Often, a player’s 18-year-old season is an integral one in his development as he strives to gain attention from NCAA Division I schools one year out of high school. This season’s crop of 2004-born players in the BCHL is no different, as some of the top players in the league come from this age group.
Goalie – Austin McNicholas (Chilliwack Chiefs)
McNicholas was a true rookie for Chilliwack, coming from Salisbury School where he posted a 1.78 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 17 games in 2021-22. This season, the Clarence Center, New York product finished with an 18-12-1 record, a 2.91 goals-against average, a .902 save percentage, and one shutout for the Chiefs. He is yet to secure an NCAA commitment, but no doubt is attracting attention from college scouts.
Defender – Tate Taylor (Surrey Eagles)
This season, Taylor had a breakout third year with the Eagles, putting up 11 goals and 34 assists in 51 games. He led all Surrey blueliners in points, tied for the team lead in assists, and finished fourth overall in scoring on the Eagles. His totals were a significant improvement from his sophomore campaign in Surrey when he posted a pair of goals and 16 assists in 52 games. The native of Richmond, B.C. is off to Clarkson University to play ECAC Hockey in 2023-24.
Defender – Jason Gallucci (Coquitlam Express)
Gallucci led the back end of the Express in scoring this season with four goals and 28 assists in 52 games. Before joining the Express, he played last season in the National Collegiate Development Conference for the New Jersey Rockets where he scored eight goals and added 24 helpers in 48 games. The product of Robbinsville, New Jersey will join Penn State University in the Big Ten this upcoming season.
Forward – Aaron Schwartz (Surrey Eagles)
Schwartz was the top scoring first year player for Surrey this season with 21 goals and 32 assists in 51 games. The native of Parkland, Florida tied for the Eagles team lead in power play markers with seven and game-winning goals with five. He spent the previous season with the Islanders Hockey Club of the NCDC, notching six goals and 39 assists in 48 games. The 2021 U.S. Premier Hockey League U16 champion heads to Brown University in the fall.
Forward – Will Elger (Alberni Valley Bulldogs)
Elger played a big part in the Bulldogs’ fifth overall placing this season, finishing second in scoring with 18 goals and 29 assists in 47 games. Prior to joining Alberni Valley, Elger played last season for the NCDC’s Jersey Hitmen, scoring four goals and chipping in with 11 assists in 42 games. He also made his junior A debut in 2021-22, posting an assist in a pair of games with Johnstown of the NAHL. Elger, who is from Westerville, Ohio, heads to Providence College in the fall.
Forward – Mirko Buttazzoni (Coquitlam Express)
Buttazzoni saw his production take a big jump as a sophomore in 2022-23. He finished the year third in the Express scoring race with 20 goals and 27 assists in 53 games and also led the team with nine power play markers. He split the previous season between Alberni Valley and the Express and tallied 10 goals and 17 assists in 53 games as a rookie. The Langley, B.C. native is off to Clarkson University this September.
Goalie – Teagan Kendrick (Trail Smoke Eaters)
Kendrick made a big statement with his play this past season. He appeared in 32 of Trail’s 54 games as a rookie, finishing with a record of 14-14-1, a 3.32 goals-against average, and a .907 save percentage. The St. Albert, Alta. native made his junior A debut in 2021-22 as an affiliate for the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, going 2-0 with a minuscule 1.44 goals-against average and a tidy .955 save percentage.
Defender – David Hejduk (Wenatchee Wild)
Hejduk was the top-scoring defender on the Wild this season with five goals and 25 assists in 53 games. He also had four assists in Wenatchee’s six-game, first-round win over Vernon. As a rookie in 2021-22, Hejduk, whose dad Milan won a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001, scored two goals and had 14 helpers in 50 games for the Wild. The native of Parker, Colorado is headed to the Ivy League to play at Harvard University in the fall.
Defender – Ryan Hopkins (Penticton Vees)
Hopkins scored 10 goals and added 49 assists in 48 games to lead all 2004-born blueliners in the BCHL in scoring. It was an improvement from his rookie season where he hit the scoresheet with seven goals and had 24 helpers in 47 games. The product of Lunenburg, N.S. heads to the University of Maine for the 2023-24 season. Hopkins is ranked 196th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting for this June’s draft.
Forward – Aydar Suniev (Penticton Vees)
Suniev finished the season third on the Vees in points with 45 goals and 45 assists in 50 games. He also notched a goal and six assists in four first-round playoff games. Suniev is ranked 60th overall by Elite Prospects for this year’s NHL Draft while NHL Central Scouting has him slotted in at 35th among North American skaters. The Kazan, Russia native is off to the University of Massachusetts in September 2024.
Forward – Cade Littler (Wenatchee Wild)
Littler ended the season second on the Wild with 29 goals and 39 assists in 51 games. The East Wenatchee, Washington native came to the BCHL in 2021-22, when he scored 20 goals and picked up 25 helpers in 50 games. Littler, who is fifth in all-time scoring during the Wild’s BCHL history, was selected by the Calgary Flames in the 7th round, 219th overall, at the 2022 NHL Draft. He is committed to Minnesota State University for this fall.
Forward – Nathan Mackie (Salmon Arm Silverbacks)
Mackie played 45 games for the Silverbacks as a rookie last season and posted six goals and 11 assists in 45 games. As Salmon Arm’s captain this past season, the product of Prince George B.C. ended up with 27 goals and 23 assists to lead the Backs in scoring. Mackie, who’s committed to Michigan State University for this fall, added two goals and three assists in Salmon Arm’s first-round sweep of Prince George.