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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Draft Day Audio (Porter & Draft Picks)

Jamie Porter at the draft table

Jamie Porter at the draft table

The Swift Current Broncos made nine picks in this year’s WHL Bantam Draft. That despite having no selections in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds. You can read about those picks at Swift Current Online or on the Broncos website. It appears the draft featured some significant size and a collection of players the Broncos feel are pretty good bets to be all-around players. We’re talking about guys who have shown a two-way, gritty game and can deliver offence at good clip in bantam. None of these guys were blowing it out of the water scoring in bantam… they were very good contributors offensively who have other elements to their game as well.

The hope would be that at least a few of them develop into players that can contribute to the lineup. That’s really all you can ask when you’re picking mostly that late in the draft. It’s way too early to know if there were any late home runs in this draft. Outside of the top pick it’ll probably be three or four years before we know if they were able to make something out of what they had to work with today.

Great news? All of them that I talked to expressed their excitement about being in the organization. The team has been producing professional talent and guys who are getting opportunities in the NHL draft. That doesn’t go unnoticed. There are a lot of reasons to want to play in Swift Current and we are seeing enthusiasm for this program from the young players who I talked to today.

Interview with Broncos Assistant GM/Director of Player Personnel Jamie Porter (Download)

Dominic Schmiemann

Interview with 1rst round pick D Dominic Schmeimann (Download)

Tyler Oakenfold

Interview with 5th round pick F Tyler Oaklenfold (Download)

tanner mole

Interview with 5th round pick F Tanner Mole (Download)

By the way it’s worth mentioning that Mole is 6’3 and 212lbs not 242lbs as he was listed in the draft literature. He’s still a huge young man, but not quite that huge.

Interview with 8th round pick C Josh Baker (Download) 

noah king

Interview with 10th round pick D Noah King (Download)

I also had the chance to chat with Carter Duffin who had coached some of the players the Broncos took in today’s draft at different times and had been tweeting about it. This is what he had to say about a few of those players.

Interview with Calgary/Edmonton minor hockey coach Carter Duffin (Download)

I intend to chat with the other draft picks I haven’t talked to yet at some point. Also expected some audio from Elmwood GM Sheldon Reinhart on the start of the golf season at some point over the next day or so.

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Broncos Draft Schmiemann

Dominic Schmiemann

Dominic Schmiemann (photo from @dschmiemann on Twitter)

The Swift Current Broncos added some size, leadership and all-around play to their blue line by drafting Dominic Schmiemann out of Notre Dame in the first round, 12th overall. This creates even more parallels between this year’s draft and the 2010 draft in that Schmiemann appears to be a guy who has some similarities to Dillon Heatherington in terms of what he could bring to the Broncos down the line. At 6’3 and 170lbs in bantam he’s big and one can imagine he will get even bigger than that. The scouring reports say he’s a smart two-way player who skates well and captained his team at Notre Dame as that bantam squad played up in the Midget AA league.

He’s also the player that was projected to go to the Broncos in the Western Elite Hockey Prospects newsletter. Good call by them.

schmiemann tweet

Schmiemann put up 15 points in 33 regular season games and added 97 penalty minutes. He added 2 points in 3 playoff games and had 2 points in 5 games at the Alberta Cup. The big defenceman was named to the Alberta Cup tournament all-star team as well.

Colin Powers chatted with Broncos Assistant GM Jamie Porter shortly after the pick. You can read his story on that here. You can also read a couple of profiles on Schmiemann here and here. Boy he sure sounds a lot like a Dillon Heatherington style player to me. He models his game after Nik Lidstrom and has earned comparisons to Robyn Reghr. The Broncos would be more than happy to get a player who could come close to living up to any of those three comparisons.

schiemann scouting news

The timing makes sense. Swift Current’s group on defence is very strong heading into next year, but a lot of that strength is grouped together. Heatherington, Honka, Lernout and Zinkan will all be 19-year-olds next season. Martin, Harris and Bevan will be 18-year-olds. That’s a big cluster in that age range. As those guys start to move to the next level it appears Schmiemann would be the guy they project to step in and fill that Heatherington type role of leading the team on the backend in the future.

Jamie Porter told me he was the player they targetted for their defence and he was there for them at 12. Schmiemann also has a pretty good connection to another recent high pick by the Broncos. He played in Notre Dame this season, but he’s an Alberta native who spent his previous season on a Bantam AAA team in Red Deer with 2013 Broncos first round pick Tyler Steenbergen. It sure doesn’t hurt to have that instant connection between your top picks in back-to-back years. That also makes it five of the last six first round picks by Swift Current that have come out of Alberta.

What’s your take?

I’ll talk to Jamie Porter and hopefully Schmiemann later in the day. This is just a quick lunch post and I will do more analysis and hopefully have some audio for you once my work day is done at Standard Motors. I had a couple of customers come to the dealership today to talk bantam draft and get my take on the new kid. The first rounders always look very promising and Dominic is no different.

The other thing worth noting is that as expected (by me at least) the Broncos didn’t add any picks in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th rounds. There are players there, but they don’t feel the draft is as strong as recent years so it wasn’t as essential to make up those lost picks as it may have been in previous years. Now the tough work starts for the scouting staff as they need to find at least a couple of players in the later rounds who could be contributors to this team’s future. Best of luck to them!

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Porter Previews Bantam Draft

Jamie Porter

Jamie Porter

Broncos Assistant GM/Head Scout Jamie Porter (Download)

Spring is here as evidenced by the opening of our sponsors over at Elmwood Golf Club… and thanks again to them for continuing to support this blog and helping make it possible for me to maintain them. It’s a beautiful course in a great city and you really should try it if you haven’t. With spring comes the day when hopeful future stars keep their eyes on their computer to see where they will hone their craft in those all important junior years. What is in store for your favourite local team?

The Swift Current Broncos head to the WHL Bantam Draft table tomorrow with only a single pick in the first four rounds. They pick 12th in the first round, the same spot where they picked Tyler Steenbergen at this time last year, and don’t pick again until the 5th round because of some previous trades.

Is that a reason for concern? The last time the Broncos were this shallow in the early rounds was 2010 when they didn’t have picks in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. That year they nabbed star defenceman Dillon Heatherington in the first round, Zac Makay, Landon Bow and Bobby Zinkan in the fourth round, and Denis Bosc later in the draft. They also drafted Mathew Gelinas late in the draft who never played for the Broncos but has spent a season with Tri-City. What that says is you can find a handful of very useful players in a draft even if you don’t have all your early picks.

Could they make a move to get some picks in the second, third or fourth rounds? It’s possible. There have been some talks and some scenarios. However, it seems unlikely at this point they would part with their first round pick in order to get more depth in the draft. The Broncos are pretty confident they are going to get a player they like in that spot and all indications appear to be that the top end of the draft is pretty good, but the depth isn’t that strong. In that case you’re better to try to grab a cornerstone in the first round and hope you get a couple of pieces later on.

That puts even more pressure on that first round pick. They really have to get this one right in order for this draft to turn out. Recent history has been pretty strong that way for the team. They picked Heatherington in 2011, Brycen Martin and Zack Gonek in 2011 (Gonek turned into Jordan Harris), Glenn Gawdin in 2012 and Steenbergen in 2013. All of those picks have either turned out or had arrows heading in a positive direction.

What are the organization needs? They feel their prospect depth is pretty strong in all departments now and aren’t necessarily targeting any position. I could see them going with a defenceman simply because the current core is very strong but also grouped together in age. This year’s pick could be the Heatherington for the next core on the blue line. That said, the team has said as it always does that in the first round they will pick they player they project to be the best player on the board. They will also make sure to the best of their ability that it is a player committed to the WHL that would be comfortable committing to the Broncos.

If history has anything to say about it the Broncos will trend towards Alberta. Of all those first round picks I mentioned only Gawdin came from a province other than Alberta and Albertans have continued to make up a very significant portion of Swift Current’s roster up and down the lineup.

Tyler Neisz of Western Elite Hockey Prospects puts together a newsletter on bantam prospects all throughout the year. His rankings and mock draft put the Broncos in position to draft Notre Dame defenceman Dominic Schmiemann. At 6’3 as a second year bantam player he would certainly bring some size to Swift Current’s back end for years to come. Other players he has in that range include Jake Leschyshyn the son of former NHLer Curtis Leschyshyn who most recently coached with the Saskatoon Blades. The Broncos have proven they love NHL bloodlines with guys like Lowry, DeBrusk and Odgers.

Swift Current picked Cole Johnson out of Lloydminster last year and Niesz has a couple of players from there ranked near Swift Current’s range this year including defenceman Jantzen Leslie and forward Zane Franklin. Everyone talks about size so could they go with 6’2 scoring forward Josh Paterson out of Edmonton? What about going with the top goalie available and might that be Ian Scott of Calgary?

There are a lot of unsanswered questions heading into the draft tomorrow.

As far as local prospects, the only Bantam Raider that Niesz has ranked in his top 200 is Tyde Hutchinson who put up good numbers on a team that struggled this year. Mark Lamb’s son Hunter is 61rst on the rankings for the 2015 draft.

Whatever happens the draft is usually good for a surprise or two. I’m looking forward to keeping my eyes on it. Obviously working at Standard Motors now instead of full time at the radio station I’m not able to devote my day to covering the draft in the same way I have in the previous three years. I will still check in and offer some analysis and hopefully some quick audio at some point during the day. I’ll be doing my best to coordinate with our Swift Current Online news team and with the Broncos team on the draft floor tomorrow to cover the draft to the best of our ability. We will get it done it just won’t be 100% me this time around as I’ll be getting some support from our full time staff.

What do you want to see the Broncos do?

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