It’s here. It’s finally here. It’s been 165 days since Keyvan Mokhtari scored 57 seconds into double overtime of Game 7 in the Island Division Final to send the Grizzlies through to the third round and send the Kings home for the final time in the 2016/2017 season. Since that goal 165 days ago today, the Kings have spent countless hours recruiting, replacing and retooling a lineup that wants to go a few steps further this season.
That path begins tonight at the Hap Parker Arena as the Kings host the same Victoria Grizzlies team that eliminated them last season. Here are your game notes for this weekend’s double header:
- Seven new players are scheduled to make their debuts in a Kings uniform tonight. Mitch Williams, Trent Bell, Kyle Kawamura, Nathan Kelly, Matteo Paler-Chow, Nick Abbott, Kevin Obssuth will put the jersey on for the first time in regular season action. Joining them will be Ben Raffler who has been with the Kings as an AP for the last two seasons, playing 19 games last year. Of the eight new players, Bell and Obssuth are 20’s, Williams and Raffler are 19’s, with the others part of future graduating classes.
- You can read a complete breakdown of the roster here.
- Two things we highlighted in the roster rundown last week were depth and experience. Depth is in abundance for this Kings team. Both goaltenders have BCHL experience. Mitch Adamyk played several high profile games while backing up Brian Wilson, while Matteo Paler-Chow went through camp and was an affiliate last season. Still waiting his first start, he’s rarely looked out of place at this level and has a good pedigree at lower levels to back him up.
- Defence is where the Kings really shine in the experience department. 450-odd games of experience will dress for the Kings tonight on the blue line alone. That’s a staggering amount for night one and should help quell some of the jitters that come with the first few shifts of a new season. Andy Stevens, Jack Long, Carmine Buono and Callum Volpe all lead the way in their third seasons.
- Up front, the Kings have firepower. Returning last year’s leading scorer in Jonny Evans is a big deal. Expect Evans to be the offensive workhorse this year. He won’t be alone…Carter Turnbull, Ben Berard, Gavin Rauser and more return, plus the additions of players like Kawamura, Williams, Bell, Abbott and Obssuth make for a very deep and imposing group of 12 forwards.
- That’s the other interesting thing about this year’s team…there is room to grow. Only 21 players are on the roster as it stands, 12 forwards and 7 defencemen. The league allows a maximum of 23.
- This weekend’s opponent, the Victoria Grizzlies have had a season of change. The team lost a lot of its core in the off-season thanks to graduation to college. Gone are players like Jake Stevens and Cole Pickup who were thorns in the Kings side for many years.
- That’s not to say there aren’t threats, as the Grizzlies feature several high profile forwards that will make them a difficult team to stop. Despite many returnees, a lot of the attention in Victoria has gone to 16 year old Alex Newhook out of Newfoundland. Committed to Boston College already, Newhook is garnering some attention for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, and no doubt scouts will watch him closely over the next couple of seasons to see how he adapts playing with players 3-4 years older than him.
- On the blue line, look to guys like Drayson Pears and Dayne Finnson to lead the way for the Grizzlies. They lead four key returnees on the blue line that don’t bring the same level of experience as Powell River’s defencemen do, but still know what the BCHL is all about. 16 year old Jacson Alexander attended Swift Current’s (WHL) camp but will play this year with the Grizzlies with an eye on playing at Denver in a few years.
- In goal is the real question mark for Victoria, as they dress two new goalies. Elder statesmen Zach Rose from Chicago is the “on paper” number one as a 20 year old and will be pushed by Shawn Parkinson who is a Victoria product. Neither have experience in the BCHL outside of some affiliate action for Parkinson and getting to them early will be key.
Getting a chance to get the monkey (or in this case the Grizzly) off the back early will be key for the Kings moving forward this season. The two teams won’t meet again until November 11th in Victoria, so this double header could easily set the tone for the season series to come.
Doors open early at the rink with Save on Foods providing a tail-gate party out front. Get to your seats early as we introduce all the players to the fans this season before the action gets underway at the Hap Parker Arena beginning at 7:15pm. If you’re not in Powell River, tune into 95.7 CoastFM or HockeyTV beginning at 6:50 for our extended pre-game show. Kent Lewis and Gavin Rauser will join Alex Rawnsley. Live play-by-play to follow with Callum Volpe, Nathan Kelly and Jonny Evans all slated to be intermission guests.