Revelstoke native Rider McCallum is headed to the Alberta Junior Hockey League next season.
Photo courtesy of Grizzlies Facebook page
A few good Grizzlies are on the move, as Rider McCallum, Brandon Kasdorf, Finn Withey, Jake Huculak, Bo Cornell and Nathan Cohen-Wallis are headed to Junior A, the BCIHL and U.S. college hockey.
McCallum, a Revelstoke native, is joining the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
“I’ve learned a lot in these past two seasons and I’ve been surrounded by countless amazing people,” says McCallum, a six-foot-one, 160 pound defencemen that put up 18 goals and 56 points in 112 career regular season and playoff games. “Without the support from them, I wouldn’t have this opportunity. My two years in the KIJHL were two of the best in my life and I believe they’ve prepared me for what lies ahead.”
Upon joining the Grizzlies, McCallum’s main focus in his development was in the defensive zone. General manager Ryan Parent and coach Lukas Lomicky emphasized strong defensive play during McCallum’s rookie season. That allowed him to work on his offensive skills this season.
“I feel my positional play has improved the most as a byproduct of this structure of development in Revelstoke,” he says. “Having two years to develop in this competitive league has allowed me to mature as a person, player and teammate. Being fully immersed in a team environment like Revelstoke really pushed me to improve. Everyone has the same goal in mind and we all push and support each other to improve as people and as players.”
Lomicky says McCallum being part of their championship team two years ago was huge for his development.
Right from the start this season he became indispensable for our back end as well as for the whole team. He pushed his game on another level,” says Lomicky. “I think in most part because he finds more confidence and already in his good defence and he added the offensive part and became one of the best two-way defenceman in the KIJHL. I am really confident he will be a steady player in the junior A level.”
McCallum says it was unbelievable to play for such a passionate Revelstoke fan base.
“To be a part of an organization I grew up admiring was very special,” he says. “Watching the Grizzlies play growing up inspired me to play the game, and I hope I’ve passed on that feeling during my time in Revelstoke.”
Kasdorf is returning to his home province in Alberta to play for the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL. A native of Rosemary, Kasdorf says it has been his dream to play junior hockey in Alberta. A week after the Grizzlies season ended, Kasdorf was contacted by the Thunder.
The Revelstoke Grizzlies organization has a great development program,” says Kasdorf, who loved his time there. “It has taken my game to another level of play. It has made me faster, stronger, and more physical of a player.
Kasdorf netted 20 goals and had 57 points in 48 games as a rookie, and added two assists in six playoff games. He found the KIJHL to be an extremely competitive league since it pushes players to their limit.
“Within the league there is a lot of speed and skill. I believe that any player that can be successful in the KIJHL has the ability to advance to junior A hockey,” he says.”The Grizzlies organization and the league pushed me to work harder than I ever have. This type of dedication gave me the chance to move on with my career.”
Lomicky says as soon as the Grizzlies coaching staff saw Kasdorf, they knew he could be a difference maker because of his skill, hockey sense and offensive touch.
“(It) took him some time to adjust his game at the junior level, but his everyday commitment and high work ethic helped him find the way really quick and he grows as a player,” says Lomicky. “It was fun to watch his progress and seeing how he upgraded his game and became a steady two-way centreman and one of the best rookies in the league.”
Withey only played 25 regular season games with the Grizzlies after joining the team from the Canmore Eagles of the AJHL, but made an impact with 14 goals and 37 points. He had a goal and three points in five playoff games.
“He showed he is a special player offensively in our level right from the first couple games,” says Lomicky. “What I am appreciative most about Finn was his willingness to learn how to play a complete game, playing for his teammates and buying into team structure. Those things helped him be able to play a 200 foot-game and I really believe he will be a successful college player.”
Withey earned a commitment to the UVic Vikes in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League.
“It definitely means a lot to me to be able to join UVic’s program,” says Withey, who played 42 games with the Eagles (15 points) and also played 114 games in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings (producing 115 points). “I’m excited about getting a chance to combine school and hockey, which is something I’ve worked towards through my junior career.”
Withey feels he will add offence to the Vikes, but be reliable in all situations.
“I also like to use my size and be physical in the dirty areas,” says Withey, who is six-feet, 180 pounds. “I hope I can make an immediate impact in the team and help bring some success.”
Vikes coach-general manager Harry Schamhart likes that Withey is a skilled two-way forward.
“He can contribute offensively and is responsible defensively,” says Schamhart. “He played with a very good KIJHL organization and I know he will bring the commitment and leadership to our organization.”
Withey enjoyed his time in Revelstoke, especially with players buying into the system and working hard. He says their success definitely stemmed from that.
“As a player there, I found my confidence quickly, which I had trouble with during my stint in junior A,” he says. “I began to love hockey again and felt I could play to my full ability.”
Meanwhile, a trio of Grizzlies veterans — forwards Jake Huculak and Nathan Cohen-Wallis, as well as blueliner Bo Cornell — will be heading south to play with the University of Jamestown Jimmies in the American College Hockey Association.
Huculak is a Jasper, Alta., native who had 90 points in 130 career regular season games. He had five points in six playoff games. He credits the work he did with his skills coach Bryan Arneson for the good start he had. Arneson helped Huculak a lot with finishing in close around the net, which is a skill he admits to struggling with in previous years.
“I was able to get a handful of goals early in the season. And the more shots go in early on, the easier it becomes mentally to score as the season goes on,” says Huculak. “Getting a commitment was huge for me. When I met with the Jamestown head coach in October, the program he described sounded like a great fit for myself and my long time line-mate Nathan Cohen-Wallis.”
“Once Jamestown announced the first group of guys they committed, Nathan and I noticed that a few of the best players in the KIJHL were among the group of new potential teammates. We thought Andrew Clarke out of Creston was the hardest defenseman to play against in the Kootenay Conference for the past two seasons and both (Greg) Susinski and (Jordon) Kromm from Fernie were a handful to play against as well. When we saw the opportunity to play with those guys instead of against them, the decision to commit to Jamestown became an easy one.”
Huculak says his time in the KIJHL was incredible, joking that he was a suitcase, since he started his career in Beaver Valley and also played in North Okanagan.
“Each team I played for provided me with a unique set of opportunities, challenges, and relationships that have really helped me become a better player and person,” he says.
Cohen-Wallis, from Canmore, Alta., split this past season between Grand Forks and the Grizzlies. In 27 games with the Grizzlies, he had nine goals and 17 points. In 14 games with Grand Forks, he put up 11 goals and 24 points.
“Nathan is a very good shooter; a big time shooter,” said Jimmies head coach Dean Stork in a press release. “He plays with a lot of emotion on every shift and will be an exciting player to watch.”
And Cornell committed to the Jimmies while playing with the Castlegar Rebels early in the season prior to a trade to Revelstoke. The Legal, Alta product played 104 games with the Rebels and was named the team’s captain prior to the 2019/20 campaign.
A steady, stay-at-home defender who brings plenty of leadership and physicality, Cornell also saw a boost to his offensive game as a 20-year old in the KIJHL. After picking up 25 points in 85 games during his first two seasons in Castlegar, he recorded four goals and 14 assists in just 44 games this season.
“We are very fortunate to add a mature defenceman and leader on the ice like Bo,” says Stork. “He brings a wealth of experience on the back end for our hockey program. He has both a high level character and competitiveness, which will help us in achieving our goal of winning a national championship.”