As the weeks have gone by since the end of the WHL season for the Swift Current Broncos we have seen some of those young men take the next steps in their careers. The most recent positive example of that was Graham Black inking an three-year entry level NHL contract with the New Jersey Devils.
Before that Black and Coda Gordon had signed amateur try-out contracts with their AHL teams. Gordon had joined the Heat to get a taste of AHL life. The question now is whether or not Calgary signs him before the NHL draft deadline (when he would re-enter the draft) and whether or not Gordon is destined to play next season in the pros or back with the Broncos.
We haven’t heard yet of anything for Nathan Burns or Eetu Laurikainen, although I’ve heard there are opportunities there for those players. It’s just a matter of finding out what those chances are.
Another former Bronco earned a professional opportunity when Graeme Craig signed an ATO with the Oklahoma City Barons. While that covered him for the rest of this season, he also signed an AHL contract with the Barons for next season. The Barons are the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.
Craig may have finished his WHL career in Saskatoon and Prince Albert, but he spent more of it with the Broncos and started in the league with the Broncos as a 16-year-old. I’m sure Swift Current fans will be cheering him on. Especially after his family sent such a nice note to Broncos fans after he was traded to Saskatoon.
All of those guys could end up involved in the AHL playoffs. Black’s Albany Devils (which also include Reece Scarlett) are taking on Adam Lowry’s St. John’s Ice Caps. Craig’s Barons are playing Justin Dowling, Taylor Vause and the Texas Stars. Dowling has 3 points in 2 Texas wins already. Meanwhile, Gordon’s Heat are playing Richard Nedomlel’s Grand Rapid Grifins. Nedomlel spent most of the season in the ECHL and is with the AHL team now.
There has been a lot of talk about how there is only one Canadian team in the NHL playoffs. That doesn’t limit the options for Broncos fans or just hockey fans in Southwest Saskatchewan.
Former Broncos Cody Eakin and Aaron Rome are helping the Dallas Stars in a battle with the Anaheim Ducks. Eakin has a goal and a couple of assists in the playoffs so far. Former Broncos Coach/GM Todd McLellan is leading the San Jose Sharks in their series with the LA Kings. The Sharks also feature Aneroid’s own Patrick Marleau.
Former Broncos defenceman Michal Rozsival has a goal and 2 assists in Chicago’s six game series win over St. Louis. He and the Blackhawks are searching for a second straight Stanley Cup. Another former Bronco, Dale Weise had an overtime winner in Montreal’s first round win over Tampa Bay. The Habs are hoping to get Stewart Valley’s Travis Moen back from concussion as they continue into a playoff series with their longtime rivals from Boston.
Shaunavon’s Braydon Coburn and the Philadelphia Flyers are I’m sure getting lots of support from south of Swift Current as they try to win their series with former Legionnaire Derek Dorsett and the New York Rangers.
All that is to say that if you’re a fan of one of the Canadian teams not in the dance this year you still have a lot to follow.
WHL FINALS DEJA VU
Congrats to the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks for their return trips to the WHL finals. It’s unheard of in this era to see two teams meet in the final three consecutive time. That says a lot about the ability of those organizations to build a winning culture that has been able to make up for the loss of some very important players along the way.
If you’re any of the other 20 teams in the WHL you can’t help but look to Edmonton and Portland as the model to follow. Will this be the end of their run on top? Based on how well they have managed to re-stock the shelves the last few years it’s hard to imagine them giving up top spot without a big fight. For now we can enjoy what should be a terrific rubber match.
PARSONS TELUS CUP
Broncos prospect defenceman Mathew Parsons and the Prince Albert Mintos are in the midst of playing for the Telus Cup in Moose Jaw. Parsons has been from all accounts playing some very good hockey for an always talented Mintos team. It’ll be interesting to see if young guys like Parsons, Max Lajoie and any number of other prospects can push the full returning group on the blue line in Broncos training camp this fall. It was also a great playoff run for forward Tyler Steenbergen and Cole Johnson on their respective Midget AAA teams. How many of those guys can step into the WHL as rookies?
The next crop of young Broncos will get their names called during the WHL Bantam Draft on Thursday in Calgary. As it stands now the Broncos will pick 12th in the first round and then don’t have another pick until the fifth round. Their scouts are going to have to work some magic in later rounds like they did when they drafted Jake DeBrusk in the 7th round a few years back.
Word from the Broncos office is that season ticket sales are going great. They are well ahead of last years pace for renewal and new sales. That’s got to be thanks to the excitement that built on town around the team with this year’s playoffs. I’ve never seen that much energy in the Credit Union iPlex and am only hoping it’s just the start of something. Check out scbroncos.com for ticket details and prizes you can win for getting your tickets early.