The Chilliwack Chiefs offseason roster reload has started.
New hockey boss Jason Tatarnic made his first moves Monday morning, getting commitments from two 19 year old players.
Connecticut native Craig Puffer skated at last weekend’s spring camp and signed on before heading home. The forward played last year at Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA.
Standing five-foot-10 and weighing 170 pounds, Puffer scored 16 goals and added 31 assists in 29 games.
“He is a player who has excellent hands and great vision,” Tatarnic said. “He brings that offensive element to our hockey team, but at the same time he’s sound defensively.”
Tatarnic said Puffer shows a willingness to block shots and will make the team better with two-way play.
“He’s always around the puck, it just seems to follow him,” Tatarnic continued. “You get frustrated when you play other teams that have players like that, because you’re so conscious about keeping them in check and they still find a way to do damage. Anytime you can add a player like that, it’s great.”
Chiefs fans will only get to enjoy Puffer’s talents for one year. He already has an NCAA scholarship in his back pocket, committing to the University of Vermont Catamounts.
“We look forward to assisting him with his development and getting him ready for college hockey,” Tatarnic said. “At the same time, he’ll be making us better.”
Tatarnic added a second one-and-done player, reeling in Tipper Higgins.
Higgins played alongside Puffer with the Berkshire Bears, putting up 20 goals and 32 points in 29 games.
In fact, the two mostly played on the same line. Eliteprospects.com has him listed at six-foot-one and 190 pounds.
“He’s going to add some size up front, and he has the ability to score some goals,” Tatarnic said. “He skates very well, he loves being around the net and is very good below the circles. He’s a great player to complement a skilled guy.”
A comparison might be Mathieu Tibbet, a bigger kid with wheels who never led a line but was a great in support.
Higgins has a commitment to Army for the 2015-16 season, and Tatarnic seems to have no issues with the one-and-done approach.
“I don’t think we’re going to have that many, but we’re about development,” he said. “And if we can spend that one year getting a player ready, we’ve done our job.”
Though Puffer and Higgins will only be here a year, Tatarnic feels they, and players like them, can have a lasting impact.
“When you assist that type of player and he enjoys his time here — some times those guys are your best recruiters,” he explained. “In the long run, it makes your job easier.”
Tatarnic already differs starkly from his predecessor in one way, his willingness to announce offseason signings.
Harvey Smyl generally kept things under wraps, where these announcements are just the first of several Tatarnic has planned.
“I was extremely happy with the young players at spring camp,” he said. “And we will be making more announcements later this week and next regarding more who were at that camp.”