That’s a captain’s moustache, alright!
It’s been a slow week for the Giants. After losing 4-1 to the Everett Silvertips on Friday, the Giants entered a week of practice as they waited to hit the road and begin their annual Eastern Conference trip, on which they dropped their opening game last night by a 4-3 score to the Wheat Kings. Joining the G-Men will be Montreal Canadiens 2nd-round pick, star overage defenseman and newly named captain Dalton Thrower. He’ll bring an offensive punch and a hard-nosed demeanor to the blueline, while complicating an already cloudy situation.
Vancouver once again has eight defensemen competing to fill six spots, while a mess of injuries up front are forcing some guys to play out of position. Defenders Arvin Atwal and Reid Zalitach played forward against the Wheat Kings while Rob Trzonkowski, Travis McEvoy, Scott Cooke, Dalton Sward and Jakub Stuckel continue to nurse injuries. Tim Traber also didn’t dress last night due to the flu.
Despite being ravaged by injuries and absolutely awful to start the season, the Giants can take some solace in the fact that their struggles have been in part the product of some bad luck.
Read on past the jump for more.
They have controlled a questionable 51% of the total shots on goal so far this season, but only have a 29% share of total goals scored in games they play. Their PDO (which shall henceforth be known as "Percentage Driven Output") is an abysmal 0.918. This is lower than the save percentages of 9 goalies alone. They are also the only team in the entire CHL yet to score 10 goals total on the season. To put that into perspective, Spokane’s Mitch Holmberg has as many goals by himself as the entire Giants roster does, and the Edmonton Oil Kings scored more times last night against the first place Prince Albert Raiders than Vancouver has all season.
All in all it’s been an ugly start, but the Giants should start to get it together soon. Cain Franson and Jackson Houck have combined for just one goal and one assist so far, so a boost in offensive production from them will go a long way towards seeing those goal totals rise. Second year goalie Payton Lee has also been miserable through the first 5 games. With a 0.857, he sits dead last in save% among regular WHL goalies. I don’t suspect this is due to a bad run of luck on the penalty kill either, as that part of the Giants’ game has been quite adequate, operating at 86.2%. He’s just been generally terrible and absolutely has to get his game together, or else the Giants may be forced to start Jared Rathjen or explore trade options.
Along with the fact that the season is still young and the sample sizes are still small, Dalton Thrower’s return from Hamilton is also good news. In his first game back in the WHL, the Squamish native picked up a goal and an assist. He had 54 points in 66 games in his draft year, so hopefully this production continues. Thrower also rounds out a very strong defensive core, now featuring three NHL draft picks and the KHL’s first overall pick in Dimitry Osipov. More importantly, however, is the fact that Thrower gives the Giants a very valuable trade chip for the Giants to deal down the road.
With eyes set on hosting the 2016 Memorial Cup and young phenom Tyler Benson waiting in the wings, the Giants are in an obvious rebuilding period. Thrower is a band-aid on a bit of a broken team, but as an overage defenseman, he holds no value to the Giants beyond this year, unless GM Scott Bonner can move him for prospects, picks or young players. Last season, Vancouver was able to acquire two 1st round picks in the bantam draft, a 3rd round pick, Travis McEvoy and Mason Geertsen for then 19-year olds Nathan Burns and David Musil so look for them to do something similar this season with Thrower and perhaps even with Cain Franson if they’re once again well below the playoff bar.
The Giants are currently out on a long eastern conference road swing. They play tonight in Moose Jaw, before taking on top prospect Leon Draisaitl the first place Prince Albert Raiders on Tuesday. They’ll then make stops in Saskatoon on Wednesday, Regina on Friday and Swift Current on Saturday to finish up the trip. Dalton Sward, Tim Traber, Travis McEvoy and Mason Geertsen are also expected to return in the next few games, which should give the Giants a shot in the arm, and hopefully start to get their season turned around in short order.
Around the B.C. Division
Kamloops Blazers: F Cole Ully was suspended for two games for checking from behind…Top scorer and Montreal Canadiens prospect F Tim Bozon has just one goal through 5 games. He had 91 points last season…At 2-3-0-0 the Blazers sit 9th in the WHL’s western conference, ahead of only Vancouver.
Kelowna Rockets: Beat the Portland Winterhawks 6-2 on Friday to remain the WHL’s only undefeated in regulation team…Rookie centre Nick Merkley has 5 goals and 1 assist in his first 5 games…Traded overage D MacKenzie Johnston to the first place Prince Albert Raiders for a 3rd round pick in 2015. Johnston was a minus-6 in his Raiders debut…F Carter Rigby and D Mitchell Wheaton are out indefinitely with injuries. Neither have played in a game this season.
Prince George Cougars: Earned a split with the Victoria Royals to move to 3-4-0-0, good for 6th in the west and 2nd in the B.C. division…Lead the WHL in penalty minutes with 171 through 7 games…Captain and leading scorer F Troy Bourke has 3 goals and 3 assists in his first 7 games.
Victoria Royals: F Brandon Magee, D Joe Hicketts and D Chaz Reddekopp all returned from injuries…F Landon Welykholowa scored his first career WHL goal against Kelowna…D Keegan Kanzig returned from Calgary Flames camp…F Steven Hodges will be having surgery for a lower body injury and is expected to miss another 4-5 weeks.
Other News and Notes:
- F Hunter Shinkaruk scored twice in his first game back with the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Tigers lost 5-4 to Seattle.
- Medicine Hat traded overage F Boston Leier to the Regina Pats for a 2nd round pick in 2016. The Tigers were one player over the 3-man 20-year old limit with the return of F Jacob Doty (not to be confused with Brad Doty) from the St. Louis Blues.
- The Everett Silvertips traded overage F Reid Petryk to Edmonton and rookie F Linden Penner to Calgary, both for draft picks.