The Smoke Eaters will look a lot different this season. Gone is the high powered offence led by potential first-round NHL draft pick Kent Johnson.
The Smoke Eaters will need to play an even better defensive game in front of last season’s rookie of the year, goaltender Logan Terness. And they will have to do it with almost a completely new crew on the blue line.
Let’s take a look at the committed Smoke Eaters defense.
Schiavon is the lone returning member of the defense core this season. The West Kelowna native was acquired by the Smoke Eaters last season in a trade with Surrey Eagles and played 30 games in the black and orange.
He provided a veteran presence on the blueline and immediately was looked to as a leader in the Smokies dressing room. The 2000-born Schiavon was named captain of the Smoke Eaters after Owen Ozar didn’t return to Trail, instead opting for an opportunity in the US.
In a news release announcing the appointment, Smokies general manager and head coach Tim Fragle says Schiavon’s leadership qualities are what led to his appointment as team captain.
“Cody’s maturity and compete level are exceptional and provide a great example to the rest of the team. He provides a professional approach in his day-to-day preparations and will steer the team in the right direction.”
The Yale University commit had 30 points and 59 penalty minutes in 47 games in 2019-20 split between Surrey and Trail.
Prowse was just recently acquired via the BCHL/Canadian Hockey League player loan agreement as Western Hockey League camps haven’t opened yet.
The 2000-born Prowse may not be with the Smoke Eaters for the entirety of the BCHL season but adding a player with 239 games played at the WHL level should have a big impact on the Smoke Eaters blueline.
“We are excited to have Mitch join our program. He will bring a lot to our group and we look forward to having him lead by example, along with utilizing his experience from the WHL,” said Fragle in a news release announcing Prowse’s acquisition.
With the Victoria Royals in 2019-20, he posted 33 points and 76 penalty minutes in 64 games.
Hendry returns to the Smoke Eaters after being traded early in the 2019-20 season to the Powell River Kings. In his second season in the BCHL, Hendry looks to continue his progression and become an important part of this Smoke Eaters blueline.
His ability to move the puck and compete physically is already apparent after three exhibition games versus the Cranbrook Bucks. So far, Hendry has two assists in the three games.
In the news release announcing Hendry’s re-acquisition, Fragle expressed his excitement about having the 2002-born Surrey product back in the West Kootenays.
“We believe the importance of Jordan’s return can’t be overlooked. With a high compete level and his offensive potential, he will immediately help our defence, considering the players we lost to graduation last year.”
Hendy played 34 games in the BCHL in 2019-20 with the Smoke Eaters, Powell River and Surrey. He finished with three assists and 10 penalty minutes.
Willoughby returned to the BC U18 AAA League after playing the 2018-19 season with the Abbotsford Pilots of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. At the junior B level, he tallied two goals and 15 assists in 41 games.
The 2002-born Willoughby is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenceman who will make life difficult for opposing teams.
“One of the first things that stand out about Ethan is his size and strength along with his character,” explained Urekar in a news release. “On the ice Ethan is a smart player, he has a very simple game but he does everything extremely well, he’s got a great first pass and is a top shutdown defenceman matching up against other teams top lines.”
The Chilliwack native finished 2019-20 with 15 points and 54 penalty minutes in 40 games with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.
Cam Moger has been named the Player of The Year for the BC U18AAA League. Congrats Mogs! Cam is currently committed to playing for the @BCHLSmokeEaters next season of the @GoBCHL pic.twitter.com/HXD6e7E8BG
— Okanagan Rockets U18 AAA (@OkanaganRockets) April 3, 2020
Moger had an outstanding season last year for the Okanagan Rockets of the BC U18 AAA League.
He was the highest-scoring defenseman in the league and was awarded the BC U18 AAA Player of the Year Award. If Moger can transition to the speed and pace of the BCHL, his offensive point production and size could be a difference maker for the Smoke Eaters defence.
Trail assistant general manager and assistant coach Jeff Urekar is pumped to see the 2002-born blueliner have an impact in his first season of junior A hockey.
“Moger is physical and is difficult to play against. He sees the ice extremely well and makes high level plays both offensively and defensively. Watching him at the Mac’s Tournament, it was clear he was one of the best players on the ice. He’s got a strong hockey IQ (that) shows in his ability to distribute the puck,” Urekar said in a news release.
Moger, who’s from Vernon, posted 47 points and 104 penalty minutes in 40 games with the Rockets in 2019-20. He also played two games with the Smokies as an affiliate player.
Hemenway started last season with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs before being moved to the Penticton Vees at the January 10 trade deadline.
In the summer, the Vees traded Hemenway to the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and the Smoke Eaters acquired him in August to add depth to their blueline.
Hemenway has shown in the past the ability to move the puck and add to the offence as he had 19 points in 39 games with the North Island U18 Silvertips in 2018-19. He had eight points and 22 penalty minutes in 34 games with the Bulldogs and Vees last season.
The Smoke Eaters currently have just these six players committed to the blueline for the upcoming 2020-21 season. However, a number of players are making a strong bid to make the roster out of the exhibition season.
As we get closer to when the BCHL requires teams to cut down their rosters ahead of the early-December season start, there are still a number of question marks about what the opening night roster for the Smoke Eaters looks like.