The annual BCHL Showcase has come and gone with yet another weekend full of surprises and entertaining matchups. While each game had the same meaning as the other 56 for each time throughout the season, the hundreds of scouts in attendance meant some coaches made roster decisions at least in part with the thought of promoting particular players. It’s an important weekend for those already having secured a scholarship as their future schools will get an up-to-date look, but in some cases they got a break for at least a game allowing for others to get a bigger share of the limelight. I saw representatives from all 31 (yes, Las Vegas included) NHL clubs in attendance along with scores of Division I, Div III, and CIS schools. September is a very important recruiting month for the NCAA in particular as their conference schedules are yet to get underway allowing coaching staffs a bit more time to see prospects for themselves. Many will likely remain in BC for the coming week or so before heading back to their respective programs prior to the next wholesale influx around Christmastime.
-After a 3-0 start with a dominant three game performance in Prince George, the Wenatchee Wild suffered their first loss, in overtime mind you, to the Powell River Kings on Friday. It was an impressive and important victory for the Kings who had a rough first two weeks of the season and with a 5-2 win over Trail Saturday, they’ve now won three straight. Wenatchee, meanwhile, bounced back nicely with a 6-3 win over the Vipers in Saturday night’s prime time game in Chilliwack. It was a game that featured far more physicality that I expected going in. Featuring the two most potent early season power plays, the Vipers scored twice on six opportunities while the Wild scored two of their own on nine chances. Wenatchee remains the only team in the BCHL yet to lose in regulation.
-While the Vipers did drop their second game of the season to Wenatchee, this is a potent and exciting team to watch. Newcomer Ryan Brushett scored a highlight reel goal in his first game as a Viper on Friday and followed that up with several impressive scoring chances Saturday. Together with Jimmy Lambert, Steven Jandric, Jagger Williamson, and Christian Cakebread this Vipers squad boasts some very impressive offensive ability. They have speed and skill and fans at Kal Tire Place will be in for a real treat this season. Splitting their games at the showcase with a 6-3 win over Nanaimo Friday afternoon, the Vipers find themselves just two points back of the division leading Vees.
-Speaking of those Vees, Penticton managed an impressive third period comeback against Langley Thursday night scoring four times in the third period for a 6-4 victory. Last year’s regular season champs followed that up with a 3-2 win over Prince George Friday, a game that turned out to be far closer than most would have expected. The Spruce Kings put up a good fight in the final period pulling within one with four minutes to spare. PG earned their first win of the season the night prior, a convincing 7-2 victory over Merritt.
-The defending RBC champion West Kelowna Warriors have almost quietly amassed an impressive 4-1 start to the season with wins over Chilliwack and Coquitlam over the weekend. Quinn Foreman leads the league in goals with 7 in just six games and looks very comfortable in a more prominent role.
-The Surrey Eagles went an expected 0-2 at the Showcase with losses to Cowichan and Salmon Arm. But these aren’t the Eagles of the last two years, regardless of their now 0-6 record. Having seen them play in person, they are bigger, more skilled, and look more like a legitimate BCHL squad which to be brutally honest they weren’t the last two seasons. They are clearly capable of scoring with 20 goals in six games, defence is definitely an issue having allowing eight goals against on two separate occasions. But while this team will be a longshot to make the post-season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them double last year’s win total of seven games.
-The Capitals have put up an impressive 4-1-1 record to start the year thanks in large part to goaltending. Rookie Adam Marcoux won his first BCHL game Thursday night in that 3-2 victory over Surrey making a whopping 54 saves. 20 year-old Lane Michasiw, now in his third BCHL season, has a 3-0-1 record with a 2.26 GAA and a .923 save percentage. The Caps sit a point behind Victoria for the lead in the Island division.
-The Grizzlies slowed down slightly on the weekend skating to a 3-3 draw with the Rivermen Saturday afternoon followed up with a 5-4 overtime loss Sunday to the Trail Smoke Eaters. Perhaps reality is setting in a bit for the Grizzlies who went 4-0 to start the season. But the Grizzlies might very well possess one of the BCHL’s most potent lines in Nathan Looysen, Cole Pickup, and Tyler Welsh. The trio has combined for 28 points in the first six games while Pickup’s 12 points (5G, 7A) has him in a tie with Wenatchee’s Brendan Harris for the overall league lead.
-The Nanaimo Clippers entered the Showcase winners of three straight but are now back home with a 3-3 record and in a tie with Powell River for last place in the Island division. A 6-3 loss to Vernon was followed up by a 4-2 loss to Salmon Arm, the Silverbacks’ first victory of the season. The Clippers are a completely different looking team from last season having lost a ton of firepower. The Clippers have struggled in their own zone and will likely look to add some depth on the blue line.
-Through just three weeks, only the Surrey Eagles remain winless and only the Wenatchee Wild have yet to lose in regulation. Early in the going there appears to be plenty of parity throughout the league and while there will undoubtedly be a few teams that separate themselves from the rest of the pack, results as they are now are a very good sign for the overall competitiveness of the BCHL.