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Happy Wednesday everybody!
- The Regina Pats are pretty happy with their 2016 Bantam Draft class, especially considering they only had one pick in the first three rounds. Head Coach and GM John Paddock is especially thrilled with second round pick, centerman Cole Muir who he and his staff had projected as a late first round pick. To say he was surprised to get him 33rd overall would be an accurate statement. Almost feels like the club had a first rounder. The club is also very excited about Tristen Robins, another forward who had 91 points, 51 of them goals with the Yellowhead Chiefs Bantam AAA. He is not the biggest kid but in talking with the Pats scouts he is extremely smart and skilled. The Pats also have some recruiting to do this summer. First they traded for forward Nick Henry from Everett. Henry was the NJHL rookie of the year with the Portage Terriers thanks to his 61 point campaign. I am told Western Michigan is pushing for him to go the NCAA route and so it will be interesting to see what he decides to do over the next three months. If the Pats do sign him, the club will give up an undisclosed draft pick to the Silvertips on top of the 6th rounder they already paid. Henry is entering his 17-year-old season. Another player who will take some work to get to Regina is forward Kaden Bohlsen out of Shattuck St. Mary's. The Willmar Minnesota product had 32 goals and 58 points in 60 games in 2015/16. He is committed to play NCAA with the University of Minnesota. Scouts I have talked to project him as a good professional prospect so the quality is there and who knows what will happen over the next couple of years. The Pats will host their annual spring camp later this month and we will get a look at most of the draft class.
- A total of 40 players from Saskatchewan were selected in the 2016 draft, 5 of which are from Regina. Every team in the draft took at least one Alberta born player.
- The WHL Championship series was in Kent Washington last night for game 3 between the Seattle Thunderbirds and Brandon Wheat Kings. Brandon won the first two on home ice in overtime 3-2 and did the same on the road in game 3, overtime and a 3-2 win to take a 3-0 series lead. Reid Duke scored the game winner this time around. The Wheat Kings are finding a way to win, it's been an incredibly tight series and Seattle has led in the third period of every game but just can't hold off the Brandon offence. It's amazing what a difference a year can make for a team, last year the Wheat Kings struggled offensively and were swept by the Kelowna Rockets. This year they have been great defensively and are playing with a ton of confidence in the offensive zone. For Seattle, they were 29-5-2-0 on home ice during the regular season and are 6-2 in the playoffs. They have two more games at home starting tonight, they need to flip the tables and start with winning a one goal game.
- The Kelowna Rockets announced on Monday that they and head coach Brad Ralph have parted ways. Ralph led the Rockets to 48 wins this season and a berth in the Western Conference Championship but were swept by the Seattle Thunderbirds. Ralph will be pursuing other coaching opportunities the club announced and the search for his replacement begins immediately. The new bench boss will the the 4th coach in Kelowna in 4 seasons.
- The Kootenay Ice have acquired hometown goaltender Payton Lee from the Edmonton Oil Kings. Lee a native of Cranbrook was a big part of the Edmonton Oil Kings battle to make the playoffs late this season and then was fantastic in the first round against Brandon and gave the underdogs a chance and a 2-0 series lead early on. Lee is entering his 20-year-old season and Kootenay gave up a conditional 6th round pick in 2017 for his services.
- The Oil Kings also traded goaltending prospect Austin McGrath to the Everett Silvertips on Tuesday. Edmonton received a conditional seventh round pick in 2017 in return. McGrath, 18, was named recipient of the Bill Ranford Award for league’s top goaltender, selected first team All-Star, and received the league’s Most Valuable Playoff Performer honor this season with the Lloydminster Bobcats (AMHL) with a 12-3-2 record in 17 games, a .925 save percentage, four shutouts, and a league best 1.81 goals-against-average.
- The Lethbridge Hurricanes made their first move of the off-season at the WHL draft last week sending 20-year-old goaltender Jayden Sittler to the Spokane Chiefs in a trade. The Canes also gave up a 5th round pick for the Chiefs 3rd and 7th round selections. Sittler had a great year in the Lethbridge but the obvious number 1 is Stuart Skinner who is entering his 18-year-old season. Good trade for both sides.
- Want to take a moment and give former Regina Pats, Moose Jaw Warriors, Medicine Hat Tigers, Vancouver Giants and Estevan Bruins goaltender Daniel Wapple a big congrats on a great junior career. Wapple and the Bruins saw their season come to an end at the Western Canada Cup on the weekend. Wapple I'm told was the best player on the ice for Estevan in the tournament but the team as a whole didn't have the horses to beat the league champions that were there for the tournament. Wapple was an integral part of the Pats for two seasons and I think I can speak for most fans in this city that we are very grateful for his efforts and wish him all the best moving forward.
- The Washington Capitals are out early again. The Presidents trophy winners made a great comeback last night from down 3-0 and forced OT but Pittsburgh won it 4-3 in the extra frame and advance to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps just can't get over the hump, I thought this year they would under Barry Trotz but the Penguins are a heck of a team. Didn't lose back to back games in their last 50, That's an unreal stat. Tough loss for Washington but they ran into the hottest team in the league.
- If you are the GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning do you re-sign Steven Stamkos? Yes Stamkos is a heck of a player and any team would be happy to have him. However when you look at how well the Lightning are playing without him there is an argument for letting someone else pay him the big bucks. With Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedmen and Ben Bishop, Tampa is a really, really good team. They are into the Eastern Conference Championship and have looked dominant. Would Stamkos help them right now, yes, but money will have to go to the four aforementioned players at some point. It would be a blow to lose Stamkos to the open market with no return but this is a team that could afford it based on their current talent. It will be an interesting few months after the end of the season before free agency no doubt.
- Is it just me or is the CFL Draft leaving a lot to be desired. Look at every other league in North America and the draft is an event. The CFL does it via conference call. Why not get all 9 teams in one city and make it a show. Doesn't make any sense to me why it is done the way it is. The WHL draft is 1000 times better. I love the Western Hockey League, that is well documented, however we are talking about professional football and it needs to be better. Create some excitement...
- Jeeze is it ever an up and down roller coaster watching the Toronto Raptors. Every game there are such highs and lows in their play. They have big quarters, take good leads and then let the opposition back in it or vice versa, get down and need a big quarter to get back in the game. They can't bury a team, they always let them hang around. All that being said, they are tied 2-2 int he second round with Miami and the Raps best players have been mediocre. If they could just start to put it together consistently they will get to the Conference Final. Cleveland would be a tough test however.
That's all I have for today, have a great week!