Happy Canada Day tomorrow to everyone across the country. It’s one of my favourite days of the year. Part of that was because it’s the biggest party of the year in Ottawa where I grew up. I’m glad to see that it seems like it’s the biggest party of the year here as well. It’s Frontier Days all weekend long in Swift Current and I’m looking forward to checking it out.
Golden West Radio staff are going to be handing out candy during the parade starting at 10am tomorrow. There will also be Swift Current Broncos representation there. I believe Andy Blanke, Derek Tendler, Zac Mackay and of course Charlie Horse will be doing the two hour march. I hope to see a lot of you there.
HOWORKO A ‘PLAYER TO WATCH’
We’re not even a full week removed from the 2011 NHL Draft and now we’re talking about the 2012 NHL Draft. Congrats to Broncos forward Shea Howorko as he was listed among the “players to watch” by NHL Central Scouting. Howorko is a “B” level prospect along with other WHL players like Lukas Sutter and Ryan Olsen of the Blades.
Howorko certainly faced an adjustment period during his rookie season. What I liked is that he started to look more comfortable down the stretch. He was using his 6′, 180lbs frame to get a little more physical out there. He was answering the bell and handling himself well even against older guys. I also think he was getting stronger on the wall and starting to click a little bit more offensively.
What better way for him to finish the season than by potting his first goal?
There is no question he expected bigger numbers. I don’t think there is any reason to get too worried about counting numbers at that age. He just has to take what he learned from a full season in the league playing with a variety of different guys and apply that when he hits the ice this fall. It’s a blank slate in September. Howorko is already in good shape and if he can add some size/strength during the summer that should help him make a step forward.
He has shown the ability to put up points before. Shea had 36 points (including 21 goals) in 31 Midget AAA games as a 15-year-old. We’ll see if he’s able to translate that to the WHL level. There will certainly be opportunities with a relatively unproven group of forwards next season. Even if the points don’t come fast and furious, Howorko could get scout attention by being an effective and physical player in both ends. It will be something to watch.
There are no other Broncos on the list, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get on the radar. Richard Nedomlel wasn’t on any NHL Central Scouting lists until the final one of the WHL regular season. The main issue for Swift Current is the lack of players in the “draft age” for 2012.
We could see a guy like Steven Myland make a breakthrough if he is able to make the team and prove himself as a rookie goaltender in the WHL. There is also opportunity for older players to take their game to another level and get some attention in their second or third years of eligibility. Scouts aren’t even going to stop giving someone like Graeme Craig a look when he can bring his size and strength to the ice. Graham Black is only playing his first full WHL season as an 18-year-old and he could make some noise.
They are just a couple of examples. Any guy on this roster could get on the NHL radar as a draft pick or a free agent to sign if they do enough of the right things on and off the ice. There is no player 16 to 21 whose career opportunities are over. You can always change their mind by forcing them to pay attention to you.
I’m hoping to talk to Shea about this shortly but first here’s Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb on Howorko making the list and what other guys need to do…
BRONCOS MINOR TRADE
While most of the focus at the CHL Import Draft was on the Broncos selection of Norwegian goaltender Steffen Søberg, Swift Current made another minor move as well. With no room for another draft pick (they have Søberg and a returning Richard Nedomlel) the Broncos moved their 2nd round import pick (66th overall) to Tri-City for future considerations. No word on what that may turn into as of yet. The Americans used the pick to select 17-year-old forward Malte Stromwall. I’m sure whatever comes of this won’t be anything too major. Either way it’s good asset management for the Broncos to get at least something for a pick that had no value to them.
On another note, I was reading a couple of Norwegian newspaper articles on a translator and came up with a couple of interesting facts about Søberg. Apparently he was the rookie of the year in Norway’s top men’s league. It also said he was the first Norwegian goaltender drafted by an NHL team. It looks like the newest Bronco is a bit of a trailblazer. Hopefully neither of those bits of info got lost in the translation somehow.
WHITE, HNIDY AND SOPEL HIT THE MARKET
Three former Bronco defencemen are going to be checking their cell phones all day tomorrow. Ian White, Shane Hnidy and Brent Sopel are unrestricted free agents.
White made a couple of moves from the Calgary Flames to the Carolina Hurricanes and finally the San Jose Sharks. He had 26 points in 78 regular season games and 9 points in 17 playoff games. The man with the awesome mustache started his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sopel split last season between the Atlanta Thrashers and Montreal Canadiens. He put up 16 points in 71 regular season games and had 1 goal in 7 playoff games. Sopel has played for a total of six teams over his NHL career and was a Stanley Cup Champion with the Blackhawks in 2010.
Hnidy did spot duty with the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins and only played 3 games during the playoffs. He joined the team late in the year after suffering an injury during a training camp try-out elsewhere. Hnidy has played for six different NHL teams and has been told by Boston they won’t be bringing him back.
Am I missing any other Broncos that are out there on the market? I know Jeremy Williams took himself out of the NHL picture for now by joining EC Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Hockey League. Good luck to him as he takes his scoring prowess to Europe.
KEHLER STEPS DOWN
Former Swift Current Broncos Assistant Coach Tim Kehler is leaving his job as Head Coach of the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Kelher led the Silverbacks to a 38-19-2-1 season and took them to the conference finals against the eventual champions from Vernon. They came close. Salmon Arm actually had a 2-0 series lead over the Vipers before dropping four straight games. Kehler was also BCHL Interior Conference Coach of the Year.
So why would he be leaving? I think anyone who knows the situation there understands how a proud guy like Kehler wasn’t going to be able to carry on.
When Kehler first took that job I interviewed him for my sports talk show in the Kootenays. I also interviewed Silverbacks owner Randy Williams on the hiring. One of my key questions was about how much control Kehler would get of hockey decisions… especially as they related to Randy’s son Kurt who plays goal for the Silverbacks. At the time Williams made it clear that would be Kehler’s call and Kehler’s understanding was that he was going to be fully in control of hockey ops.
The question had to be asked because Williams has a son on the team and because there has been so much talk about the implications of that in the BCHL community. While no one has ever said anything much on the record about the situation… I think it’s pretty telling when respected coaches like Rylan Ferster and Tim Kehler step down in back-to-back years.
It is also interesting that this comes shortly after the Silverbacks made a 3 for 1 deal with the Kindersley Klippers. I would have a hard time believing that Kehler was intimately involved in a four player deal and stepped down shortly after. Was someone else pulling the strings on that one?
Whether the perception of things in Salmon Arm is fair to Randy Williams or not… it’s there. It’s up to him to change that. Two straight strong years in the standings and two straight years with respected coaches quitting. That is a lot of smoke.
My best to Kehler as he looks for a new opportunity pretty late in the off-season. Hopefully he is able to find something worthy of his abilities. So far I’ve always followed Kehler into cities after he left (in both Trail and Swift Current) so I’ve barely had the chance to work with him. I know from others who have that he’s a class act and will land on his feet.
Again Happy Canada Day to everyone out there. It’s a good excuse for us normally modest patriots to show that proud side. Have fun and be safe this weekend.