madison bowey

3 Kelowna Rockets That Should Be Vancouver Canucks

You’ve already decided this was worth reading because of two things: A) You’re a Kelowna Rockets fan or B) You hate how the Canucks have passed on great players just down the road and you’re ready to see the REBUILD. There’s a third option which I guess is both.  It’s no surprise that I’m making a case for a few former Kelowna Rockets to become Canucks, being a homer and all, but here we are and if Jim Benning (or whoever is in his chair by the end of the year) decides that it’s time to rebuild, then here are three players the Canucks should look at:

Madison Bowey (Washington Capitals/Hershey Bears), Damon Severson (New Jersey Devils) and Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia Flyers/Phantoms)

The first question would be why are you picking two defensemen when the Canucks are pretty set at that position. No, no they’re not. Luca Sbisa can’t possibly be a long term solution so at some point he’ll be traded or if they happen to see it through, he’ll become a UFA. The Erik Gudbranson experiment feels like it won’t last very long and re-signing him would be a bad move. But then again, we still have Benning.

I guess the other question would be: do you really think the Devils would trade their number one defenceman?

But let’s get back to where the Canucks are sitting.

Philip Larsen probably won’t play another game unless injuries keep taking defenders down. Alex Biega is just kind of sitting there and he’s been given a chance but just isn’t IT. Jordan Subban down in Utica feels permanent with this management group and with the list of guys ahead of him growing by the month, it seems harder and harder for Jordan to be a Canuck.

Then we have the big group: Alex Edler, Ben Hutton, Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher. This is your core for now. Nikita Tryamkin could be #5 with some time and finesse. He’s actually having a decent year now that he has adjusted a bit more to the North American game. His strength and sheer physical dominance will eventually make him a threat on the back end for the Canucks.

Adding a player like Damon Severson right away gives the Canucks a solid, young top 6. It’s entirely possible Edler or Tanev is moved if enough is going the other way or there is a big enough package that one has to go. If it’s me, I move Alex Edler in this case.

Madison Bowey is intriguing because of the leadership, grit and passion for the game. He’s tied for 9th best in the AHL for defensemen points and is 5th on the Hershey Bears in scoring. He holds the line well, has a booming shot from the blue line and he isn’t afraid to dust it up. Bowey is still raw but putting him on a pair with Hutton or Stecher would be pretty fun to watch.

If you like goals, you’d get that from Bowey. Tough to say what Washington sees in him at this point so he may still be a cheap enough chip to acquire. If the Canucks feel they have botched the Jake Virtanen situation as a whole (which they basically have thus far) and want to move on like they did with Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian, Jake could be a good fit in DC. Obviously, it isn’t a 1:1 deal so Vancouver would be saying goodbye to a higher pick or possibly another top prospect.

Bowey was taken in the 2nd round of the 2013 NHL Draft, the Canucks albeit did not have a pick that round and they would take Cole Cassels in round 3 but for a rock on the blue line which the Canucks are still trying to find, he’s going to be a sure thing. Coming within an OT goal in the 2015 Memorial Cup as Captain of the Rockets, he knows how to win… oh and he was pretty decent at the World Juniors too!

Over to Damon Severson, it’s unlikely the Devils have any plans of getting rid of this guy. At 6’2, 205lbs, Severson is a mobile monster on the blue line. First of all, he plays for the Devils, second, he already has 3G and 9A this year; which I don’t want to remind you but that’s the same point total as Henrik Sedin who happens to be second in Canucks scoring. Taylor Hall is his only equal in points in the swamp.

Adding to those 12 points is the 5 power play assists he has as well. The Canucks took Alexandre Mallet in the 2nd round of the 2012 NHL Draft where Severson went 3 picks later to almost end the round. Yes, there were decidedly better prospects and current NHLers after those guys (Gostisbehere, Vesey) but again, how do you not entertain taking a defenseman out of a program that churns all-star players at that position? Ridiculous.

You know all the big names that have come out of the Kelowna Rockets system and believe you me, Damon Severson is quietly becoming the next big name. He was a steal in the 2nd round as far as I’m concerned and just like Shea Weber fell to the very, very lucky Nashville Predators, the Devils had to be excited they were able to get such a stud.

Severson’s final campaign as a Rocket was a beauty, 15G 46A, 5PPG, 15PPA, 18 points in 14 playoff games, etc. You get the idea, he’s good.

Moving what looks to be your top defenseman after only 3 seasons isn’t exactly smart but they have Cory Schneider and old Lou is long gone. Severson might be a long shot at best but for the sake of your reading pleasure, I put him in here. Is giving up on Jake Virtanen a good idea so early in his career? Is he the next Cam Neely? Who knows. I’m dreaming but Benning is crazy enough to make a trade like this work.

There are a handful of guys that make sense in a meaningful trade from the Canucks and when you take emotion out of it, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen are decent pieces to move. Diving into the Comets for trade bait isn’t the smartest idea but on the back end, I think they can afford to move a few guys if necessary.

Wait, do we even have anyone good down there?

Up front, the spark plug that is Tyrell Goulbourne is worth kicking tires on. In his rookie season last year with Lehigh Valley, Goulbourne notched 7 goals and 10 assists, he combined that with a healthy 75 PIM. Not bad for a guy who had come off a lacerated calf in the spring during the WHL playoffs which ended his junior career.

Tyrell won’t be a top 6 winger but like Jannik Hansen he can move around throughout the bottom 6. He has the softest hands, surprising speed and when he adds a bit of intensity to his game, those fists have helped out a few teammates:

That fight is the one that stands out the most for me as I was at that game. The Rockets were getting beat early in that one and Goulbourne went for the biggest guy on the team, who also liked the rough stuff and absolutely dummied him. He was a fan favourite and always gave his team the edge when the game was close.

The skill guys do their stuff but it’s the energy guys that fill the hard minutes to give the stars their space. Goulbourne is a blast to watch and having him as a Derek Dorsett replacement a few years from now or a more talented Aaron Volpatti in the day just works. There are guys like Raffi Torres and Maxim Lapierre that you need in a long run (whenever that happens again) and Goulbourne can be that guy. Right now, super cheap.

I’m thinking Goulbourne could go for a Mike Zalewski, Jayson Megna or HEY! Joseph Labate.

My good buddy over at Canucks Army, Jeremy Davis, gave me some great data for you to ponder on these 3 guys, well 2 mostly. His pGPS system is pretty cool and I asked him to get data on all 3 guys but Severson is already a full-time NHLer so he kind of drops out of this. Madison Bowey had a pGPS of 47.5%, matching 28 of 59 players that became NHLers playing over 200 games.

Here’s the kicker: the matches averaging 32 points/82 games were Mike Green, Keith Yandle, Dennis Wideman and Christian Ehrhoff. Pretty decent company. If you can add a player like that for a low cost before they become that player, you should definitely be doing it.

Tyrell Goulbourne had a 9.4% rating matching only 24 of 256 players. The players that did make it averaged 21 points/82 games. Curtis Glencross, Antoine Roussel, Chris Kelly, Vern Fiddler were the most successful matches. Mostly 3/4th liners and replacement level NHLers. I’m holding out for a guy like Goulbourne because even Vern Fiddler didn’t have what Tyrell did in his fists.

Guys like these move around all the time before some GM finds his diamond. Jim Benning can actually do some good here by kicking tires on these players instead of the mess that is Evander Kane. I don’t expect the pinnacle of these 3, Damon Severson, to come cheap because you would basically be asking to have their top guy.

See what would happen if Benning traded Tanev or Hutton (I’M NOT SAYING HE SHOULD, I’M JUST PROVING A POINT!) Regardless, they are all interesting options for a Canucks team that needs to get serious.

Don’t forget, Brock Boeser will be a Canuck soon enough and that guy seems like the real deal.Plenty of goals will come off his stick. There are players that will instantly make the Canucks better that just need time. Thatcher Demko on the back end is earning his stripes and a few years from now he’ll be talked about all around the league. As Cole Cassels develops further, his opportunity will increase to make the team as well.

Looking at the former Kelowna Rocket players, it’s evident they can be valuable editions to Vancouver and I believe the Canucks have moveable pieces and with the rebuild in progress, they’re young enough to be around for awhile.

Remember when Edler was a rookie? Bieksa? HECK, Tanev? Time goes by pretty quickly so jumping on a hot prospect is a timely deal.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

 

Fallout 3: The Dan Hamhuis Trade Saga

I’ve never played Fallout 3 but at the very least I got a handful of gamers to read this. The NHL tradeline is inching closer and Dan Hamhuis is still a Vancouver Canuck; but not for lack of trying to move him. Jim Benning has tried relentless (we’re led to believe) to trade Hammer to a team that could utilize his skills for what everyone hopes is a long playoff run. He’s 0-2 so far. Is the third time a charm when the Capitals pick up the phone?

Jimbo hasn’t been able to move DanHam yet and maybe it’s because he hasn’t proposed enough trades on NHL 16 that would net the best results, its possible. Whenever I propose a trade in fantasy football I’m all about the conditional picks. I love the possibility of something from nothing or the opposite.

If the player helps his new team get to the Final or even win it, the pick turns into a 2nd let’s say; if they’re knocked out in round 1, it’s a 3rd. Simple stuff like that makes the world go round. Its the unknown that drives us.

So you’ve all heard me trying to flog the Hamhuis for a pick and Madison Bowey of the Washington Capitals. This trade would work for both teams for a number of reasons and I might only name one but here goes:

Hamhuis is a reliable top 4 defender on any NHL team, let alone the Caps. Washington is poised to make a run at Lord Stanley this season and they have a very real chance of winning it all for the first time since their last real chance when Crosby and the Pens foiled their chances in 7 games. Hamhuis gives them stability on the back end with Carlson hitting the sidelines for 3-4 weeks leading right into the playoffs.

If WAS can put him on LTIR which they most likely will, that frees up enough room for the Canucks fan favourite to move out to D.C. for the spring and if everyone gets what they want, he signs back in Vancouver July 1.

Madison Bowey and a 2nd maybe? would be a great return coming back as Bowser can fit right into the lineup, albeit a RH shot which muddys their setup a bit. Seeing Bowey play in Kelowna for a number of years, he brings maturity, someone who holds the line quite well, a booming heavy shot and a bit of raw intensity which seems to be coming from a few of the Canucks latest young stars.

All things you already know, but why not make this move. Hamhuis deserves a shot at a Cup and we get someone that they don’t need to drop off their roster and a pick which will be late anyways.

Bowey averages 15 min/game so he won’t eat up minutes of the Ben Hutton, Luca Sbisa, eventually Alex Edler and Matt Bartkowski (if he’s still here) and he sees valuable time in all situations.

Benning won’t neccessarily do a lot this year as I expect and if he can make one move that betters this team, why wouldn’t he do it. I really have no clue how high Washington is on MB but I know Ted Leonsis wants a Cup a whole lot more, its on his bucket list.

If they need Radim Vrbata, I’m sure Benning could land another pick.

Most of us would know how.

 

Canucks Should Capital-ize On Trade For Bowey

This should come as no surprise that I’m writing something of this nature; the Canucks will most definitely trade Radim Vrbata by the deadline and a strong month or so would yield a hefty return from a contender. Fellow Canucks Army and Vancity Buzz writer, Ryan Biech, wrote an article detailing a few destinations Radim Vrbata could land at the deadline. Moving Vrby to Washington for Madison Bowey tweaked my interest. 

Yes, he was a Kelowna Rocket and yes he’s a promising defensive prospect and YES the Caps would be stupid to trade him but this early in his career would be the Canucks best chance to land him. Let’s discuss shall we?

 

So Radim Vrbata is still able to help someone this postseason but after seeing him go Patrick Swayze last season (and I’m not talking about Point Break) he clearly isn’t a Western Conference playoff performer. He’s having an average season considering he hasn’t been on the top line with the Twins and one would think the Horvat/Baertschi success would rub off eventually.

Last season with Henrik and Daniel, Vrby put up a 31 goal campaign and was a threat when they just let him shoot the puck. It doesn’t seem like he’s getting those same chances this year and when you don’t produce the way coach wants you to on the top line you lose opportunities to get back to that spot.

Don’t get me wrong, Vrbata still has that shot and his setups to Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi have led to their success. As Biech stated, the return for Vrbata is likely a 2nd and a B prospect. The Canucks need to accumulate picks again and after the first round you are just taking depth and starting to throw the darts at the board. With Washington as a trade partner, the 2nd rounder would most likely be towards the end of the round but honestly who cares? Flip it at the draft if you wanna move up in the first.

The Capitals will be a threat this year for the Cup and a natural goal scorer like Vrbata could help Washington in their journey through the East; you don’t actually think Ovechkin will score ALL their goals do you? Rental players tend to net quite a feast to the right team every year and overpaying is common, kind of like the current housing market in BC. Radim Vrbata won’t have to bang on that Capitals team so he can focus on putting pucks on net.

This B type prospect you speak of, well I don’t know how high Madison Bowey is on their depth chart but if the Canucks can manage to land this stud, they won’t regret it.

Bowey Captained the Kelowna Rockets within one goal of the Memorial Cup last season, eventually losing to Cole Cassels and the Oshawa Generals in OT of the Final. Madison has a heavy Shea Weber type shot and holds the line quite well.

This season Bows already has 3G and 13A through 39 games in Hershey; not bad for a first year pro. He isn’t afraid to get dirty and is very smart with the puck. A future power play QB, Bowey can instantly be put in the Canucks plans upon his addition. His last 2 seasons in Kelowna were pretty special and the puck often found the back of the net when he was on the ice.

Just going off the regular stats in Kelowna last year, Bowey had 17G and 43A, including 6 PPG and 2 SHG. He averaged just over a point per game with 1.03. He’s a leader in the dressing room, a fancy dresser and I hate the word but he’s a gamer. There were a handful of guys on that popular Rockets team that went above and beyond and he was near the top.

In Hershey this year, MB is having a pretty good advanced stat season as well. His GF% is 59.16 and he has  a GF%Rel of 10.75, thanks AHL Prospect Stats! Vancouver should make this move soon, it kind of just makes sense.

The Canucks tend to miss out on natural talent right in their back yard year after year(Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Milan Lucic) so at the very least, a second chance to redeem themselves is fine by me. I already went into great detail why they should have drafted Nick Merkley right here. Damon Severson from Devils was another miss they could have stolen but what do I know? He’s only on their top D pairing.

As the trade deadline inches closer, teams will get desperate but if the Canucks are smart, they offer this up early and get Bowey into the system. Frank Corrado wishes he had this opportunity. Missing the playoffs would be worth getting Bows in a Nucks uni and seeing this kid play all the time in Kelowna, he passes the eye test and we’ d be on the right path with him playing for us.

Knowing the Canucks, this won’t happen.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Kelowna Rockets Need Calm, Not Calamity To Advance

It might only be one loss, but the Kelowna Rockets can’t afford to lose again. In their opening matchup Friday against the host Quebec Ramparts, the Rockets were downed 4-3 in what ended up being a nailbiter. Kelowna looked reactive and uncomfortable until late in the game; that will need to be remedied immediately for the Okanagan crew to move on.

The Mastercard Memorial Cup tournament is a quick gauntlet of the best teams in the CHL and when you only play each team once (1 vs. OHL Champions, 1 vs. QMJHL Champions and host team) every loss can be devastating and at the same time each win monumental.

The Rockets once again started the first period with a goal against and nerves seemed to be a big factor. As good as they are, there aren’t very many chances to bounce back in a week long tourny. Goaltender Jackson Whistle had another on again off again outing but still maintained his all star play for a good chunk of the game.

Whistle wasn’t the main reason for the loss though, failure to keep a consistent pace with Quebec and lack of discipline had Kelowna in the box too often and the individual efforts overshadowed what they did well as a team.

Coach Dan Lambert has iced a team that much of the season has shown composure and because of this they tend to overpower teams with their four line attack. Forwards Nick Merkley and Leon Draisaitl can control shifts and even periods with their eye for how a play will develop. Having a cool head translates into goals for these guys.

Cole Linaker showed his patience on the penalty kill last game when he read the Rampart defenders and found an open Nick Merkley in the slot to get back into the game. Its unlikely nerves will play a factor in Monday’s game against the Rimouski Oceanic. There isn’t time anymore.

Its no secret that the line of Draisaitl, Merkley and Rourke Chartier will be the force that decides how far this team goes. When they’re on, they’re lethal. Tyson Baillie will need to provide some clutch minutes as well with Dillon Dube and Gage Quinney.

Kelowna has the firepower to get the job done in Quebec and if they get back to their team assault, the rest of Canada will see why they are so good. 

Capitalizing on thoughtless penalties will help the Rockets even things out a bit more. World Junior Gold Medallists defensemen Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey will also be on high alert. These guys will make the difference when just one more shot or one more battle to hold the line is crucial.

The Rockets made quick work of the WHL in this year’s post season because they didn’t panic when they were up against a challenge, they adapted and prevailed. This will be no different.

Progress. Not perfection.
Follow me on twitter: @always90four

Photo credit: torontosun.com

Canucks Are Past The Future, It’s Here

Going into the trade deadline as well as the final push to finish the season in the top 16 is an exciting time. Is making a trade going to help the Canucks go deep into the playoffs or is it false hope and a meaningless dump of talent yet again? Jim Benning has played his cards pretty cool this year and even though Ryan Miller hasn’t been entirely as advertised, or really as we fantasized; its been a very productive year.

Thankfully the rest of the NHL is making moves right now that don’t really involve the Canucks and some of them are trading for LTIR spots (while still paying said players). That’s just fine by me. In past years, former GM’s have traded for Keith Carney, Eric Weinrich, Sami Pahlsson (post mono), Derek Roy, Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre. Oh I forgot, one of those GM’s dealt Luongo too!

The actual market that exists still isnt exactly enticing this spring and the best thing Vancouver’s Jim Benning can do is take a nap; well unless Ryan Miller can be moved. It’s not that Miller hasn’t been a good goalie, its that its ALL he’s been. It doesn’t really make sense why they went after him in the first place but I can buy the theory that they wanted to groom the kids under his tutelage. 

Did that happen sooner than management thought? It looks that way. It was a pricey teaching assignment but who really cares, its not my money. So now what does Benning do in net? The cheap option and quite frankly the best option IMO is to move Miller as the Leafs did David Clarkson (Ok ok ok, not the same but it sorta is) to a team that can take the hit OR decide who gets you the most between the IKEA boys and milk it for all its worth as the market is paying great this season. Keeping Eddie Lack and/or Jacob Markstrom keeps the seat warm for Thatcher Demko in about 5 years or less.

What does the rest of the team hold though? Up on line numero uno, the Sedins are still proving their worth but the time is coming soon where they start sliding back down the rankings. Everything else has options; Alex Burrows despite his injuries has had a nice bounce back season. Moving him isn’t neccesarily a smart move. A finisher and clutch playoff performer, he may not put up big regular season numbers anymore but I like Burr when it counts.

Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and Chris Higgins all strike me as trade bait this year. Bonino and Sbisa just aren’t Canucks. Sounds stupid to say what a Canuck is but there isn’t a “fit” there. Higgins is halfway through his 4 year deal but his role as the worker bee seems to be done. On the flip sided, Ronny Kenins, Shawn Matthias and upon his safe return, Brad Richardson, have fulfilled that role in spades and they all seem to be producing on top of many other talents.

Move a piece, get a younger piece.

Bo Horvat was the piece we didn’t reallllly know we needed until he got healthy and started being all faceoff winny and goal scorey. I thought Hunter Shinkaruk would have come up at the same time but that hasn’t panned out yet. Horvat took a shortcut and could really make a difference sooner than later; he’s not going anywhere.

This season was billed as a retool and as they played we would see what the team needed to do. Well, if any of us thought they would do this well, Benning and Trevor Linden probably would have made a few moves sooner. We all talk about the future and when prospects turn into valuable roster players and the results were different than we thought and actually better. 

Kenins has been a find and a half, Matthias has basically been the Tiger Woods 2015 putt preview for Zack Kassian this year and the diamonds in the rough keep coming. The answers always seem to come when the right questions are asked. Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Chris Tanev and newbie Frankie Corrado all signed up for injury camp and a few new guys stepped up. Enter Adam Clendening and Alex Biega

A Chicago cast off and a timely call up have turned the sting into a boost. This Canucks team should not be doing as well as they have been and they are far from the team that started in October. Clendening and Biega aren’t stealing anyones jobs right now but the ridiculous depth they have given the Canucks is stunning. They are a few key forwards and maybe a dman short of a poor mans 2011.

AGAIN, the cavalry isn’t here but the services of Kevin Bieksa start to become expendable. Just another salary cut the Canucks can afford to move. The injuries don’t help right now but hey Evander Kane got traded and he’s a mess. Every move towards the future seems to have taken a big step forward. Speaking of forwards…

Then there’s the young amazing young winger version of the career killer Bryan Allen: Jake Virtanen. He might get a shot as soon as next season; I bet Horvat is ok with that.

The future of the Canucks is basically here. So Jimbo, sell the old parts for picks or heck troll the Kelowna Rockets and make a move for Flyers prospect Tyrell Goulbourne, Caps future star blueliner Madison Bowey or somehow parlay the first pick you make this year into a better one for stud forward Nick Merkley. Now about those NTCs.

You are shooting out the lights Benning and the cresendo is about to be occur.

Playoffs or not this year, the Canucks are on the verge and you should be happy.

PS: This is not a public service announcement for the Rockets, but it isn’t hard to do.

Follow me on twitter: @always90four and @hankthetank10

Facebook: Always90four

Fifty Trades and Vey: Canucks VD TD Primer (Valentines Trade Deadline)

At the very least you have to admit its clever. Almost went with Jannik at the Disco or Now you Sedin me, Now you don’t. Linden Vey isn’t going anywhere but being that it’s valentines day tomorrow and there is a catchy movie coming out, it seemed fitting.

I recently had another deep discussion with my buddy Ted Wong, twitter’s @tee3ree, about the Canucks, their goalie situation, their future and what they should do this season. We covered a lot of ground and I totally thought I had a leg to stand on with a Sedin trade; problem is: they make too much money for any team worth going to.

Pittsburgh was the team we decided on for Henrik and Daniel but their cap hit is just too much without really dismembering the Penguins both present and future. So we left that alone. It’s a shame, they could do some real damage there for a few years.

The Canucks goalie situation is a hot topic yet again. The vibe right now is most would like to trade the “shady” season of Ryan Miller, even though he just signed a 3 year deal. It looks like Jacob Markstrom is a real keeper here and that leaves one chip that ultimately is the only thing they can move: Eddie Lack.

Lack would definitely fetch a decent piece in return for a playoff contender. He’s likable, talented and able to handle a heavy workload if given the opportunity. He also loves tacos if you didn’t already know.

IMG_1186
credit – Eddies Twitter account

If the Canucks decided enough is enough of their current #1 Ryan Miller, his price tag is pretty steep and there really is only one team, maybe two that he COULD go to if a trade availed itself: Washington and New York.

Washington is on the bubble right now and as we have seen before, you never really know their goalie situation. Ryan Miller knows the east quite well, not a shocker, and he would be tested right away. Thankfully, the Caps have goal support so if he lets in his usual stinkers like he has, they can bail him out with an extra goal or two.

Immediately that shores up the net for at least a year or two. Brayden Holtby is doing quite well but with a veteran and former all star running with him, he can have some added confidence if things get dicey.

Packaging Kevin Bieksa and possibly Chris Higgins or Jannik Hansen on the Canucks would give Washington added depth on the back end and on the bottom six. What I would like to see come back is Karl Alzner and 2013 second round pick Madison Bowey.

I don’t anticipate Bowey is available but if Lack is the piece instead of Miller going the other way, that would make them think a bit more. Washington intrigues me and after this season, they have a decent chunk off the books and adding the likes of Kevin Bieksa gives Juice a new start in a conference where he can shine.

Higgins and/or Hansen are pieces that will never have more value than they do right now and whatever team the Canucks are dancing with, these guys should fetch a fair return.

Whatever way Vancouver chooses, they aren’t winning the Cup this year. Jim Benning has proven he’ll make a trade and the Canucks should be ready for Jensen, Shinkaruk and Grenier to name a few, to head up the change. Bo Horvat was given his opportunity and he is just starting to show why he is ready and will thrive in the NHL.

New York has an issue right now with their star goalie Henrik Lundqvist out with an injury. Depending on how long he is out, they need a solid replacement rental. Again, Lack is the only real option that makes sense as I believe as you all do, Markstrom is the future. I’ve heard this before.

What the Canucks would ask for in return would be a prospect or a pick. Anthony Duclair would be fun! He had quite the World Juniors but I’m guessing Sather noticed too.

This year’s draft is pretty stocked so a pick wouldn’t hurt. Lack could definitely help NYR if that move was made.

There are so many possibilities right now as the Canucks can really set themselves up for future success if they sacrifice the present. We are getting closer to that big deadline day frenzy and this year I believe it’s going to be hectic.

Sorry for the “Lack” of 50 shades references, Im going to watch star NHL prospect Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets this evening. But you don’t really care…do you?

Follow me on twitter: @always90four and @hankthetank10

Kelowna Rockets Set Sights On Memorial Cup

Its March and in the WHL, that means its playoff time! Small town western Canada amps up from Vancouver Island to the prairies for the road to one of the hardest trophies to win in sports: The Memorial Cup. The Kelowna Rockets have been there before, they’ve tasted glory and now they want another drink from the epic chalice.

What has really been 2 years in the making for Bruce Hamilton’s Rockets is finally coming to fruition. A team known for savvy drafting, developing talent and embracing success, the Kelowna Rockets have been a machine in the WHL for years. Just take a look around today’s NHL and you will instantly notice world class talent: Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Josh Gorges, Jamie Benn, Alex Edler, Tyler Myers, Vern Fiddler, Chuck Kobasew, Luke Schenn, Scott Hannan and Mikael Backlund, all these players have made their mark in the show.

Take a look at that list, its beyond impressive that ONE major junior team has produced that talent so far. Stanley Cup Champions, Olympic Gold Medalists and numerous NHL awards drape over this group of players and that list will only grow as the years go by. It might not take long either; this year’s Rockets are primed to do something special.

However this season finishes for Kelowna, the Rockets have set team records for most franchise wins (55 and counting) and most points (114 and counting). How fitting it is that these records were just broken last season as well? Sounds like a recipe for success already. Coach Ryan Huska has led this group of young men to territory that is not easily reached. The WHL is a tough league to win and Huska’s boys are looking to make some history this spring.

Led by Captain and 2013 Washington Capitals 2nd round draft pick, Madison Bowey, the Rockets have put together a season that has made Canada take notice. The BMO Mastercard CHL Rankings have named Kelowna #1 in the country for almost 3 months, as well as being ranked in the top 10 this season for 20 weeks and one week to go. Is it something in the water? Is it the instant buy in?

They aren’t a group with a superstar player that leads the charge, they run 4 lines deep and when goaltending is brought up, they have two more than capable tenders to block the mesh. Myles Bell, 2013 6th rounder of the New Jersey Devils, is the leading scorer with 41 goals and 74 points. He is flanked in points by forward Ryan Olsen and dman Damon Severson, both with 60 points. Nothing overly mind blowing but this roster boasts 8 players over 45 points. Starting to think to yourself, wow, that’s impressive. These guys must have quite a veteran group of players, this will probably be restocked next year when all the old guys move on after their WHL career; you would be wrong.

Most of this team will stay intact next season with a handful of players moving on, Bell included. One player the Rockets are more than happy to have for the next 4 years or so is true rookie sensation, Nick Merkley. This kid JUST turned 16 earlier this season. He played for Kelowna in 7 playoff games last year and managed 3 points in that time. He instantly showed he was destined for greatness when he played his first game. Merks just has that gift. He sees the game the way the greats do. His hockey IQ just exudes brilliance. Nick makes plays that NHL veterans would be proud of.

Rookie sensation Nick Merkley @merkdaddy4 Photo courtesy of CHL.CA

Rookie sensation Nick Merkley @merkdaddy4
Photo courtesy of CHL.CA

The puck just seems to find Nick Merkley and when it hits his stick, he knows EXACTLY what to do with it. He didn’t score in the playoffs last year but he didn’t miss a beat when he debuted as a rookie this year; 64 GP 24 G 55 PTS +/- 24 and 42 PIM. This kid is unreal! CHL Rookie of the week in October 2013, Merkley is no joke; he just plays to win.

Between the pipes, Jordan Cooke and Jackson Whistle backstop this sensational Rockets team night in and night out. Cooke boasts a 2.27 GAA .922 SA % 38 Wins and 4 SO through 50 GP. Whistle is no slouch either, 21 GP 2.54 GAA .920 SA % 17 Wins and 1 SO, he doesn’t like giving up the net. Jackson will inherit the net next season when Cooke moves on from the WHL being too old to play. It’s not just the stats that are in lights, its the timely saves and game breaking stops that makes Kelowna lethal to play. From top to bottom this team is built to win and should make a healthy run to the May showcase that is the Mem Cup.

Sure, the scoring and stingy defense keep this team on the board and their opponents off of it, but are they tough enough? I would ask Tyrell Goulbourne but I probably would regret the physical answer I would get. Goulby leads the charge on the aggressive meter. His hands are hard when they are knocking out unfortunate contenders and soft as pillows…or kittens, they’re soft too, when he’s potting pucks in the twine. Tyrell has 109 PIM this season to go with his 36 points. A 3rd round choice in 2013 by the Philadelphia Flyers, Tyrell will be a fan favorite the day he suits up in the city of Brotherly Love.

With Bell being able to play both defense on the PP and forward at 5 on 5, Merkley contributing more than any 16 year old should in his first season, saves for days in Cooke and Whistle and a defense led by Bowey and Severson, the Kelowna Rockets can beat you any way you want. Just don’t expect them to say sorry.

Kelowna plays the Tri-City Americans in the first round and I would expect them to make quick work of them, worst case scenario 5 games. The Rockets are poised to win it all this year, so get on board while you can. The next wave of NHL superstars are playing in your backyard.

Follow me on twitter @hankthetank10

All stats courtesy of whl.ca and kelownarockets.com