If the start is any indication, this could be another long season for coach Don Hay.
The start of the 2013-2014 season hasn’t exactly gone well for the Vancouver Giants. Not only did they drop two of their first three games, but they’ve been outscored 11-4 as well. Their biggest losses have been off the scoresheet though, as Colorado Avalanche 4th round pick Mason Geertsen suffered an upper body injury in the season opening 4-3 loss to the Victoria Royals, missing Saturday’s game in Victoria and Wednesday’s blowout 6-0 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Joining Geertsen in the infirmary are Dalton Sward and Rob Trzonkowski, who were both also injured against the Thunderbirds. There is no word yet on how many games they’re expected to miss (coach Don Hay expects them to both be about a week to 10 days), but with depth forwards Luca Leone, Travis McEvoy and Scott Cooke yet to play a game this season due to injury, an already thin forward group could be in for some major early season growing pains.
Read on past the jump for more.
Of course, injuries to incumbent top-6 forwards mean bigger roles for WHL rookies Alec Baer, Ty Ronning and Andreas Eder. The three young forwards have only combined for one assist in the first three games, and will be expected to produce more given more prominent roles on the team. It should also be noted that the players expected to carry the offense have gotten off to a slow start, so they should come around too. Last season’s scoring leaders Cain Franson and Edmonton Oilers draftee Jackson Houck both have yet to register a point through the first three games, and Joel Hamilton, brought in from Red Deer in an offseason trade, also has yet to reach the scoresheet. A bit of positive regression from this trio will go a long way towards stabilizing the team’s top-6, at least in the short term.
An interesting story to watch may be the excess of defensemen the Giants are carrying. Already this season, nine different players have seen time on Vancouver’s crowded blueline, and overage Habs second round pick Dalton Thrower may still return from Hamilton if Montreal can’t offload one of their 50 pro contracts. This creates an absolute log jam on the back end, as Geertsen, Thrower and Brett Kulak are all but guaranteed spots in the short term, leaving seven players to compete for three positions. Among this group is Dmitry Osipov, the #1 overall pick in this year’s CHL import draft as well as the #1 overall pick in the KHL. Osipov has only been able to get into one game so far, possibly because Don Hay is easing him into the lineup after missing most of training camp with a collarbone injury. It’s very unlikely that he continues to play only 1/3rd of the games this season.
If the year goes as it’s expected to go for the Giants, the end game here is to probably trade Dalton Thrower for young players, picks or prospects. It also wouldn’t be surprising if one of the depth defenders was dealt for some help at forward too (note: as I wrote this sentence, news broke that the Giants had traded D Jake Kohlhauser to Victoria for a conditional 3rd/4th round draft pick, so there ya go). To sum everything up: it’s still really early in the season, growing pains are inevitable, and the Giants have chips to play with to alter their roster as this season goes along.
Vancouver only plays one game in the next week: a Friday night showdown against the Everett Silvertips and Surrey native Jujhar Khaira. The Silvertips won their one and only game so far by a landslide score of 8-3 over the Prince George Cougars. Joshua Winquist had a hat-trick and an assist in the win.
Around the B.C Division
Kamloops Blazers: Lost both games so far this season to pre-season B.C. Division favourites Kelowna…Named Pentiction native F Matt Needham captain, replacing Dylan Willick…Acquired overage forward F Tyson Ness from Red Deer in exchange for a 3rd round pick.
Kelowna Rockets: D Damon Severson returns after attending New Jersey Devils camp, he played against Victoria on Thursday…NHL Central Scouting released it’s 35 WHL players to watch for the 2014 NHL draft, F Rourke Chartier was included, but F Tyson Baillie was a notable omission…Baillie had 2 goals and 2 assists in Friday’s game against Kamloops.
Victoria Royals: Acquired D Jake Kohlhauser from Vancouver for a conditional draft pick…Traded D Kolton Dixon to Red Deer for a conditional draft pick…F Taylor Crunk suspended by the WHL for two games for a spearing incident against Portland…D Keegan Kanzig will be returned to Victoria by the Calgary Flames…D Joe Hicketts, F Brandon Magee and F Steven Hodges are all currently out of the lineup with injuries.
Other News and Notes:
- Canucks prospect D Anton Cederholm has a goal and two assists through three games with the Portland Winterhawks.
- Everett Silvertips were forced to release top draft prospect Waltteri Hopponen as Mirco Mueller returned from San Jose, putting Everett over the import player limit.
- NHL Central Scouting released its preliminary WHL players to watch list. B.C. Division players were Kamloops D Edson Harlacher, Kelowna F Rourke Chartier, Vancouver G Payton Lee, and Victoria D Joe Hicketts.
- ISS Hockey and Future Considerations both published their preliminary top-30 NHL draft eligible prospects. Kootenay F Sam Reinhart was #1 on both lists.