Overage Shuffle: They are down to six players for three spots after they traded defenseman Reece Harsch to the Winnipeg ICE at the WHL Bantam Draft. That leaves, Haden, Hughes, Kneen, forwards Riley McKay and Kristian Roykas Marthinsen and backup goalie Dorrin Luding.
Haden, Hughes, and Kneen have to be the favorites for the overage spots, but McKay did play in the top-six and was productive with 27 points while bringing size and toughness.
Roykas Marthinsen would be a two-spotter as an import and is not likely to warrant a spot over those three favorites, in my opinion.
Import Issues?: Well Roykas Marthinsen will likely move on, leaving an open spot to go with defenseman Emil Malysjev, should he come back.
2019 NHL Draft: Dach has been as advertised for Saskatoon and NHL scouts have taken long and hard looks at him. He is expected to be taken in the top-five of the 2019 NHL Draft. Malysjev was ranked 192nd among North American skaters on the final rankings and goalie Nolan Maier was placed 22nd among NA goalies.