The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has an exciting new wave of rookie talent entering the 2022-23 season. We have been highlighting those players from each team.
Next in the New Wave series are the Castlegar Rebels. The Rebels finished fourth in the Neil Murdoch division with 16 wins in 42 games. The Rebels advanced to the Teck Cup playoffs, losing in the opening round to Nelson.
Here’s a look at their new wave of rookies with insight from Head Coach & GM Arnie Caplan.
Forward, Red Deer Elks U18AA
Last season Lemke had 27 points in 29 games for the Elks, which was fourth best on the team, and had 17 goals. He brings a great work ethic along with strong skating to the Rebels and Caplan believes Lemke will continue getting better.
“He has the ability to score as well and is going to be a strong player down the road for our program. He skates really well which is a big component of the game and he has a good hockey IQ. He can play in any situation and he is going to be a valuable player for us.’
Forward, Aidrie Lightning U18AA
With 29 points in 33 games last season, Chalmers was the third highest point producer for the Lightning and finished second in goals.
“He has very good puck skills and is a playmaker with scoring ability. That’s his game,” said Caplan. “His hockey IQ is very good.”
Forward, Airdrie Lightning U18AA
Kulynych is a teammate of Chalmers on the Lightning and had 24 points in 18 games last season. He was among the top forwards at Rebels camp.
“He has exceptional speed and is an offensive player that we’re looking to help generate more opportunities and goals and be a good 200-foot player.”
Defenceman, Airdrie Lightning U18AA
Razon had 15 points in 34 games last season and stood out in Rebels training camp with his skating ability and overall skill set.
“He can play with speed and is learning to make the transition to this level. We think he can be an exceptional defenceman in our league, especially because he has good hockey sense.
Forward, Cranbrook Bucks U18
Vopat, 17, is a training camp surprise for the Rebels coming in from Cranbrook, where he had five points in 13 games last season. Vopat scored his first career junior goal in the Rebels’ 4-1 win against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Sept. 29.
“He hasn’t played elite level hockey and came into camp and held his own,” said Caplan. “He has very high potential and he will mainly play a fourth line centre role and we will see how things progress. He does everything well and we feel he is going to grow into a really good player.”
Forward, Nelson-Castlegar U18 Rep
Gerrand, a local product, helped his U18 Leafs team capture the bronze medal at the B.C. provincial championships last season in a win over Powell River. Caplan said Gerrand has been a good hockey player for a long time and describes him as an excellent athlete and is similar to Lemke. Gerrand has two assists in three games, and earned his first KIJHL point in their win against Creston Valley.
“He’s a very good skater, and can play wing or centre in any situation and we feel he is going to be a good contributor to our program moving forward,” said Caplan. “He has high hockey sense and his work ethic.”
Defenceman, Nelson-Castlegar U18 Rep
Another local product and was a teammate of Gerrand’s on the bronze-medal winning Leafs. O’Brien was an affiliate player with the Rebels last season.
“He’s a big, strong, physical player with a team-first mentality and can be a very good, solid defenceman in our league.”
Forward, Warman Wildcats U18AA
Peters was third in points on the Wildcats with 34 in 31 games and he came into Rebels camp as one of the best conditioned athletes. He has good size (5-8, 183-pounds) and is a workaholic type player. He collected an assist, his first KIJHL points against Beaver Valley on Sept. 29.
“We expect him to be a real force on the wing for us,” said Caplan. “He makes things happen and is a grinder and we like very much what we see in him.”
Forward, North West Stars U18 AA
Kramer had 20 points in 33 games last season for the Stars and is a very skilled forward who was one of the Rebels’ top skilled forwards in camp.
“He’s a power-play guy, we’re looking at him to be a point producer for us and be a very good 200-foot player. All of our scouts thought he was one of our top forwards.”
Forward, Bow Valley Timberwolves U18AA
MacDonald had 16 points in 33 games for the Timberwolves last season and at six-foot-two, 184-pounds, is a strong, hard-working player.
“He has some very good raw talent and scored some very nice goals,” said Caplan. “We expect that he’s going to be an exceptional player in this league.”
Forward, Wheatland Chiefs U18AA
Dermott was fourth on the Chiefs with 30 points in 34 games and added seven points in eight playoff games. Caplan said Dermott has “got a knack for the net.”
“He’s got very good hands and he’s just getting his feet wet at this level. We’re hoping he can become a really good two-way forward that can help generate offence.”
Forward, Team Alaska U18AAA
He had seven points in 18 games for Team Alaska last season and at 6-1, 190-pounds, he’s a “brute of a player.”
“He will be a role type player for us that will bring a physical presence and bring some speed. He is a power forward. He is a team-first player. Has an exceptional work ethic. We think he is going to have a strong impact on our program in that role.
Forward, Interlake Lightning U18AAA
Last season Calder had 24 points in 41 games and an assist in six games with the Stonewall Jets in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League. Calder leads the Rebels with four points in three games and scored a shootout winner against Creston Valley.
“He has really shown that he’s a gritty, two-way player that can score and play anywhere in the lineup. He’s made a smooth transition into the league.”
Defenceman, Interlake Lightning U18AAA
Lourenco played with Calder on the Lightning and had 12 points in 37 games.
“He has a very good skill set, and is a strong skater who is good with the puck. He’s a guy we expect is going to be one of our better defencemen, who can play in any situation.”
Forward, Battlefords Stars U18AAA
Grosjean had three points in 39 games last season as a defenceman, but he’s also been excelling as a forward with the Rebels. He collected his first KIJHL point, an assist, in their opening game.
“He’s a very good contributor who can play any role we ask of him. He’s looking to make that jump to the Junior A level next year.”
Defenceman, SSAC Athletics U18AAA
Last season Pichor had six points in 36 games and with his strong skill set, might be “our most talented defenceman.”
“He’s a strong skater, puck mover, with a high hockey IQ. He should be and could be one of the top defencemen in our conference if he gets healthy and is able to contribute.”