Josh Dixon Joins Broncos Staff (Interview)

Josh Dixon (Photo Regina Pats)

Josh Dixon (Photo Regina Pats)

The Swift Current Broncos named former Regina Pats assistant coach Josh Dixon as their associate coach today. Dixon stepped down from his gig with the Pats after a surprising division championship as a part of changes that saw coach Malcom Cameron surprisingly relieved of his duties. Dixon played a large role with the Pats the last three seasons after working with the OHA and eight years as a coach in college hockey. He has a variety of experience and brings a number of skills to the Broncos. I’ll let him and his old boss explain it…

Interview with Broncos Associate Coach Josh Dixon (Download)

Interview with former Regina Pats Coach Malcom Cameron (Download)

I came out of that conversation impressed. He has quite a background and is very well spoken. He’s clearly a hungry and motivated coach who could bring a new element to the coaching staff. What do you think?

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Lamb Talks Import Draft

Maxim+Letunov+2014+NHL+Draft+Portraits+CEORjiqjDK2l

Maxim Letunov

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb on Import Draft (Download)

The Swift Current Broncos added two potential players in the CHL Import Draft this week. They picked St. Louis Blues second round NHL draft selection Maxim Letunov in the first round and big Swedish winger Andreas Schumacher in the second round. Despite the rumours you hear that doesn’t mean Julius Honka isn’t coming back. Teams are allowed to make two import picks when their returning import is a first round draft pick or going into their overage year. This allows the Broncos to maybe take a bit of a flier on a guy like Letunov who has committed to play in the USHL again this year and at Boston University the year after… while still having the opportunity to add a player like Schumacher in the second round if Letunov doesn’t change his mind and make the jump to the CHL.

Want the scoop on Letunov? Click here for a breakdown of his scouting reports. He’s a lanky forward will a ton of skill. Supposedly has great hands, vision and an excellent shot. Not surprisingly he needs to work on his strength and his two-way game.

So why take a guy who is committed to the NCAA? The Broncos haven’t exaclty had a rep of luring those types of players away. I think in this case it’s a situation where Mark Lamb has heard some inside information that Letunov is at least considering making the jump and had two picks so he could take the risk on him. Letunov played midget hockey in Dallas and certainly Lamb still has lots of contacts there who could give him some insight into this young man. That may have opened the door. He went higher in the draft than was expected and perhaps that will make him and his representation realize that he’s closer to being a pro than he thought he would. The WHL is a quicker path to the NHL with a more NHL like schedule and style of play. That could be attractive for this skilled Russian as he looks to prepare his game for one of the elite franchises in the NHL now.

Whether Letunov comes to camp or he doesn’t he could face some competition for a spot from big winger Andreas Schumacher. He had 28 points in 32 games of U18 hockey in Sweden last season. Schumacher is listed at 6’2 and 187lbs so he certainly has some size to him and a history for his family in North America. His brother Michael put up close to a point per game in two seasons with the Soo Greyounds of the Ontario Hockey League before turning pro. He was also a draft pick of the LA Kings.

There frankly isn’t nearly as much information about Schumacher as there is about Letunov. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a big impact player here. How much did we know about Eetu Laurikainen before he showed up?

Either way Lamb made it clear he sees one hole remaining in their top six forwards and would be happy if he could fill it with an import. There’s also a chance someone from the other lines could slide up or maybe even a rookie? If no one else fills the gap there is always the option of making a trade later on. For now it looks like the Broncos are happy to stand pat and see where things go at training camp. Don’t expect much more movement after they make their coaching announcement this week.

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Lernout, Martin & Lamb Draft Reaction

Brycen Martin and Brayden Point (stolen from @Brycen_Martin on Twitter)

Brycen Martin and Brayden Point (stolen from @Brycen_Martin on Twitter)

So how do you like this defensive group now? A day after Julius Honka was drafted 14th overall in the NHL draft, the Swift Current Broncos saw both Brycen Martin and Brett Lernout drafted in the third round. This comes after Dillon Heatherington was picked in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft. That means all four players in the top four for the Broncos are first, second or third round NHL prospects. How many teams can ever claim that?

Martin and Lernout were also interestingly picked back-to-back in the draft. Montreal traded up to grab Lernout at 73 and Martin then went to Buffalo at 74. Not only are they on the same team but the two young talents also played as a defensive pair for much of the season. That makes it even more unique they were taken one after the other and by division rivals as well.

For Martin being picked in the third round was exciting and yet in talking to him also not quite what he had hoped for. There were times he was ranked as a potential first round pick and that didn’t happen. As Mark Lamb says it doesn’t matter much where you’re picked as long as you deliver once it’s your time (Cody Eakin was a third round pick and is in the NHL now), but it is also a motivator for Martin to prove he should have gone higher. As I said in talking to him he’s a “five tool” type defenceman with all the ability and physical talents any team could want. He could end up being a steal.

Meanwhile, Lernout’s selection was the result of what was a tremendous rise this year. Here is a player that wasn’t on anyone’s draft radar at the start of the season and ended up going in the top 75 to the most historic franchise in the NHL. That’s storybook. Of course he has to show last season wasn’t an aberration and that he can continue to make that level of progress. He’s big, tough and way more skilled than people realized he was. He could be exactly the type of player who comes into his own a bit later and goes on to surprise people with the professional career he could have. Again it says a lot when a team trades up to make sure they get you.

I talked to Martin, Lernout and Mark Lamb about the draft. We haven’t been able to link up with Honka yet unfortunately, but it was great to be able to talk to Martin and Lernout about what is clearly and awesome day for them. It was an awesome draft for the Broncos as they not only continue to get players drafted, but those players are getting drafted higher and higher every year. This should now be an organization you want your kid to play for based on the kinds of results we’ve been seeing with drafts and other professional opportunities.

Interview with Brett Lernout (Download)

Interview with Brycen Martin (Download)

Interview with Mark Lamb (Download)

As for the players who didn’t get picked… the draft isn’t the be all and end all. It’s exciting to know an NHL team wants to devote a spot on their protected list to you and wants to give you every opportunity to succeed. On the other hand you will get those opportunities if you show you deserve it with your play. Justin Dowling didn’t get drafted and has worked himself into a Calder Cup and a contract with the Dallas Stars. It happens all the time. Players like Colby Cave and Coda Gordon now have the chance to prove they deserve that opportunity with another great season as overage players before picking the ideal organization for them to work with after the season is done. They may also get invites to some rookie camps before that too. The door is wide open whether you’re Cave, Gordon, Landon Bow, Jay Merkley, Jordan Harris or any other player on that Broncos roster who didn’t get their name called yet. Continue playing well and developing… those opportunities will come.

Now Wednesday is another big day in the WHL off season. The Broncos pick 36th in the CHL Import Draft and I would have to think have their eye on a scoring forward. Could they mine Finland again after having overwhelming success with Laurikainen and Honka in recent years? Lamb was down at the NHL draft and has so many contacts that perhaps he could get a drafted European player here to help what should be a very good Swift Current team. It’s not a high pick though so we will see what’s left when it comes time for him to pick.

Happy Canada Day! Hope you’re enjoying it with your friends and family.

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Dallas Drafts Honka

Honka after being drafted (photo from @DallasStars)

Honka after being drafted (photo from @DallasStars)

It was a tremendous day for the Swift Current Broncos and bigger than that a huge day for Broncos defenceman Julius Honka. The Dallas Stars continued their connection with Swift Current by drafting the dynamic defenceman in the first round of the NHL Draft 14th overall. That’s the second highest draft position in Broncos history behind only Tyler Wright. Even Joe Sakic didn’t go that high as he went to Quebec 15th overall. He was also drafted a spot higher than Erik Karlsson in 2008… the player he was most often compared to.

This draft continues a fruitful relationship between the Broncos and the Stars. Dallas currently employs three former Broncos captains in their organization. Cody Eakin has been a big part of the NHL team, while Justin Dowling and Taylor Vause helped guide the AHL Texas Stars to a Calder Cup. The Stars also employed former Broncos defenceman Aaron Rome until they recently bought him out.

It’s not entirely surprising that there would be a connection between the two teams after Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb had a long stint as an assistant coach with the NHL club. That connection must be a part of what has created a bit of a pipeline from Swift Current to Dallas. Stars GM Jim Nill even said Lamb helped Dallas get to know Honka better.

Obviously Broncos fans know what the Stars are getting in Honka. So far most of the talk has been about his offensive skills and how fun people in the media think his name is. Honka is more than a one-dimensional offensively skilled defenceman. He absolutely will have to be to make it with the Stars in the kind of organization Nill and Coach Lindy Ruff are building.

It was great to see lots of coverage for Honka today like…

In all it was a very big day for the WHL with nine players from this league being picked in the first round of the NHL draft. All of them came from what should be a very competitive eastern conference next season.

Now that the first round is in the books we wait to see where the rest of the draft eligible Broncos will go and how soon. If history is any indication Brycen Martin will end up going to New Jersey with the 11th pick of the second round or Dallas with the 15th. Realistically he could end up anywhere and any team would be lucky to get him in the second round. How far will the fast rising Brett Lernout end up getting picked? They are probably next in line while we also wait to see if it happens for Gordon again, Cave, Bow or anyone else.

For now we celebrate Honka as the first Broncos player taken in the first round since 2000. He took a risk in leaving his home behind to come all the way to a small town in the heart of the prairies. It paid off as Honka became a fan favourite, made the World Junior team for Finland that won a gold medal and took the WHL by storm. Now he’s another step towards the NHL. It’s got to be an awesome moment for him and his whole family. The hard work has paid off. Take a few moments to celebrate a tremendous achievement because it’ll only get harder from here.

honka tweet

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Draft Day, Heatherington, Evjen & Other News

Julius Honka (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Julius Honka (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

The big day is here. The Swift Current Broncos could have their first pick in the first round of the NHL draft since 2000. Julius Honka is in the first round on most draft lists and would appear to be a good bet to get picked in that round. However, we’ve seen in recent years a history of players considered smaller defencemen sometimes slipping in the draft. I think that would be a mistake if teams let him slide.

At times we’ve seen Brycen Martin also listed as a potential first round pick. At this time it looks like Martin will end up in the second round. To me Martin is a guy who has all the tools and is very close to having it all come together for him. He had some great moments last year where you saw he could take on top opposition and play a terrific two-way game. It’s a matter of everything coming together in a consistent way. Based on his skill-set, size, history and the improvement we’ve seen there is no reason to think he won’t be able to do just that.

Brett Lernout is one of the fastest rising prospects this year. He came completely off the radar and now you hear people talk about him jumping up into 3rd or 4th round consideration. Why? He showed he’s more than just a physical player. He put up points on the PP with Honka away, got shots through and played some huge minutes on D against very good players. He was raw when he got here and there is a lot more to him. This is a player to watch.

Colby Cave and Coda Gordon are two veterans who have been through the draft before. Sometimes teams will let them pass because they can get a shot at them as free agents. On the other hand, they are such valuable players who have progressed significantly over the last year that you would have to think some teams will think long and hard about them. Especially in a draft that is considered a little bit leaner for depth.

You haven’t heard as much of Landon Bow’s name since the first half of the season. He emerged into the rankings with a great pre-season and start to the regular season before he had some up and down games and Eetu Laurikainen got the bulk of the workload down the stretch. Bow showed significant signs of a guy read to be a legit starter and a guy who can make big strides in his mobility/lateral movement. When you see that with a goaltender of his size you take notice. It may not be until late, but Bow could be a guy who gets drafted. I wouldn’t count him out.

Maybe there would even be another surprise. Either way it’s exciting to be a Broncos fan today as we watch the start of the first round. I wish all of them the best of luck. Mark Lamb always says it’s just the start of something not an ending. Even if you don’t get drafted there are a pile of opportunities… and if you do you still have to earn it.

HEATHERINGTON WORLD JUNIOR INVITE

For the second straight year Dillon Heatherington has been invited to the World Junior summer camp for Canada. He is among the 41 best players in his age group according to Hockey Canada. This time as a 19-year-old the chances would be that much better for him to make the actual roster this time. I talked to Dillon about that, his draft experience and some other topics.

Dillon Heatherington Interview (Download)

SCHEDULES COME OUT

It’s that time of year when the schedule comes out for the WHL in the pre-season and regular season.  You can see the pre-season schedule by clicking here and the regular season schedule by clicking here. Hard not to get the itch for hockey again when you see that isn’t it? I’m looking forward to the Broncos getting back to Maple Creek again this year as well. That and I always enjoy the trip to BC.

VAUSE & DOWLING WIN CALDER CUP

Congrats to Justin Dowling and Taylor Vause as the two former Broncos hoisted the Calder Cup as AHL champions with the Texas Stars. Dowling in particular was very impressive in the playoffs and continues to move up the Dallas prospect depth chart. In talking to Mark Lamb the other day he wouldn’t be surprised if that turned into an NHL opportunity. Adam Lowry’s St. John’s Ice Caps were on the other side of that Calder Cup final. It’s nice to see the three most recent Broncos captains all having success in professional hockey like that… and the one right before them (Cody Eakin) was impressing in the NHL playoffs after another strong regular season. There are several examples of former Broncos having success at the next level scattered throughout the professional ranks.

Congrats also to Willie Dejardins who coached Texas and ended up getting the top job with the Vancouver Canucks. I’ve only met him once but he seems like an absolute first class guy. I remember my first and only meeting with him he told me the year before Taylor Vause’s last season in junior to watch out for Vause because he was going to have a huge season. He was right on as Vause was Swift Current’s MVP and an over point per game player that season.

EVJEN STEPS DOWN

The last piece of news is the biggest that has happened in a few weeks since I’ve posted. Darren Evjen has stepped down as the Associate Coach of the Swift Current Broncos.

Evjen is stepping down to spend more time at home with his family. He’s got young kids and I can imagine it got to be hard to be away from them as much as he was during the season. It’s not just the road trips. As a coach you are basically MIA all weekend long. You get back from a road trip and you’re right back up prepping the next game the next morning. It’s a seven day a week job with crazy hours all hockey season… and it’s still a lot of hard work in the summer too. Evjen is a Swift Current product and will still make his home here as he goes back to teaching. The Broncos will find a way to tap into what he has to offer in some capacity. He still wants to be a part of what he has helped build here and it’s just a matter of figuring out how.

I just want to take my chance on this blog post to say thanks to him for all he has done for me. From all the interviews he’s given even in some very lean times for the team to making me feel a part of the crew on the road. When you talk to anyone about Darren leaving they immediately talk about his positive attitude and how he was always smiling. I’d say that will be missed yet I also know he’ll still be around.

There has been a major change in the organization in recent years and Evjen has been a huge part of that changing culture. Whatever happens from this day forward his fingerprints will be all over that. He was a winner as a coach in Midget AAA and when the Broncos become a winner here like they want to be they can thank Evjen for lending a major hand in getting them there.

I talked to Mark Lamb about Evjen’s departure, what they will do to replace him and a lot of other topics.

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb (Download)

I know there is even a lot more news to talk about including Dale Weise getting that nice new deal from Montreal after a very good playoff run and the alumni tournament. The blog hasn’t been as active as I’d like it to be recently so I will do my best to add more here. A busy new job, buying a house and expecting a kid keeps you busy! I’m also thinking that since it’s not really a news source (Swift Current Online and the Broncos site have the news in plenty of time) I should turn this even more into a commentary site and a place to host my audio. That’s the way I’m going to try to lean going forward. We’ll see how that goes.

Now to go watch the draft!

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Broncos Go Retro

Justin Spagrud and Colby Cave with designer Brandon Wiebe (Photo from swiftcurrentonline.com)

Justin Spagrud and Colby Cave with designer Brandon Wiebe (Photo from swiftcurrentonline.com)

The Swift Current Broncos went retro this week with the unveiling of a new logo, jersey and colours that take them back to their 1980s and early 1990s style. These are modernized and updated versions of the jerseys this team wore when winning two WHL championships and a Memorial Cup. So far all the reaction I have hard has been very positive. Fans love the retro feel and for those who grew up here it’s the jersey they most often grew up loving.

Retro fits in hockey. There was a big push in the 90s to modernize hockey jerseys with new colours and cartoon style logos. In recent years the trend has pushed back in the other direction. I’ve always preferred the retro style jerseys and by sharpening the colours and style this look really fits the trend. Kudos to Brandon Wiebe the designer and the Broncos for heading this way. I had a chance to chat to a few people at the announcement on Tuesday about the jerseys and some hockey related items as well.

Broncos Captain Colby Cave (Download)

Broncos Forward Justin Spagrud (Download)

Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb (Download)

Broncos AGM/Director of Business Ops Dianne Sletten (Download)

Former Broncos and NHL Forward Trent McCleary (Download)

What do you think? Happy with the change?

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Elmwood Approves Upgrades, New Jersey?

elmwood

The Elmwood Golf and Country Club has received member approval for their upgrades at a recent board meeting. That means a pile of new greens and a few new state of the art holes. It also means a residential development on their property and a chance to work with a very highly regarded course designer. It’s all pretty exciting stuff for the people involved with Elmwood and I had a chance to chat with their GM about the next step and how golf season is going so far.

Interview with Sheldon Reinhart (Download)

Elmwood is a key sponsor to this blog and it’s a great place to play. I hope you can keep supporting them! I’m also looking forward to seeing what they have up their sleeve.

NEW JERSEY?

The Broncos have planned a press conference for Tuesday morning at 10am and indicated they are releasing a new look. It doesn’t appear like it’ll be a “new” look as much as a retro look. I think this could make a lot of people happy. We will get a real look at it tomorrow morning.

There are some other Broncos stories to talk about like Coda Gordon’s status and how things went at the combine. I’ll have something up about all that news after the press conference.

a tease from the scbroncos twitter account

a tease from the scbroncos twitter account

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