The CJAHL pre-season rankings came out last week and three BCHL teams are in the top 20.
Seeing those teams ranked where they are isn’t a surprise. But then again, I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t work out that way. Penticton will be very good again, and if Vernon isn’t deserving of that ranking right now, as hosts of this year’s national championship you know they’ll do whatever it takes to be a serious contender.
For a couple reasons, the BCHL can be a very difficult league to predict. High turnover among players is one, and the addition of players from all over North America is the other.
Langley being the top ranked team in the Mainland division makes sense.
They start the season with 15 players with junior A experience, and a head coach in former Chilliwack Chief Bobby Henderson who now has a full year of head coaching experience at this level. All indications are they’ve brought in a strong group of new players including Darien Craighead, the son of former Chief John Craighead.
Former Vancouver Canuck Peter Schaeffer takes over the head coaching duties for the defending BCHL champion Surrey Eagles.
With 16 new players, albeit several with Junior A experience, it may take a while for the Eagles to find their way.
The Coquitlam Express also have a new head coach in former Chiefs assistant coach Barry Wolff. Barry is incredibly well connected in the world of junior hockey. Look for him to get that team, which included former Chiefs Shay Laurent, Ben Israel and Garrett Forster, pointed back in the right direction.
The Chiefs will have 14 new players in their opening night lineup, twelve of them14 players will be playing at this level for the first time.
Gone are the likes of goaltender Mitch Gillam, the best goalie in the league the last two years, as well as defensemen David Thompson, Laurent, Alex Perron Fontaine and Ben Masella. That is a difficult group to replace.
What we’ve seen through training camp and the exhibition games is a group with a lot of skill. The big questions are how long it will take for them to fully adapt to this level of hockey and how long it will take for them to come together as a team.
Remember, many of these players did not know each other a month ago and two weeks ago they were competing for spots on the team.
I’m confident it won’t take them long to find their groove.