Uncertainty always hangs in the air at the beginning of a new BC Hockey League (BCHL) season. Despite off-season efforts, Powell River Kings coaches, players and fans are never truly sure how a new group of players will perform, which raises several questions.
Will returning veterans step up their game and help fill the void left by last year’s graduating players? How will new recruits adapt to the BCHL? What bounces, good and bad, will occur this year?
As the 2017/2018 season-opening game approaches on Friday, September 8, when Kings host Victoria Grizzlies at Hap Parker Arena, we only have training camp, three exhibition games and our own expectations to use in order to predict how the team will fair.
So far, the outlook appears extremely promising. On paper, the lineup shows two very strong characteristics: depth and balance.
Depth is crucial during the grind of a BCHL season. Teams require coverage for injuries, suspensions, school visits, Team Canada call-ups and more. Balance is just as critical, giving teams the ability to adapt to different styles and win games 2-1 or 8-6.
On defence, Kings feature impressive depth. Players with more than 400 games of combined BCHL experience will patrol the blue line, with only Nathan Kelly (BC Major Midget League) donning the jersey for the first time.
Leading the core of defenders are third-year Kings Carmine Buono, Andy Stevens and Jack Long. Supporting that trio will be Callum Volpe, who is entering his third BCHL season; sophomore Ian Ross; and Ben Raffler, who split the last two seasons playing with the Kings while also seeing Junior B action in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
Kings fans can consider themselves lucky with the group of forwards on the roster.
Despite a commitment to University of Connecticut, Jonny Evans will compete in his fourth full season of BCHL hockey. Evans is coming off a season where he led the Kings in scoring with 36 goals and 78 points in 53 games.
A returning leading scorer is rare at the Junior A level. Typically, players of that calibre were either in their final season of eligibility or have graduated to college. Evans came into this year’s camp and exhibition season a little bigger and stronger.
Evans’ supporting cast is as varied as it is deep. Carter Turnbull, Ben Berard, Gavin Rauser, Josh Coblenz, Josh Bruce and Hunter Findlater all return from last year’s team, bringing a combined 226 points and 463 games of BCHL experience.
New forwards joining the club include Trent Bell, Nick Abbott, Kevin Obssuth, Kyle Kawamura and Mitch Williams, all of whom bring impressive offensive track records from their previous teams.
Mitch Adamyk is set to graduate from his apprenticeship and take over the starting goaltender role. After earning several key starts last season as backup to Brian Wilson, Adamyk showed he was capable of more responsibility; he is set to take that on this season.
Vancouver’s Matteo Paler-Chow, who debuted for the Kings as an affiliate in Merritt last season, will push Adamyk for playing time.
So how will the Kings do this year? It is a cliché, but we will just have to just wait and see what happens.
Hope is never in short supply in junior hockey at the start of the season. Powell River fans can only hope an impressive group on paper in September develops into a team they are still cheering for in May.
Alex Rawnsley is the broadcasting and media relations director for Powell River Kings Junior A Hockey Club.