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. We now work our way to the conference finalists in the 2019 playoffs.
2018-19 WHL Season: The Spokane Chiefs were widely believed to be the big favorites in the U.S. Division if not the Western Conference in 2018-19. They had elite talent with Jaret Anderson-Dolan up front and Ty Smith on the blue line, depth scoring throughout and most of the top scoring blue line in the WHL in 2017-18 coming back.
Things did not start well for the Chiefs though. They were without Anderson-Dolan for much of the first half of the season as he made the L.A. Kings out of camp and then got hurt in just his second game back. Smith then joined him at the World Juniors for Hockey Canada.
While their big guns were gone, Spokane saw the emergence of forward Adam Beckman, who led all Western Conference rookies with 62 points.
The acquisition of Luc Smith from the Kamloops Blazers also did wonders for their depth scoring and provided them with a superb net-front presence. They finished the season with the top power-play unit in the WHL.
Bailey Brkin also took over the net and posted a 2.75 GAA and 0.915 save percentage.
Powered by the return of Anderson-Dolan and Smith, the Chiefs were scorching hot down the stretch and chased down the Portland Winterhawks for the second seed in the U.S. Division.
That proved useful in the first round, as they split the first two games of the series in Spokane and then won both games in Portland by coming back late and winning in OT. They finished off the Winterhawks at home.
They kept their road record perfect in the next round with two defensive masterpieces in Everett against the Silvertips. Then the Chiefs took advantage of an event at Everett’s home to play three straight in Spokane. They won two of them and beat the U.S. Division champion Silvertips in five games.
Spokane advanced to the conference final for the first time since 2011. The Giants were able to stay disciplined and keep the Chiefs power play off the ice a lot. Spokane lost both games in Vancouver and after a home win in Game 3. lost a pivotal Game 4 in overtime. The Giants ended their season in Game 5 back at home.
2019 WHL Bantam Draft: Spokane picked 11 times in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. They selected six forwards, four defensemen and a goalie. Their top pick was 15th overall and they chose forward Benjamin Thornton out of the Yale Hockey Academy and Abbotsford, BC.
Signed Players (32):
1999 – Jaret Anderson-Dolan~@, Jake McGrew~@, Ethan McIndoe, Kaden Hanas
2000 – Eli Zummack, Michael King
2001 – Bear Hughes, Luke Toporowski, Cordel Larson, Adam Beckman, Connor Gabruch
2002 – Erik Atchison, Jack Finley, Reed Jacobson
2003 – Blake Swetlikoff, Owen MacNeil
1999 – Noah King, Filip Kral~
2000- Ty Smith~@, Bobby Russell, Luke Gallagher, Matt Leduc
2001 – Egor Arbuzov, Mike Ladyman
2002 – Hendrik de Klerk*
2003 – Graham Sward*
1999 – Bailey Brkin, Reece Klassen
2002 – Campbell Arnold
@=Has signed an NHL ELC
*=Played less than 10 games in the 2018-19 regular season.
Aged Out: Luc Smith and Riley Woods made many big plays and scored pivotal goals. They move on, as does right-handed defenseman Nolan Reid.
Going Pro: Anderson-Dolan nearly made the Kings last year and will at least be playing in the AHL as a 20-year-old. If San Jose still has no ECHL team, Jake McGrew could come back but I wouldn’t count on it. Ty Smith would need to make the New Jersey Devils as a 19-year-old to not come back to the Chiefs, but I honestly think that is a real safe bet. I’m not sure the WHL’s defenseman of the year has anything else to prove at this level.
Filip Kral was drafted in 2018 by Toronto and has not been signed yet. They do not have to sign him until next June to keep him from being a free agent. Barring a pro contract somewhere in Europe, Kral could very well be back as a “two-spotter” as an import and overage.
Overage Shuffle: So if you factor out Anderson-Dolan and McGrew that leaves forwards Ethan McIndoe and Kaden Hanas, d-men Noah King and Kral and goalies Brkin and Reece Klassen.
If Spokane wants to go the route of one guy for two spots and he comes back, Kral would be a great pick for one of the overage spots.
McIndoe is a heart-and-soul guy who had some big playoff moments. He can play in the top-six, give space to better playmakers and finish on rebounds on front.
With Campbell Arnold being unproven, I would not be shocked to see Brkin come back as an overage in net. Klassen is fighting an uphill battle as the backup and would need to have an incredible camp and preseason to warrant unseating a goalie that took them to the conference final.
King proved his worth in the playoffs. But if he is separated from Ty Smith, we will see if he is still as effective as a shutdown guy.
Import Issues?: Egor Arbuzov came on well as the season went and at just 18 (for the 2019-20 season) he could come back and improve a lot in an increased role.
Spokane will likely make a pick, because they can, in the CHL Import draft and see if Kral comes back or not.
2019 NHL Draft: The Chiefs had two forwards placed on the final rankings for NHL Central Scouting. Beckman was 34th among North American skaters, while Luke Toporowski was 100th.