Fresh off coaching his team to an unexpected RBC Cup championship, Chilliwack Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney turns his attention to building the 2018-19 roster.
Maloney has nine players returning, including both of his goalies.
Whether Daniel Chenard and Mathieu Caron remain with the team throughout next season is anyone’s guess, but for the moment Maloney is enjoying having two legit No. 1 stoppers on his depth chart
“When the RBC Cup was coming up, a lot of people were on us to get an older goalie, but as a staff we made the decision to stick with these guys,” Maloney said. “It wasn’t fair to judge them, especially early in the season, because we weren’t playing well defensively.
You kind of had to see them on a day to day basis to realize how good they were.”
The goalies rewarded that faith.
Chenard had an excellent playoffs in a hard-fought seven game loss to Prince George, then won Top Goalie honours at the RBC Cup.
Caron posted a gem in his lone RBC Cup appearance, a 4-1 win over the Steinbach Pistons.
“Their numbers got quite a bit better in the second half of the season, and you could have stuck either one of them in the net on the first day of the playoffs,” Maloney noted. “To have both of these guys back really helps us. They’ll be a big part of our team.”
Complications arise if the teenagers are no longer OK with a job share. If either wants to be a clear cut number one, they’ll have to go elsewhere to do it.
“You’re seeing the 1A-1B scenario more and more,” Maloney reasoned. “But it is a development league, and I believe it’s important to get goalies in the net facing shots.
“Both of them are unbelievable people, the exact type of people we want to be bringing in, but if they feel they want to move on and be a starter somewhere else, then that’ll be a conversation we’ll have to have.
“But we’ll have open arms, for sure.”
Chilliwack returns three guys on defence in Marcus Tesink, Powell Connor and Sean McCloskey.
Tesink may be the team’s only 20 year old and figures to be a ‘jack of all trades’ type of guy, logging big minutes five on five while playing an expanded role on special teams.
“With me running the defensive corps last year, Marcus was kind of our Swiss army knife guy who could play offensively but also shut guys down,” Maloney said. “He’ll probably be used in more of an offensive role this year, but he’s also going to have to take on more of a leadership role with a young back end.”
Connor, a 2000-born Michigan State commit will be playing his third full season with Chilliwack.
“Powell is mature for his age and he knows he’s still got a lot to learn,” Maloney said. “He wants to do it the right way and be ready when he gets to Michigan State.
“He has to improve his footspeed and he’s working on that this summer, but you have to love the compete side of his game and he brings that old-school type of game. If he’s hopefully going to be a pro one day, it’s going to be in a gritty shut-down role, and we’re working on his stick and body positioning too.”
Up front, Maloney brings back four players.
Skyler Brind’Amour is a quiet and steady defensive rock with untapped offensive upside.
“What I love about Skyler is his hockey IQ,” Maloney said. “You bring him in, show him a video and right away he knows what you’re talking about.”
Offensively, Brind’Amour’s 10 goals and 24 points seemed underwhelming.
“There are things that he does at this level that are dominant, like faceoffs, and you see signs of other things from time to time when he uses his big body to hold onto pucks and create chances,” Maloney noted. “He’s like a Jordan Staal guy where he’s always in the right position doing the right thing, and it’s just a matter of putting it together every shift.
“Guys think they need to be flashy and put up numbers, but I think every coach will take a reliable 200 foot center, and if Skyler can become that then he’s in good shape.”
Maloney describes Blaisdell as “mature beyond his years” with a non-stop motor. The 17 year old posted nine goals and 21 points in 49 games.
“He’s got leadership qualities already and a kid like that with a work ethic like that, he’s the type of kid who can go off and have a fantastic career,” Maloney said. “I think you’ll see more offensive output him him, but he’s going to be a kid who’s hard to play against who battles for every puck.
Ethan Bowen kind of sort of qualifies as a returnee after playing in three regular season games and two RBC Cup matches. Maloney looks forward to seeing what the highly-touted 16 year old can do.
“He’s a great kid with massive upside to become a great player, but I’m not expecting him to come in and be a franchise saviour,” Maloney said. “We’ll put him in positions to succeed and expect some growing pains as he learns to defend and become a complete player.”