On one hand, we’re drawn oh so regularly towards the allure of individual scoring statistics, some that blow the mind and others that leave you scratching your head.
On the other hand, we prefer the team-first narrative that suggests what is good for the team is good for the individual and that too much focus on solo performances will cripple a team.
We’ll take a look at a variety of things on both sides of that conversation this week.
Spoiler: there’s much more discussion about individual statistics and accolades, for better or for worse.
We’ve got a handful of streaks, a throwback event in Calgary and what should truly be an emotional affair to come in Swift Current. Mix in some WHL Alumni news and a lady on the broadcast mic and you’ve got yourself the latest edition of the WHL XX Journal.
1. For the first time in 2018-19, a regional league has swept the weekly CHL player awards and the first honour of the campaign goes to none other than the WHL.
With Saskatoon Blades defenceman Dawson Davidson and Vancouver Giants netminder Trent Miner logging national honours, the Western Hockey League has collected four of a possible six national mentions, topping the Ontario Hockey League (2) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (0).
If we really want to get to bragging rights, two of the WHL’s four national honourees come from the high-flying Saskatoon Blades.
But who’s counting? 😉
CHL Player of the Week
October 1-7: Dawson Davidson, Saskatoon Blades
September 24-30: Luka Burzan, Brandon Wheat Kings
September 19-23: Kirby Dach, Saskatoon Blades
Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week
October 1-7: Trent Miner, Vancouver Giants
2. Speaking of national honours, Trent Miner of the Vancouver Giants became the first WHL netminder to be named Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week.
If your favourite team is set to face the Giants, don’t expect an easy time putting pucks past the goaltenders.
Miner is currently ranked second in the WHL in goals-against average with a 1.00 GAA, while his creasemate David Tendeck, a prospect of the Arizona Coyotes, sits fourth with a 1.59 GAA. Miner’s save percentage of .964 ranks second in the WHL, while Tendeck has collected four wins to sit tied for fourth league-wide. Top all that off, both Miner and Tendeck have registered a shutout each.
3. A great many were heard lamenting early season prognostications that had the Portland Winterhawks as a team to beat in the U.S. Division. Eight games into the campaign and Mike Johnston’s crew finds themselves perched atop the U.S. Division. Yes, there are still 60 games to be played – I hear you loud and clear.
But, when you look at the league scoring charts to find two Winterhawks in the top three, one has to wonder if the Winterhawks early season success is truly an indicator of what’s to come in the U.S. Division this season. San Jose Sharks prospect Joachim Blichfeld, an overage import, is leading the entire Western League in scoring with 22 points and eight goals to his credit. Vegas Golden Knights prospect Cody Glass finds himself tied for second in league scoring with 17 points, powered on the strength of his league-leading 14 helpers.
Led by elite talent like Glass and Blichfeld, the Winterhawks are going to be a tough opponent.
4. With Blichfeld – a product of Frederikshavn, Denmark – leading the WHL in scoring as of October 10, one doesn’t have to look too far back in history for the last Danish native to finish a season atop the WHL scoring charts.
The 2014-15 WHL season saw former Portland Winterhawks right winger Oliver Bjorkstrand collect 118 points (63G-55A) in 59 contests, earning the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as WHL Player of the Year. The product of Herning, Denmark, has gone on to skate in 123 career NHL regular season games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, tallying 61 points (21G-40A).
5. The Prince Albert Raiders continue to lead the WHL as we approach the 10-game mark.
How about the Raiders incredible penalty kill?
Prince Albert has found itself shorthanded a total of 40 times this season. Only the Portland Winterhawks have been shorthanded more, having been down on 47 occasions. Despite having rented out a regular place in the sin bin, the Raiders have only allowed one power-play goal against.
One power-play goal against on 40 penalty kills. That’s good for a 97.5 per cent success rate on the penalty kill.
As the old adage goes, win on special teams and you win the game. Look no further for why Prince Albert has ripped off an 8-1-0-0 start to the campaign.
6. As of October 10, 2017, the WHL had seen 11 hat tricks. The count as of October 10, 2018? A total of seven hat tricks throughout the WHL.
The culprits thus far in 2018 include – Carson Miller (Raiders, September 21), Kirby Dach (Blades, September 22), Dylan Cozens (Hurricanes, September 28), Luka Burzan (Wheat Kings, September 29), James Malm (Giants, October 3), Tristin Langan (Warriors, October 6), and Noah Philp (Thunderbirds, October 10).
Of the aforementioned, Burzan managed more than the required three goals as he tallied five in an 8-4 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes while Philp tallied four goals in a 9-6 win over the Kelowna Rockets.
7. On the flip side, as of October 10, 2017, the WHL had seen five shutouts. The count as of October 10, 2018 sits at eight shutouts.
If you cut it down so simply, it would seem the goaltenders are getting the last laugh more often than not to start the 2018-19 WHL season.
The masked men blanking the opposition thus far in 2018 include – Nolan Maier (Blades, September 22), Boston Bilous (Oil Kings, September 28), Trent Miner (Giants, October 3), Dorrin Luding (Blades, October 5), David Tendeck (Giants, October 5), Jordan Hollett (Tigers, October 6), Ian Scott (Raiders, October 8), and Duncan McGovern (ICE, October 8).
The only goaltender to find himself in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 groups? None other than Dorrin Luding. Better yet, the 19-year-old product of Prince George stymied the Calgary Hitmen in both years.
On October 6, 2017, Luding – then a member of the Everett Silvertips – secured a 1-0 shutout of the Hitmen by making 29 saves. On October 5, 2018, Luding – now a member of the Saskatoon Blades – notched a 3-0 shutout of the Hitmen by turning aside 42 pucks.
8. The Victoria Royals are the last remaining undefeated team in the WHL with a perfect 6-0-0-0 run to start the year.
In 50 per cent of those games, the Royals have found themselves outshot by the opposition and in four of those contests the game has been tied after 40 minutes of play.
9. Of WHL players with at least 100 faceoff attempts, Regina Pats captain Jake Leschyshyn leads all WHL players with a 65.9 per cent faceoff success rate. The 19-year-old prospect of the Vegas Golden Knights has won 110 of 167 faceoff appearances thus far in 2018-19.
Also proving dominant in the faceoff circle thus far – Jake Gricius of the Portland Winterhawks (93/147, 64.1%) and Reese Johnson of the Red Deer Rebels (92/147, 62.6%).
10. Only two WHL teams remain with perfect road records and they both come from the B.C. Division.
Spoiler alert – the aforementioned undefeated Victoria Royals are one of these teams at 2-0-0-0. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Giants are an impressive 4-0-0-0 away from the Langley Events Centre to start the 2018-19 season.
11. A few more teams remain unblemished on home ice, with six WHL teams having secured perfect home records to this point in 2018-19.
Once again, the Victoria Royals lead that crew at 4-0-0-0. Joining the Royals are the Prince Albert Raiders (3-0-0-0), Saskatoon Blades (2-0-0-0), Brandon Wheat Kings (2-0-0-0) and Portland Winterhawks (2-0-0-0).
12. The Calgary Hitmen will be throwing it back to the 1980s when they play a trio of games at the Stampede Corral in February 2019. Making the retro event even better – the Hitmen will sport threads honouring the Calgary Wranglers, Calgary Centennials and Calgary Cowboys.
The Hitmen last played in the Stampede Corral during the 2016 WHL Playoffs.
HTV: “We want to take this opportunity to celebrate what it has brought to us in the community, in the sport and the teams that were there.”
13. The Swift Current Broncos announced “Bronco Strong Night” will take place Friday, November 2 at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current.
Following the tragic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos bus on April 6, 2018, the two teams not only found themselves sharing in a name, but also in a tragedy. On December 30, 1986, the Swift Current Broncos franchise was rocked when its bus crashed outside of Swift Current, claiming the lives of four players.
The Swift Current and Humboldt organizations have worked collaboratively to create a sweater that will represent both communities. The sweaters will be worn November 2 by the Swift Current Broncos and auctioned off with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to support STARS Air Ambulance. The Humboldt Broncos will also sport the sweaters as an alternate uniform for the remainder of their 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League campaign.
14. It’s pretty darn easy for players and fans alike to get caught up in the minutiae of individual scoring statistics and accolades. Heck, that’s pretty much all I’ve talked about – seven of the previous 13 points somehow tie into individual statistics.
Everett Silvertips play-by-play voice Mike Benton had himself a rather enlightening and refreshing conversation with Connor Dewar, captain of the ‘Tips this past week. In a world where the focus gravitates towards individual accolades as players pursue individual success and opportunity to advance their careers, and in a world where media relations has come to mean programming players like robots to keep safe clichés as the name of the interview game, Dewar had some impressively honest and candid thoughts to share.
“It’s the disease of ‘me.’ It takes away from the team. Whenever you’re [getting consumed by statistics], it’s not good for you or anything.” – Connor Dewar
Having personally had the opportunity to deal with Dewar during the 2018 WHL Championship Series, I can say without a doubt this kid oozes with the kind of character you want in your dressing room. It’s the reason he is the captain of this club and, ultimately, the reason why I fully expect him to become an NHL regular when his time comes.
Folks in Minnesota ought to be excited for ‘The Pitbull’ as he has come to be known.
15. In Everett, life without Carter Hart is going about as well as the Silvertips had planned – quite swimmingly under the watchful eye of Dustin Wolf. The 17-year-old product of Tustin, Calif., has handled all the minutes in the Everett crease this season, going 3-3-0-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Not too shabby.
A quick look across the league shows Everett’s sophomore isn’t a lone wolf in terms of eating up every second in the blue paint to this point in the campaign.
In Brandon, Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jiri Patera has taken on all the action, going 4-0-1-0 with a 2.60 GAA and .925 SV%.
In Portland, 18-year-old Shane Farkas has claimed every second in the Winterhawks crease, going 5-2-0-1 with a 2.86 GAA and .902 SV%.
Keeping with the theme in the U.S. Division, 19-year-old Beck Warm has carried the entire workload in Tri-City, going 3-2-0-0 with a 2.98 GAA and .891 SV% for the Americans.
Goaltenders are often known as a different breed and most thrive under regular use. But one has to wonder when the workload becomes a concern.
16. Streaks galore – there are a great deal of team streaks intact, both good and bad, heading into the coming weekend of WHL hockey. We’re deeming a streak as encompassing three games or more, of any particular variety. Let’s take a look, division by division:
B.C. Division Victoria Royals – six-game winning streak
Vancouver Giants – four-game winning streak
Prince George Cougars – three-game losing streak
Kamloops Blazers – five-game losing streak
Kelowna Rockets – four-game losing streak
Portland Winterhawks – points in six straight games
Seattle Thunderbirds – points in three straight games
Spokane Chiefs – points in five straight games
Edmonton Oil Kings – winless in five straight games
Red Deer Rebels – four-game winning streak
Calgary Hitmen – winless in six straight games
Saskatoon Blades – three-game winning streak
Brandon Wheat Kings – points in five straight games
Moose Jaw Warriors – points in four straight games
Swift Current Broncos – six-game losing streak
17. The Canada West men’s hockey season has gotten itself underway over the past weeks and it hasn’t taken long for a strong crop of WHL Alumni to rise to the top.
The top five scorers in Canada West all come from WHL roots:
Name / Canada West Club / Last WHL Club / Points
F Riley Sheen, Calgary Dinos (Red Deer Rebels) – 3-1–4
F David Stephens, Mt. Royal Cougars (Edmonton Oil Kings) – 2-2–4
F Cain Franson, Calgary Dinos (Vancouver Giants) – 1-3–4
F Riley Kieser, Alberta Golden Bears (Edmonton Oil Kings) – 0-4–4
F Carter Popoff, BC Thunderbirds (Vancouver Giants) – 3-0–3
Of the top five goaltenders in Canada West, four come from WHL roots:
Name / Canada West Club / Last WHL Club / Points
1) Zach Sawchenko, Alberta Golden Bears (Moose Jaw Warriors) – 1.00 GAA
3) Patrick Dea, BC Thunderbirds (Tri-City Americans) – 1.95 GAA
4) Jordan Papirny, Calgary Dinos (Swift Current Broncos) – 2.00 GAA
18. When the Lethbridge Hurricanes visit the Calgary Hitmen Friday night, play-by-play man Dustin Forbes will have a new partner in crime along for the ride in the broadcast booth.
Forbes tweeted out Thursday afternoon that he will be joined by Erica Perreaux, who will provide colour commentary for Friday’s radio broadcast on 106.7 Rock and the WHL Live stream at WHLLive.com.
Perreaux is better known as a local photographer in Lethbridge, typically found behind her camera collecting the greatest moments from the Enmax Centre in still frame. Friday evening, she will take her talents upstairs and join Forbes on the mic from the gondola of Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome.
There are currently no regular female personalities on WHL radio broadcasts, making Friday’s debut for Ms. Perreaux all the more special.
19. When Seattle Thunderbirds overage forward Noah Philp registered the first four-goal game of his WHL career on Wednesday evening, he became the first Philp to tally three or more goals in a WHL game.
Noah, originally signed by the Kootenay ICE as an undrafted player, has skated in 209 career WHL regular season games, amassing 99 points (32G-67A) along the way.
The product of Canmore, Alta., is the younger brother of former Kootenay ICE star Luke Philp, who found his way into 264 career WHL regular season contests, registering 251 points (103G-148) in the process.
Despite the near point-per-game production, Luke never registered a hat trick, let alone four goals in a single game. In fact, Luke notched 14 two-goal performances and five four-point outings over the course of his WHL career, never once reaching the three-goal plateau.
20. Ending off our week, the story of Jermaine Loewen just continues to get better and better.
The power forward, who played his first organized hockey game at the age of 10 after being adopted and moving to Canada from Jamaica at the age of five, was named captain of the Kamloops Blazers this past week.
This after becoming the first Jamaica-born player to be selected at the NHL Draft, when the Dallas Stars called his name in the seventh round (199th) at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Selected in the third round (48th) of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, the 20-year-old Loewen has collected 99 points (52G-47A) in 242 career WHL regular season games.