The Ridge Meadows Flames will start the 2018-2019 junior B campaign on Friday night against the Aldergrove Kodiaks with a lot of new faces in the lineup.
The two top guns from are gone, as team captain Andrew Strelezki and Halen Cordoni have graduated from junior hockey.
That is going to create opportunities for players to step up, such as Jayden Genberg and Logan Hunter, who had 34 and 33 respectively in 38 games last season.
Rookie general manager Derek Bedard is still waiting to see who makes it to the next level, and who is looking for a spot on the roster of one of the top junior B teams from last season.
“It’s coming together. We still have a few guys we’re waiting on from Junior A,” he said, nothing that both the PJHL and the BC Hockey League are cutting their rosters down this week, in preparation for Friday home openers.
Those players cut from junior A can add an extra level of skill to the roster. After the team’s success last season, Bedard said it was inevitable that some of the players would be looking to make the jump to the BCHL this year.
“We’re pretty excited with what we have right now. The guys have come in and pushed the pace, and we’ve had to make some tough decisions,” he said.
The Flames recently acquired Jaxan Lepp in a trade. The 18-year-old played last season with the Port Moody Panthers, and had three goals and seven points in 38 games.
Bedard said the left winger will have an opportunity to build on that rookie campaign this year with the Flames.
“He’s going to come in and have an opportunity to play,” he said.
Also joining the lineup this season will be Tetsuya Prior, a 19-year-old Richmond native who has put up 20 goals and 34 points in 65 games with Delta Ice Hawks and Port Moody Panthers over the past two seasons.
He was acquired in trade last season, for his speed, skill and intensity.
He was close to making BCHL lineup this year, said Bedard.
The team also recently announced a commitment from 18-year-old defenceman Emmett Garrett from Maple Ridge. The blueliner was a member of the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds team that won the Major Midget League provincial title last season.
“He’s going to bring a lot to the table for us,” said Bedard. “He’s a good puck mover, good at both ends of the ice, and he’s going to make an impact. We’re thrilled to have him.”
The goaltenders will be last year’s all-star Paul Tucek, who is now 20, and Maple Ridge’s own Eric Clark, a rookie 16-year-old who will learn from Tucek and push him for playing time, said Bedard.
The defence will be anchored by Ryan Wellburn, who will be the team captain this, and be a settling veteran influence at both ends of the ice.
Fans can expect a tough, junior hockey experience on Friday night, said Bedard. Although the Aldergrove Kodiaks had a down year by their standards last season, he expects them to compete.
“Aldergrove is always a tough team to play against – they play the game hard,” he said.
• The home opener will again feature a tailgate party from 5-7 p.m., with puck drop at 7:30 at Cam Neely Arena.
• The Flames also announced that former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Rick Lanz will be part of their development team this season.
“Rick played in the NHL, and is a great developer of defencemen,” said Bedard.
Lanz was drafted seventh overall by the Canucks in 1980, and was named the team’s top defenceman in 1983-84 when he posted 18 goals and 57 points.
After his playing career, he coached extensively in the BCHL and Western Hockey League. He is now coaching wit the Delta Hockey Academy.
Bedard said having coaches like Lanz involved with the organization helps make the Flames competitive, and helps players being recruited see it as a good destination for development.
“He definitely knows the game inside and out.”