Jay Merkley (Photo by Darwin Knelsen for scbroncos.com)
Swift Current Broncos forward Jay Merkley is heading to school.
Merkley will fore-go his overage season in the WHL to attend the University of Lethbridge and play for their CIS hockey team.
The Calgary product put up 114 points in 164 games as a Bronco.
Swift Current picked him up in a deal with the Lethbridge Hurricanes for gritty forward Josh Derko and a second round bantam draft pick.
His departure still leaves the Broncos with eight potential overage players and only three spots to fill.
Merkley joins graduating Broncos forward Carter Rigby in committing to a CIS school this summer. Rigby will play for the University of Prince Edward Island.
Quinton Waitzner (photo by Adrian Lam of the Times Colonist)
It’s been a few weeks since the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft and I’ve now finally caught up with the last of the Broncos draft picks from that day. These three young men were picked in later rounds and yet all have notable potential. Could we see a late round steal among them? Here is your chance to get to know Swift Current’s 9th, 10th and 12th round picks.
Interview with F Quinton Waitzner:
Interview with F Matt Allardyce:
Interview with F Dominic Turner:
We will see all these prospects coming up in August when the Broncos welcome their new crop of draft picks before the start of main camp.
Speaking of drafts, we’ve seen a few more lists come out for the NHL Entry Draft this month while the combine went on this week. Jake DeBrusk and Glenn Gawdin were both participating in the combine this week. DeBrusk appeared in the top 30 of the Bob McKenzie, Craig Button and Sportsnet lists. He’s 28th on McKenzie’s list, 21rst in Button’s and 19th on the Sportsnet rankings. It looks like we could have a Bronco picked in the first round in back to back years.
Elmwood Golf and Country Club, a sponsor for this blog, is going through a major renovation led by Less Furber. Ryan Switzer’s Snowstreaker put together a video with interviews and aerial views of the renovation that you can check out…
It’s looking great and an already terrific course is getting better. Thanks to Elmwood again for their sponsorship of the blog making it possible to host the site and the audio we have on it. That includes a few more draft pick interviews coming later this week.
It’s kind of an unusual way to get a draft pick. Back in 2013 the Broncos traded goaltending prospect Alec Dillon’s rights to Edmonton as part of a deal to get veteran hand Stephen Shmoorkoff to bolster their blue line. At the time the suggested cost would be a 4th round WHL bantam draft pick in 2015 assuming Dillon didn’t sign with Edmonton. The big goaltender stuck in the BCHL that season and was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 5th round of the NHL draft. He then committed to RPI of the NCAA and jumped to the USHL for last season. It seemed like the WHL book was closed for Dillon and Edmonton went ahead and used that draft pick last month on goaltender Lance Alm.
Fast forward a few weeks and now Dillon is an Oil King. He has said RIP to his RPI scholarship to perhaps take the place of Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Tristan Jarry in the Edmonton net for next season. So what does that do to the draft pick the Oil Kings were only supposed to get in case they didn’t sign Dillon? Since they used it they keep it. However, the Broncos will now get Edmonton’s 2016 4th round pick.
That kind of adds a couple of extra layers to a trade that seemed likely to be as simple as Shmoorkoff for a 4th round pick at the time. Now it widens to Dillon and Alm for Shmoorkoff and whomever the Broncos pick next May… with a massive gap in how each player would end up impacting their club.
From a Swift Current perspective it’s basically a free 4th round pick for a guy that for whatever reason wasn’t going to be coming here. Apparently he is good friends Mayo in Edmonton and certainly they’ve been a good organization so I can see the appeal of going there for him with the job open in goal. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in the WHL after playing Junior A in his 17 and 18-year-old seasons.
ROCKETS COME JUST SHORT
Congrats to the Kelowna Rockets on a great season after they lost 2-1 to Oshawa in overtime of a great Memorial Cup final. The whole tournament was fun hockey. I really thought the Rockets had the better of the play in Sunday’s game despite not being able to pull the trigger on some great chances.
There are obviously a couple of big Broncos connections with the Rockets in coach Dan Lambert and AGM Lorne Frey who both won a Memorial Cup with Swift Current in 1989. Despite having to taste the sting of defeat tonight it’s been an incredible debut season for Lambert as head coach. Getting their WHL championship ring should ease tonight’s pain a little.
Now the countdown is on to next season when everyone aims for what the Generals got to achieve today.
One last note the sign ups are coming in for the annual Click Before You Dig Swift Current Broncos Alumni Golf Classic at Elmwood. It’s a blast to be a part of and a chance to interact with the whole Broncos community from alumni to staff to sponsors and fans. I hope you’ll be sure to be a part of what is usually a sold out and very entertaining tournament.
Josh Dixon and Jamie Heward (photo by Dawrin Knelsen for scbroncos.com)
Congrats to Broncoas assistant coach Jamie Heward on a chance to coach with Hockey Canada’s program at next seaosn U17s.
Interview with Jamie Heward:
It’s been over a week since the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft but we still have some draft interviews to pass on. I have three guys left to talk to after getting the interviews I’m posting today. Hopefully I will get that done ASAP.
Interview with D Maxwell Struss:
Interview with D Jacob Bernard-Docker:
Interview with F Josh Prokop:
I’ll have some more interviews later on. On that note congrats to former Broncos Coach/GM Todd McLellan and captain Cody Eakin on winning a gold medal for Canada at the World Championships. They did an amazing job. Eakin had a real eye-opening tournament including a goal and an assist in the gold medal game.
Eetu Laurikainen (photo by Darwin Knelsen for scbroncos.com)
Congrats to former Broncos goaltender Eetu Laurikainen on inking a two-year entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. It’s a well deserved opportunity for a goaltender who was a pleasure to watch here in Swift Current. What are the Oilers getting? An athletic goaltender with great reflexes who can make spectacular saves. That’s what probably stands out from a fan perspective. In getting to see him as much as I did when he was here his poise and consistency really stood out for me. Laurikainen kept a very even keel which I think is a huge plus for goaltenders. He had a save percentage above .900 in 11 of the 14 months he played for the Broncos and only gave up five or more goals 7 times in 114 games. Those were solid teams he played on… but we aren’t talking about a defensive power house that made their goalie look better than he was. They still gave up their share of chances and Laurikainen gave them a chance to win every night.
I know the Oilers were interested in Laurikainen when he was in Swift Current and it didn’t come together. In a year of pro hockey in Finland he not only showed his junior numbers were no fluke… he improved them in his country’s top professional league. Laurikainen was good enough that he was runner up for the league’s rookie of the year award.
Where does he fit in Edmonton? They don’t exactly have a crowded crease. It looks like Ben Scrivens and Laurent Broissoit are going to be the only other goalies left from last year’s depth chart for now. They could decided to re-sign another guy from that group. Conventional wisdom would to me dictate that they find a veteran #1 for the NHL while letting Broissoit and Laurikainen handle duties with their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. They would still need at least one or two other goalies in the organization at the ECHL level and in case of injury. It’s possible Laurikainen could have to start in the ECHL depending on what that depth chart looks like come fall. Either way there is an opportunity with the Oilers. They don’t have any sure things in the pipeline right now. The door is wide open for a guy who seems to make the most out of every opportunity he gets.
I had a chance to chat today at lunch with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb about the latest of his former players to get a chance at the next level, his reaction to their WHL Bantam Draft and to the drafting of his son Hunter.
Interview with Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb:
Stay with the blog over the next few days as I will have more interviews with this year’s draft class. There are some good kids in the group. I’m looking forward to seeing them in August.