Here is our final installment of the WHL preseason capsules. Today examines the East Division that includes Eastern Conference favorites Regina and Moose Jaw.
BRANDON WHEAT KINGS
Last season: 31-31-7-3, fourth in East Division, lost in first round of playoffs to Medicine Hat.
General manager: Grant Armstrong (second season).
Head coach: David Anning (second season, sixth with team).
Assistant coaches: Don MacGillivray (second season), Tyler Plante (goalies, second season).
Key losses: Brandon loses three overagers, Reid Duke (37g, 34a), Tyler Coulter (30g, 33a) and deadline acquisition Dmitry Osipov.
The 20-year-olds: G Logan Thompson took over as starter after Jordan Papirny was traded at the deadline, which brought D Kade Jensen to Brandon. James Shearer will be out indefinitely after offseason surgery.
The imports: Czech D Daniel Bukac, 18, is on the shelf with a lower-body injury. Bukac’s friend Martin Kaut is hoping to play pro in Czech Republic but could still land in Brandon.
Key returnees: D Kale Clague, 19, (5g, 25a) will look to build on last season’s world junior appearance … Tanner Kaspick (19g, 26a), a physical presence, could break out offensively … Ty Lewis, 19, exploded for 30 goals after scoring 10 in 2015-16. Former top bantam pick Stelio Mattheos, 18, went from 13 goals to 26.
New faces: D Braden Schneider and F Ben McCartney joined the team in the playoffs last spring … G Dylan Myskiw was recently acquired from Victoria … Former Brandonite F Jonny Hooker, 16, has impressed … Former WHLer Gunnar Wegleitner, 19, has played well as a free agent camp invitee.
Watch for: With the graduation of Duke and Coulter, and if Nolan Patrick (33gm, 20g, 26a) doesn’t return, the team will have lost 39 per cent of last year’s scoring. Secondary scoring will have to emerge to support Lewis, Mattheos and Kaspick.
Noteworthy: After keeping four 16-year-olds last year, three or four more will play this year.
Did you know: If Patrick isn’t back, Clague will be the only player left from the top two lines and top two defensive pairings of the 2015 championship team.
Prognosis: The Wheat Kings will be waiting to see what happens withPatrick, who could dominate if he returns. Either way, finishing in the top four in the competitive East Division and earning a playoff berth is a realistic goal.
» Perry Bergson/Brandon Sun
MOOSE JAW WARRIORS
Last season: 42-21-8-1, second in East Division, lost in first round to Swift Current.
GM: Alan Millar (8th season)
Head coach: Tim Hunter (5th season)
Assistant coaches: Mark O’Leary (4th season), Scott King (4th season), Matt Weninger (goaltending, 1st season).
Key losses: G Zach Sawchenko opted out of his overage year and will attend University of Alberta.
The 20-year-olds: Forwards Jayden Halbgewachs (50g, 51 a), Brayden Burke (19g, 63 a), Tanner Jeannot (19g, 33a), Spencer Bast (9g, 8a).
The imports: Defencemen Dmitri Zaitsev, 19 (2g, 18) from Russian and rookie Oleg Sosunov, 19, a sixth round pick of Tampa Bay in 2016
Key returnees: F Halbgewachs, fifth in scoring last season; Burke, 100-point scorer as 18 year old; F Brett Howden (38g, 43a) returning team captain; Noah Gregor, 19, (27g, 34a) will be top six forward; D Josh Brook, 18, is a defensive stalwart; D Jett Woo, 17 and F Luka Burzan, 17, are both potential NHL first round picks.
New faces: Sosunov has only played one pre-season game but at 6’8” and 235 lbs brings size to the blueline; F Brayden Tracey (1st round, 21st 2016), Tyler Smithies (list) and Tate Popple (list) have all stood out through training camp … Jason Ripplinger is the team’s new assistant general manager.
Watch for: If their entire core of forwards currently at NHL camps returns, the Warriors will have among the most potent top two forward lines in the WHL, which will mean a whole heck of a lot of offence.
Noteworthy: Halbgewachs is the first returning Warrior with 100 or more points the previous season since Curtis Brown (51g, 53a) in 1995-96.
Did you know: The Warriors have seven players away at NHL camps heading into the final week before the start of the WHL season: Howden (Tampa Bay), Gregor (San Jose), Zaitsev (Washington), Brook (Montreal), Jeannot (Washington), Halbgewachs (Las Vegas) and Sosunov (Tampa Bay).
PRINCE ALBERT RAIDERS
Last season: 21-44-5-2, sixth in East Division, missed playoffs
Head coach: Marc Habscheid (fourth season)
Assistant coaches: Dave Manson (seventh season), Mark Odnokon (third season)
Key losses: Import LW Simon Stransky led the Raiders in points last season (22G, 26A) but turned pro in Europe instead of returning as a 20-year-old … sniper Cavin Leth (23G, 16A) and former captain Tim Vanstone (12G, 18A) have moved on to the CIS.
The 20-year-olds: LW Curtis Miske, C Devon Skoleski, C Jordy Stallard. Miske replaces Vanstone as captain.
The imports: 19-year-old Czech D Vojtech Budik (1G, 25A) … reliable defenceman who attended training camp this fall with the Buffalo Sabers.
Key returnees: Miske (20G, 23A), Stallard (14G, 23A), 18-year-old C Parker Kelly (21, G 22A), 18-year-old G Ian Scott (12-31-3-0, 3.69 GAA, .895 save percentage), 18-year-old D Max Martin (8G, 25A), 18-year-old D Brayden Pachal (3G, 12A), 17-year-old C Cole Fonstad (11G, 15A), 17-year-old C Carson Miller (7G, 12A) … Miske and Stallard both caught fire after being acquired via trade last season … Martin led all Raider defenceman in points, but has battled injuries in training camp … Fonstad and Miller are 2015 first round picks entering their NHL draft year.
New Faces: C Devon Skoleski (14G, 20A) spent last season with the Everett Silvertips … undrafted rookie Nikita Krivokrasov will make the jump after playing two WHL games in 2016-17 … 2016 first-rounder Rhett Rhinehart will get plenty of looks on the blueline.
Watch for: The Raiders struggled with discipline last season, ending the year as the WHL’s fifth most penalized club. Prince Albert doesn’t have the offensive firepower to score in bunches, so discipline must improve.
Noteworthy: RW Dominik Bokk (selected ninth overall, 2017 CHL import draft) has elected to play the upcoming season in Sweden.
Did you know: Minnesota-born winger Nikita Krivokrasov is the son of ex-NHLer Sergei Krivokrasov.
Prognosis: The Raiders have a talented young squad, but remain committed to rebuilding. Coach Marc Habscheid is preaching patience, so it’s unlikely the club will sacrifice long-term gains for quick fixes.
» Jason Kerr/Prince Albert Daily Herald
52-12-7-1, first overall in WHL, lost in league final.
Head coach-GM: John Paddock (fourth season).
Assistant coach-assistant GM: Dave Struch (12th season in WHL, fourth with Pats). Assistant coaches: Brad Herauf (third), Rob Muntain (goalies, seventh).
Key losses: C Adam Brooks, RW Dawson Leedahl, D Chase Harrison (all graduated); D Connor Hobbs, RW Austin Wagner, D Sergey Zborovskiy (all turned pro).
The 20-year-olds: G Tyler Brown, C Matt Bradley, F Wyatt Sloboshan.
The imports: Two WHL rookies: Russian D Egor Zamula, 17, and Finnish RW Emil Oksanen, 19.
Key returnees: C Sam Steel, the WHL’s reigning player of the year, replaces Brooks as captain. He and D Josh Mahura, a fellow Anaheim prospect, are the headliners in Regina. Both could play for Canada at the world juniors … Brown is a battle-tested veteran and proven playoff performer. But can he raise his game to elite status? … C Jake Leschyshyn, a second-round pick by Las Vegas, has recovered from a torn ACL and is poised for a breakout season.
New faces: Bradley — acquired from Medicine Hat — was Regina’s top off-season target. He has the unenviable task of filling the offensive void left by Brooks … C Koby Morrisseau, a ninth-overall bantam pick in 2015, was acquired from Spokane. He missed the second half last season due to concussions.
Watch for: Regina to be aggressive in improving its lineup prior to the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
Noteworthy: Sniper Nick Henry — a WHL rookie-of-the-year candidate last season — will miss a few more weeks due to off-season shoulder surgery … Could the Los Angeles Kings eventually send Wagner back to junior? He’s expected to miss the first half due to off-season shoulder surgery.
Did you know: The Pats are playing host to the 100th Memorial Cup in their 100th year as a franchise.
Prognosis: Regina has a strong returning cast but isn’t yet a championship-calibre team. Paddock will have to make some significant moves if the Pats are going to achieve their lofty objectives and enjoy a storybook season: Winning a WHL title and hoisting the Memorial Cup on home ice.
» Greg Harder/Regina Leader-Post
Last season: 28-35-7-2, fifth in East Division, missed playoffs.
Head coach/GM: Dean Brockman (second season).
Assistants: Jerome Engle (coaching on and off since 1989), Tim Cheveldae (fifth year), Bryce Thoma (second year) and Ryan Keller (second year).
Key losses: F Jesse Shynkaruk (31g, 56p, 58gm), F Mason McCarty (21g, 37p, 45 games) and D Bryton Sayers (32p, 72gm).
The 20-year-olds: G Logan Flodell (2.81 GAA,.912 save-percentage, 22-20-3 record and three shutouts), D Evan Fiala (attended Detroit Red Wings training camp), Cam Hebig (26-43, 69 in 59 games during the 2015-16 season but did not play last season) and leading scorer Braylon Shmyr (35g, 31a, 66gm).
The imports: D Libor Hajek, a second-rounder of the Tampa Bay Lightning who saw NHL pre-season action, and D Mark Rubinchik, who played for Russia in the U-18 Ivan Helinka Memorial Tournament, both return.
Key returnees: Flodell, Fiala, Hajek, Rubinchik, Shmyr, Hebig, Josh Paterson and Logan Christensen are all potential go-to guys on a team that is a year older and a year wiser.
New faces: Although technically still a rookie, rangy Kirby Dach was granted an extended stay last season (6g 4a, 19gm) as a 15-year-old. He had two goals and two assists in five pre-season games. Bradly Goethals was acquired from Everett and D Seth Bafaro was picked up from Tri-City Americans. G Joel Grzybowski (Battlefords North Stars, SJHL) will back up Flodell. D Payton McIsaac, F Brandon Machado, F Matt Mosher are rookies looking to stick.
Noteworthy: Hajek, Christiansen, Paterson, Lukus MacKenzie and D Jake Kustra enter their third season with the Blades and looking for breakthroughs.
Did you know: Fiala is the new captain. The former Spokane Chief, who played midget AAA with the Saskatoon Contacts, has never been a captain before.
The prognosis: The Blades are a little bit older and should be a little bit wiser. A playoff berth should not be out of the question. Once again, a lot hinges on injuries as the Blades spent all of last season without Hebig and games lost to injury or illness reached scary numbers.
» Darren Zary/The Saskatoon StarPhoenix
SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS
Last season: 39-23-4-6, third in East Division, eliminated in second round of playoffs.
Head coach and general manager: Emanuel Viveiros (second season).
Associate coach: Ryan Smith (second season). Assistant coach: Jamie Heward (fifth season).
Key losses: G Jordan Papirny aged out of WHL after being acquired from Brandon. Spectacular in last season’s playoffs with a 2.48 GAA and .935 save percentage … C Ryley Lindgren (27G, 47A) aged out of WHL after being acquire from Lethbridge … RW Lane Pederson (25G, 40A) overager signed with NHL’s Arizona Coyotes … D Maxime Lajoie (7G, 35A) overage signed with NHL’s Ottawa Senators.
The 20-year-olds: G Taz Burman (18-12-5, 2.96 GAA, .907 save percentage), C Glenn Gawdin (26G, 33A), LW Arthur Miller (7G, 12A), C Conner Chaulk (10G, 13A), RW Brandan Arnold (3G, 4A). Gawdin is in main camp with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Two will have to go to get to the limit of three.
The imports: 18-year-old Finnish LW Aleksi Heponiemi (28G, 58A), 19-year-old Russian D Artyom Minulin (8G, 42A).
Key returnees: 19-year-old LW Tyler Steenbergen (51G, 39A), 19-year-old D Colby Sissons (6G, 22A), 19-year-old RW Kaden Elder (15G, 12A), 17-year-old LW Riley Stotts (9G, 7A).
New faces: 17-year-old G Joel Hofer went 9-5 with a 2.86 GAA and a .915 save percentage for the Pursuit of Excellence midget prep team in Kelowna, B.C. … 16-year-old C Logan Barlage piled up 37 goals and 39 assists in 44 regular season games in midget AAA in Prince Albert. He finished last season as a call up with the Broncos.
Watch for: Stotts to push himself onto the Broncos top two forward lines. Winnipeg product played with a lot of jump last season netting his 16 points in 52 regular season games.
Noteworthy: Last season marked the first time the Broncos advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs since 2008.
Did you know: 18-year-old D Jake Hobson’s cousin, Brooke Hobson, is an offensive defenceman who will be playing her freshmen year in the NCAA ranks with Northeastern University women’s team in Boston, Mass.
The prognosis: Expect the Broncos to build off their success last season and be one of the Eastern Conference’s tougher clubs.
» Darren Steinke/Stanks’ Sermon