tyrell goulbourne

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

 

Rockets Need To Dig Deep To Eliminate Winterhawks

After the Kelowna Rockets beat the Portland Winterhawks late in OT #1 of Game 5, the pressure to close out the series got even greater. The Rockets have lost to the Hawks in the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years. This time, they have a chance to slay the dragon and face off against the top team in the WHL, the Brandon Wheat Kings. It won’t be easy and with Game 6 in Portland, the home crowd will be rowdy. Should be great!

Kelowna will be without energy forward and assistant/alternate captain (who cares how you say it) Tyrell Goulbourne after his calf was cut going into the corner during the second period of Game 5. Goulbourne will be out for awhile and knowing what we know about an injury like that, you can’t just rush back. Rourke Chartier was also on the sidelines for that game and it would be a big boost if he worked into the lineup.

Lets chat about a few of the obvious things for a sec:

  • Hawks goalie Adin Hill has been beyond amazing! His glove hand rivals that of Grant Fuhr and his game stealing kick saves have put Kelowna fans into fits. This kid is unreal and Portland will reap the rewards for a few years after this. Easily the man that holds the series in his hands. Don’t get me wrong, there are some star players in this one but no one has played at his level.
  • Leon Draisaitl has been everything the Rockets could have asked for this year. After being sent back to junior from the Edmonton Oilers and traded to Kelowna, he has given Rockets fans NHL caliber play every night. He does look floaty at times but when the puck hits his stick, he takes off and takes over. If Kelowna does go to the Memorial Cup this spring, that Draisaitl addition will be a big reason they do.
  • Anyone that knows me knows that I am a diehard fan of Rockets hybrid forward Nick Merkley, aka Merk Merk, Merkdaddy and Merkilicious. Its easy to get excited about this kid when you see him play live. From Merkley’s first game 2 years ago, to this year’s WHL Western Conference Finals, he has improved at every facet of his game. His puck sense in unmatched, his playmaking ability is downright filthy and when he controls the puck he controls how the rest of the players will react. If he bulks up another 15 lbs or so and grows maybe an inch or two, whatever team drafts him in June will be getting a star.
  • That Madison Bowey hit

Both the Rockets and Winterhawks figured they would be playing each other in the Western Final when the season began, who else would have matched them? So the fact that they are playing each other again this season after facing off last year at this time is not surprising. Portland is without a few big names from last year (Matt Dumba, Brendan Leipsic ) but Rocket killer Nic Petan, his team mates Oliver Bjorkstrand, Anton Cederholm and Alex Schoenborn have given the Kelowna their moneys worth.

Enough about the Hawks already! What about Tyson Baillie and Chance Braid? Baillie has been the prototypical hero for Kelowna since he has joined the Rockets and his knack for OT thriller goals keeps us wanting more. I wouldn’t be surprised if he factors in on the winning goal again if Kelowna takes it tonight. When Leon Draisaitl was platooned with Baillie, the second line instantly became a 1B line to compliment the Chartier/Merkley duo up front. This team is experienced and ready for the next challenge, we’ve seen Portland’s best and now they will see ours.

Chance Braid has given the Rockets some much needed extra grit when guys like Riley Stadel and Tyrell Goulbourne are making their offensive push. However, in the playoffs Braid has actually shown his scoring touch and his net presence has given the Rockets another unlikely weapon. This guy can hit and he can get the puck to that red pipey thing with net on it.

While Adin Hill has been stealing the show for Portland in the net, Jackson Whistle has had a bit of a different path for Kelowna. In typical Canucks-fanlike fashion, as soon as our goalie shows a sign of weakness we criticize how he isn’t good enough and then he bounces back with a 40 save effort and follows it up with some game breaking saves the next night. With cool hand Michael Herringer ready to take over at a moments notice, Whistle knows every game is the biggest game he will play.

I personally have questioned Whistle a few times this year but he’s stepped up when it has mattered the most. Finish it out Jackson, be the hero.

So with one win left and a chance to face the Wheat Kings, the Kelowna Rockets need to bring the game they have been waiting to play: the one where there is no doubt in their minds they are the champs.

Puck drop is at 5pm.

Go Rockets Go!

Follow me on twitter: @always90four


Photo credit – zimbio.com

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