Welcome to Camp Talk.
An introduction to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s 2019-20 season. During Camp Talk, the KIJHL will catch up with coaches to discuss their roster, veterans and rookies fans should watch for. We kick things off in the Okanagan/Shuswap Conferences Okanagan Division.
Kelowna Chiefs – KIJHL regular seasons champs with 43 wins and 89 points. Coach Ken Law expects his roster to be younger after losing some veterans with skill, including Top Scorer Brody Dale, Zach Erhardt, Lane Paddison, Dylan Kent, Devin Sutton and Ryan Stack.
“We’re looking forward to the young group we are going to have. It will be probably even a little quicker than we were last year,” says Law. “Probably overall a little bit more skilled from the first line to the fourth line.”
The Chiefs have some unfinished business and will be playing in honour of late owner Grant Sheridan, who died recently from illness.
The Chiefs will have veterans to take on leadership roles and guide the new blood coming in. The Chiefs have some players attending junior A camps, but they have other recruits Law is excited about. Two include locals Blain Worthing and Kaden Meszros. They also have an affiliate in Carter Wiebe from Vernon to help on defence.
“I feel very confident about the group coming in,” says Law.
Chiefs camp is Aug.19-21.
Summerland Steam– Ken Karpuk replaces John DePourcq as coach of a squad that won 25 games and collected 54 points last season. Karpuk’s message to players is simple – “We just want to be hard working.” Steam camp is Aug. 24-25.
“I think hockey is all about competing and if you compete hard every night, you are going to win some, and you are going to lose some. But you will win more than you lose. You have to come prepared to work hard and give the team a chance to win every night,” says Karpuk, who coached in the Penticton Minor Hockey Association and the Western Professional Hockey League.
Karpuk is excited by returnees Corey Loring, Cody Swan and Morey Babakaiff to provide leadership. Eric Scherger returns between the pipes.
Karpuk liked what he saw during spring camp. Among the players to watch is Kelowna’s Jarrett Watson, 16, and Silas Kelly.
“I think he will be a good one,” says Karpuk of Watson. “He skates really well. Sees the ice well and has a very good hockey IQ. He does the little things right.”
Another notable is Noah Eisenhut, son of former NHLer Neil Eisenhut, who also played for the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in 1983/84.
Princeton Posse– “We might not be the most dynamic offensive team in the league,” says Posse coach Mark McNaughton, but it will be one that can shut teams down defensively. A strong returning defence backed by netminder Jaysen MacLean is the key. The Posse won 19 games, earning 43 points last season.
“I think he was definitely top five in our league by the end of the year last year,” says McNaughton on MacLean.
McNaughton is confident the Posse will be more secure on defence and goal than they have been in three or four years. Noah Brusse is the backend anchor, who will become the franchises games played leader.
“He is always a nice steady, big body,” says McNaughton. “We just added two rookie defenceman that we’re pretty excited about. One is Chase Cooke out of Merritt, who is real dynamic little player. Somebody we have high expectations for a 16-year-old.”
The Posse will also lean on Aubrey MacLeod and Justin Fodchuk, points leader Terrance Josephson and Trevor Gulenchyn, who came on late.
Another rookie to watch is former affiliate Ben Hoefler, who McNaughton says “doesn’t really have a ceiling offensively.”
“If he comes into the year like we think he can, he could put up some points for us.” Training camp is Aug. 29 to Sept. 2.
Osoyoos Coyotes– Coach Dean Maynard will be pushing respect and a good attitude at camp, Aug.30-Sept.1, to set the tone for the season.
“I thought last year, even being the assistant coach, that got out of hand,” says Maynard, whose team won 17 games, collected 37 points. “Especially with younger players. We didn’t have that many leaders on the team to help these young players. They could basically do whatever they wanted. I brought in a couple of veteran players that played at a higher level. They are going to be my leaders.”
One is Osoyoos product Evan Della-Paolera. Maynard is excited to see Della-Paolera on the ice saying the 20-year-old has matured a lot. In 75 KIJHL games, he has nine goals and 17 points. In 39 Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League games, he collected a goal and seven points. Listed at 6-5, 210 pounds on the Coyotes website, Maynard believes “he is going to be a force to be reckoned with for sure within the KIJHL.”
Maynard always says, if you show respect, and you have a good attitude and discipline on the ice, any team can win. That’s a big message he is bringing.
Through heavy recruiting and trades, Maynard is assembling a high skill roster that features size and physicality.
Anthony Tulliani was a huge leader and as Maynard said, “one of the most positive influence on the team.”
“He actually probably kept the team together,” he added.
Rookies to watch will be power forward Connor Funke, joined by his 20-year-old brother Braedyn. Rowan Zapisocki is expected to be a great set up man.
“It’s shaping up pretty good,” says Maynard. “The kids coming to camp will be fighting for spots. We are hoping to make a huge impact this year.”
North Okanagan Knights– “It’s a new year and a new group of players,” says Knights head coach Dean McAmmond, as the team heads into its 10th anniversary in Armstrong. “We’ll have a different look. A different structure.”
McAmmond expects the Knights to be fairly young.
The former NHLer, who coached minor hockey for six years and took over the Knights midway through last season, will lean on veterans such as Cole Haberlack, 20, expected to anchor the defence and possibly Ethan Matchim, 17. Matchim is trying to earn a junior A spot.
“He will be a big part of our defensive structure,” says McAmmond. “Up front we have Kevin-Thomas Walters who had a pretty good year last year as a rookie. He is working hard over the summer. If he doesn’t land in junior A he will come back. We will get a few of our character guys back in the lineup.”
A rookie to watch, if he doesn’t make the jump to junior A, is Jocob Boden, 16.
“I have coached him in the past. I liked that he’s very dedicated. He works quite hard,” says McAmmond.
After falling short of making the playoffs, with 16 wins and 32 points, McAmmond wants to change that. Training camp will be Aug.29-31 in Vernon.