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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Say Hello to Leone, Goodbye to a Friend

Luca Leone (Photo from scbroncos.com)

Luca Leone (Photo from scbroncos.com)

Interview with Luca Leone (Download)

A few weeks after the trade became official I had a chance to chat with new Broncos F Luca Leone. His story sounds strikingly familiar. Have we not seen this before with the Broncos? A guy who has the skills and talent to be a producer in the WHL who just hasn’t found that groove or that opportunity yet. Do names like Ryon Moser and Levi Bews not stand out when you think of that? I felt that way when Geordie Maguire was traded here (and still do… illness took a real bite out of his season after the deal) and I get that sense with Leone as well. Will they take the next step? Hey that’s up to them and there are a lot of factors involved. The Broncos have proven before they will give opportunities to guys who have the talent if they are willing to seize it. There could be something here with Leone.

It’s worth noting he trains sometimes with Glenn Gawdin. Could there be some chemistry there? At the very least a familiar face for when he makes his transition to Swift Current. It’s also good for him that he’s had the experience already of living far away from home for hockey at Shattuck St. Mary. It won’t be as big an adjustment for him to go from Vancouver to Saskatchewan since he has done something like that before.

THE COAST STEALS ONE BACK

As we get a new player from the west coast we lose a talented member of the team headed in that direction. Broncos PR/Media Relations guru Natasha is headed back to her BC home after four seasons with the club. It’s her last week and I know she’s not looking for a big goodbye, but I couldn’t let her leave without saying a quick something!

Her and I got here around the same time and it will be hard to imagine a Broncos season let alone a Broncos home game without working with my friend. Leaving everything you know behind and starting fresh in a new city/province can be an imposing task. I know because I’ve done it a few times and it was made so much easier by a good friend I made who was making that transition at the same time as I was. There are lots of memories we all made exploring Saskatchewan life for the first time. I don’t think either of us ever imagined what going to a Val Marie branding would be like. I wonder if they have prairie oysters in Vancouver?

I’ve also been in her position before where you’ve put your time into a particular role and it’s time for a new challenge.. and while mine came in the form of a new job and a new family life that will keep me in Swift Current for a long time… hers will come in finding new opportunities on the west coast after doing a tremendous job in the community, with the media and on social media over the last four seasons. It’s one thing to be talented and it’s another to be a genuinely good person who will leave nothing but positive relationships behind as she steps away from our city.

So it’s not a goodbye but a see you soon to my Swift Current little sister. We’ll all miss her and know that only big things are in store for her future. If the Canucks don’t hire her one of these days they’re crazy.

(Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

(Photo and caption by Darwin Knelsen)

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More Prospect Interviews, 3 to NHL Combine, Memorial Cup Anniversary

Members of the 1989 Swift Current Broncos

Members of the 1989 Swift Current Broncos being inducted into the Sask Hockey Hall of Fame

In 1989 the smallest market in the CHL held the richest prize in the country only two years after one of the greatest tragedies in hockey history took the lives of four of their brothers. It’s a tremendous story and one the city of Swift Current should proudly celebrate for years to come. Earlier this week we hit the 25th anniversary of the day Tim Tisdale lifted his hometown team to victory in Saskatoon. That team was just an amazing assembly of talent and I wish I had a chance to watch them in person. We can only hope to see another team even close to that special. They stand up as one of the best in junior hockey’s vast history.

COMBINE INVITES

The other big Broncos news this week was that three players from this season`s team were invited to the NHL draft combine. Brett Lernout, Brycen Martin and Julius Honka all got he call to participate in the annual showcase for prospects. Their physical and mental sides will come under close examination from NHL teams preparing to make one of them a part of their future. Those invites are another very good sign that all three have a very good shot of being drafted in Philadelphia next month. Martin and Honka have been ranked as first or second round picks all season. Lernout is the rising star who went from being a big, physical, bottom pairing defenceman to someone with a far more well-rounded game that the Broncos could rely on in all situations.

How impressive is it that the Broncos have three members of their defensive core going to the combine? Especially when the whole group (including drafted Dillon Heatherington) are eligible to return to Swift Current next season.

That doesn`t mean those three players are the only ones who could be drafted. Colby Cave and Landon Bow are both examples of guys who had strong seasons and as older draft eligible players could attract the attention of NHL scouts.

Lernout made big strides this season (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

Lernout made big strides this season (Photo by Darwin Knelsen)

DRAFT PICK INTERVIEWS

Defenceman Kyle Dronyk Interview (Download)

Forward Ben Kellogg Interview (Download)

I caught up with a couple more recent Swift Current Broncos draft picks. Ben Kellogg is a gritty forward known for his strong forecheck, while Kyle Dronyk is a puck moving defenceman who has put up good numbers since shifting from forward to the blue line in PeeWee. Both guys are later round picks the Broncos hope will emerge thanks to their long term potential. You look at a player like Dronyk who could be a good bet because he’s only recently changed position and maybe there’s even more room to grow for him in his new position. Kellogg received lots of praise from one of his former coaches in an interview I did a couple of weeks ago as a character guy who wins lots of battles. The Broncos see room to grow in his overall offensive game as well.

I’ll hopefully complete my draft interviews in the next few days.

Don’t forget about annual PBR coming up next weekend. It’s the highlight of the SCB Events Management schedule and always a good time.

I also want to throw out a quick plug for my girlfriend Erin’s band Lady and the Tramps who are playing their debut show on May 31rst at the Legion Hall. It’s a fundraiser for the renovations they are hoping to do at the hall. They’re a rock cover band and the show is $10 to get in. Tickets are available at Pharmasave. It’s a good cause so I hope you can help support it!

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Broncos Trade Zinkan for Leone, Lamb Interview

Luca Leone (Photo from scbroncos.com)

Luca Leone (Photo from scbroncos.com)

The Swift Current Broncos sent veteran defenceman Bobby Zinkan to Vancouver today in exchange for forward Luca Leone. Zinkan is heading into his 19-year-old season and Leone is coming into his 18-year-old year. Both were sophomores last season. Click here for details.

I had the chance to chat with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb about the deal, the bantam draft, their other off season plans and what they take from the success Portland and Edmonton have now had year in and year out.

Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb (Download)

What kind of player is Leone? From all counts he is a skilled player with good size who put up good numbers at other levels. He was a huge scorer in his second year bantam with Shattuck St. Mary’s with 93 points in 61 games. He had 34 points in 45 games in his first year of midget there as well. That scoring hasn’t yet come for him at the WHL level with 11 points in 63 games, but we’ve seen this before. Think of players like Ryon Moser and Levi Bews who hadn’t quite put together their offensive games in the WHL before coming to Swift Current and getting the opportunity to grow. Could that happen for Leone here? With guys like Graham Black and Nathan Burns leaving this off season the opportunity could be there for him.

As for Zinkan, he was a model teammate on and off the ice. He’s a very good skater, can throw big hits and moves the puck well offensively… but the opportunity hasn’t been here for him. He hasn’t had a chance to play enough and with Heatherington, Honka, Martin, Lernout, Harris, Shmoorkoff and Bevan all eligible to return next season and the likes of Lajoie and Parsons knocking on the door it would be hard to imagine that ice time being available next season as well. As Mark Lamb said in the interview, the hope is this deal will open up an opportunity for both players and work out for both teams. Everyone here wishes Zinkan nothing but the best and would love to see him thrive like he can in Vancouver.

Photo by Darwin Knelsen

Photo by Darwin Knelsen

 

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Elmwood Opens, Excited About Future

elmwood

The Elmwood Golf and Country Club opened for another season on Wednesday. It’s another year where our spring has been colder than normal and they weren’t able to open as early as they would like, but the course is in good shape and ready for action. It’s an exciting time for Elmwood with the start of the season as they take another step towards their ambitious renovation plans. I talked with GM Sheldon Reinhart about all of that and more.

Interview with Elmwood GM Sheldon Reinhart (Download)

Elmwood is a sponsor of this blog and I really appreciate them helping make it possible every year. It’s a beautiful course that we’re lucky to have and it’s worth checking it out if you haven’t. There are also great deals on membership especially if you are 20-29 or 30-39. Check out some of their special rates.

Elmwood is also the host for the annual Broncos Alumni Golf Tournament. It’s always a blast and you should make sure to keep the weekend open.

2014alumnigolfdatesave

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