If you take a look in Webster’s dictionary for the definition of the word “consistent” you will find this: “unchanging in nature, standard, or effect over time.” Looking at the past decade of Calgary Hitmen hockey you can certainly see how they fit the definition of consistent. From 2010 to this upcoming season Calgary has missed the playoffs just twice.
The Hitmen have been a factory for junior hockey players with the likes of Chris Driedger, Travis Sanheim, Jake Virtanen, Jake Bean, and their latest NHL contribution, Carson Focht being prime examples of what playing in the Hitmen system can do for your NHL career. However, one thing eluded all the above players while playing for Calgary. Zero championships.
Yes, the Hitmen have been consistent over the past decade and arguably over their entire existence dating back to the days of Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s co-ownership era. Making the playoffs is great but not winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup more than twice in twenty-six years one might begin to wonder what it will take to get the elusive third championship.
General manager Jeff Chynoweth and head coach Steve Hamilton, I believe will be the correct combination to get this hockey club to the WHL Final once again. Recruitment and drafting are key and with any successful hockey program, the Hitmen made two selections at the WHL U.S. Prospects Draft that will highly benefit the club’s chances for a third cup.
Chynoweth selected Hunter Anderson from the Los Angeles Jr. Kings program with the eleventh pick overall. Anderson has spent this season playing for Shattuck St.Mary’s 15u AAA club and is continuing to improve his game. In 22 games, he has scored 17 times while notching 19 assists.
Briggs Orr was the next prospect added to the team’s pool. Orr, who is a feisty defenseman standing at six feet tall will likely make his Hitmen debut sooner than Anderson. His style of play is similar to that of former Hitman Karl Alzner. A no holds barred type player with leadership qualities and is just 16 years old, bodes well for the character of the Hitmen roster for seasons to come.
The last line of defence is the goaltender. I firmly believe that the Hitmen have found their future goaltender who can hold the line for them whenever there is a breakdown in their own end. Ethan Buenaventura was picked back in 2019 at the WHL Bantam Draft. At the time he was playing out of the illustrious Rink Hockey Academy Prep program and was coming off a season where he led the league with the best save percentage. Buenaventura like many of us is waiting for junior hockey to return amidst Covid-19 restrictions. Currently playing for the Winnipeg Blues of the MJHL, he has a 1-0-0 record in two appearances and a very tight goals-against average of 1.44. If he is able to build off of those stats when the season resumes, I believe he will be making his Hitmen debut in the very near future.
For now, with a 24-game shortened season pending, the Hitmen have a number of young players already on their roster that they can rely on to help build them into a championship contender once again. Brayden Peters (’02) will have a very good opportunity to be the starting goalie for the Hitmen this year having played 35 games last season for Calgary and showing great consistency in his game.
Defenseman Tyson Galloway (’03) spent last season split between the Hitmen and the Merritt Centennials of the BCHL. In both leagues, he was able to show his ability to be a shutdown defender and really use his size to wear down opponents in the corner and in front of the goal. Galloway could very well see some ice time paired up with Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop which will only suit to improve his game.
Sean Tschigerl is one of the club’s more exciting forwards who should see a lot of minutes in the near future. He was assigned to the Whitecourt Wolverines of the AJHL when the WHL had halted as to not stunt his continued growth but unfortunately, he only found the ice once before they two were shut down. One can only imagine that he is chomping at the bit to get back on the ice yet again for Head Coach Jeff Hamilton and rejoin his teammates in Calgary.
The Calgary Hitmen have been one of the league’s most successful clubs and certainly with the newfound depth and upcoming prospects do not count them out in the race for the cup. Jeff Chynoweth and Head Coach Steve Hamilton have set this club up for a quick and successful turnaround for seasons to come.