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Chilliwack Chiefs in the NHL


(This article was originally published on June 4, 2020)

The Chilliwack Chiefs have a long history of elite players coming through their various home arenas. Whether it was the “Old Barn” Chilliwack Coliseum, the “new” Chilliwack Coliseum (formerly Prospera Centre), George Preston Arena, and Langley Events Centre.

Some of those players have gone on to have long NHL careers. Some got a chance at the NHL, and some didn’t make the cut. Throughout the years, many got drafted, others got signed out of the NCAA, and others from semi-pro teams. I’m going to take a look at players from the past who played at least one season with the Chiefs and one game in the NHL.

The 1990s

The Chiefs had a few future NHLers play during their first ten years in the BCHL. Two had long NHL careers, the others not so much.

Shawn Horcoff: Played one season with the Chiefs in 1995-96. The Chiefs acquired Horcoff from the Trail Smoke Eaters of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. In one season, he had 46 goals, 96 assists for 145 points in 58 games with the Chiefs. He then went on to play at Michigan State.

The Edmonton Oilers drafted him in the fourth round, 99th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. In his career, he played 12 seasons with the Oilers, two with Dallas, and one with Anaheim, finishing his career with 1008 games played, 186 goals, 325 assists for 511 points.

Jason Krog: Played two seasons with the Chiefs in 1993-94 and 1994-95. He racked up 66 goals, 117 assists, and 183 points over those two seasons and finished his junior career with a BCHL championship in 1995.  Krog went on to play four years at the University of New Hampshire where he won the Hobey Baker Award.

After his fourth year, he signed a pro contract with the New York Islanders. He spent three seasons on Long Island and only played in 28 games. For 2002-03, he signed with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. After two seasons with the Ducks, Krog went to play in the AHL, Europe, and four games with the Canucks before calling it a career.

Photo credit: Southpaw / Twitter

John Craighead: One of the toughest Chiefs players during this decade. He came to the Chiefs partway through the 1991-92 season after being traded by the Surrey Eagles. Craighead had 116 penalty minutes to go along with 12 goals and 16 assists. After junior, Craighead bounced around the ECHL before catching on with the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League. There he racked up a combined 653 PIMs in two seasons.

He then signed with the St John’s Maple Leafs of the AHL in 1996. During his time in St John’s, he got called up to play five games for the Toronto Maple Leafs and posted 10 penalty minutes. He finished his career playing in Germany, one season with the Manitoba Moose, and in England. Craighead’s son Darien also played for the Chiefs in 2015-16.

Mike Minard: Minard played his first season of junior hockey with the Chiefs in 1994-95. In his one season in Chilliwack, he led the team to a BCHL championship, and best goaltender award posting a 26-14 record with a .898 save percentage and 3.50 goals-against-average. Minard got drafted after the season in the fourth round, 83rd overall by the Edmonton Oilers.

Minard played a season in the OHL with the Detroit Whalers before playing in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He bounced around the ECHL, AHL, and IHL. Minard made one appearance for the Oilers in 1999-2000. He won his NHL debut, allowing three goals against and stopping 33 of 36 shots.

Wade Dubielewicz: “Dubie” came to the Chiefs in a trade from Trail in 1998-99. Dubielewicz helped the Chiefs get to the BCHL finals only to lose to the Vernon Vipers. In an odd twist, Vernon picked up Dubielewicz for the Royal Bank Cup run after injuries plagued their goaltenders. After junior, Dubielewicz spent four years at the University of Denver. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Islanders.

Dubielewicz ended up spending most of his career in the AHL. The most appearances he had in the NHL was 2007-08 with the Islanders. Now Dubielewicz is the owner, GM, and head coach of the Columbia Valley Rockies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League in his home town of Invermere, BC.

Close, but no cigar

Doug Ast: Ast played for the Chiefs for three seasons from 1991-94. In his time in Chilliwack, he accumulated 242 points to be the all-time scoring leader in Chiefs history. After Chilliwack, Ast played two years at UBC before signing a pro contract with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.

Ast played one season with the Crunch before going on to play five seasons in the International Hockey League with the Long Beach Ice Dogs and Manitoba Moose. Ast finished his career in the German Elite League. Ast retired in 2009 and became a Chiefs assistant coach alongside his mentor Harvey Smyl in 2011.

Brian Maloney: Maloney started his junior career in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Olds Grizzlys. The Chiefs acquired Maloney partway through the 1997-98 season. After captaining the Chiefs, Maloney played four years at Michigan State and then signed a pro contract with the Chicago Wolves.

After four seasons with the Wolves, Maloney played one more year in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators. After the AHL, Maloney signed to play in the DEL in Germany where he finished his career in the second division. In 2018, Maloney became head coach and general manager of the Chiefs, the team he captained 20 years earlier.

The 2000s

The most successful decade in the history of the Chiefs produced the most players being taken by NHL teams. Some were drafted straight from the Chiefs, others from the NCAA.

Jeff Tambellini: Tambellini played for the Chiefs from 2000-02. In the two years, Tambellini scored 168 points in just 84 games, including 117 in 34 games in 2001-02. After winning all the major junior A trophies at the Royal Bank Cup in 2002, Tambellini played three seasons with the University of Michigan. Tambellini was drafted 27th overall in 2003 by the Los Angeles Kings, making him the first former Chiefs player taken in the first round.

Tambellini signed with the Kings in 2005, starting in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs. The Kings then traded Tambellini to the New York Islanders where he played parts of four seasons with the Islanders and their AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Tambellini signed with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11 and helped them get to the Stanley Cup Finals.

He then signed in Europe and finished his career in Sweden. After retirement, Tambellini was an assistant coach at the University of Michigan and the head coach and general manager of the Trail Smoke Eaters. Currently, he is an amateur scout for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

David Van Der Gulik: Van Der Gulik played for the Chiefs for two seasons from 2000-02. Over that span, he had 80 goals, 100 assists for 180 points. Van Der Gulik was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the seventh round of the 2002 Entry Draft. After being drafted, he played four seasons at Boston University before signing with the Flames.

Van Der Gulik spent the first three years with the Flames affiliate in both Omaha and Quad City. In his third year, he got his shot and played six games with the Flames, registering one assist. After not cracking the Flames line up in 2009-10, he played back home in Abbotsford for the Flames affiliate.

Van Der Gulik signed with Colorado that summer and spend the next four seasons bouncing back and forth between the Avalanche and their AHL affiliate. He played one year in the DEL in Germany before retiring in 2016.

Gabe Gauthier: Gauthier played for the Chiefs from 1999-2002 winning the BCHL championship twice, and going to the Royal Bank Cup twice. Over three seasons, Gauthier had 235 career points for the Chiefs.

He played four years at the University of Denver, winning the NCAA national championship twice and led the team in scoring two straight years over the likes of future NHLers Paul Stastny and Matt Carle. After college, Gauthier signed with the LA Kings.

Gauthier played five games with the Kings in his rookie season and three in his sophomore season. Gabe didn’t play another NHL game and spent the rest of his career in the AHL as well as a couple of stints in Europe, ECHL, and Central Hockey League.

Garret Stroshein: Stroshein was a big 6’7” tough-guy winger. He started his junior hockey in Alberta with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. In his first year, he had 215 PIMs in 27 games for the Oil Barons. Fort Mac traded Stroshein to the Chiefs just five games into the 1999-2000 season.

With the Chiefs, Stroshein had three goals, one assist, and 171 PIMs. He helped the Chiefs get to the Doyle Cup against his former team, and then the Royal Bank Cup. After the Chiefs were eliminated from the playoffs in 2000-01, Stroshein signed an amateur tryout with the San Diego Gulls of the West Coast Hockey League.

He played 28 games for the Portland Pirates of the AHL in 2002-03. The Washington Capitals took a shot at Stroshein and had him play in three games in 2003-04, where he had 14 PIMs. Stroshein played two more seasons with the Pirates and another with the Providence Bruins before calling it a career after the 2005-06 season.

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Derek Grant: Grant played for the Langley Chiefs for two seasons from 2007-09. After his first junior season, he got drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round, 119th overall.

Grant came back and played one more season with the Chiefs before going to Michigan State. After two seasons with the Spartans, Grant signed his entry-level contract with the Senators.

He played five seasons in the Senators system, appearing for the parent club 25 times. Since then, Grant has gone on to play with Calgary, Buffalo, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, and he currently plays for the Phillidaphia Flyers.

Close, but no cigar

Kaleb Betts: Betts played two seasons with the Chiefs from 2000-02 and was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the eighth round in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

He played three seasons for the University of Nebraska-Omaha before turning pro in 2006-07. Betts played three seasons as a pro in the UHL and ECHL before calling it a career at the end of the 2009 season. Currently, he is a correctional officer at the Matsqui Correctional Centre in Abbotsford.

Kevin Estrada: Estrada played four years with the Chiefs starting as a 15-year-old. Over four seasons, he had 185 points for the Chiefs and captained the team in 2000-01. Estrada was drafted in the third round of the 2001 Entry Draft by Carolina. Estrada played four years at Michigan State before turning pro.

He played in both the AHL and ECHL in his first three years and then turned to Europe for two years before coming back to play two final seasons in the ECHL. Currently, Estrada is the owner and operator of the internationally renowned Sturgeon Slayers and a worldwide conservationist. He still resides in Chilliwack.

Colton Beck: Beck played three full seasons with the Langley Chiefs from 2007-10. After three seasons with the Chiefs, he played four seasons with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in the CCHA and WCHA.

Beck played one and a half-seasons with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL before catching on with Minnesota Wild organization. He currently plays for the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.

Dennis Robertson: Robertson played from 2008-10 with the Langley Chiefs. After junior, he played four years at Brown University.

Toronto drafted Robertson in the sixth round in 2011. After Brown, he played for the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL for six seasons. Currently, Robertson is playing for Bolzano HC of the Austrian League.

Matt Butcher: Son of former NHLer Garth Butcher, Matt played for the Chiefs from 2003-06. Vancouver drafted Butcher in the third round in 2005.

After being captain of the Chiefs, Butcher played four seasons with Northern Michigan. Once collage finished, Butcher only played 41 games of pro hockey with the Cincinnati Cyclones and Victoria Salmon Kings in the ECHL.

Photo credit: Tri-City Americans / Twitter

Riley Emmerson: Emmerson played one full season with the Chiefs before going to the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. After being drafted by Minnesota in 2005, Emmerson played six seasons in the ECHL.

He also spent one season in the AHL with Rochester in 2008-09 and finished his career in Scotland with two seasons with the Edinburgh Capitals of the British Elite Ice Hockey League.

Darin Olver: Olver played one season with the Chiefs in 2002-03 before heading to Northern Michigan and was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2004. After school, Olver signed an amateur try-out with Hartford Wolf Pack.

However, the Rangers didn’t offer Olver a contract. he went and played in the German second division before catching on with a DEL team. Olver currently plays for Ingolstadt ERC in the DEL and has become a German-Canadian citizen.

The 2010s

Most of these careers haven’t finished or are just getting started, so there is still time for them to make their mark in the NHL.

Dennis Cholowski: Cholowski played two seasons with the Chiefs from 2014-16. He was drafted by Detroit in the first round in 2016, becoming the first member of the Chiefs to be taken in the first round of the entry draft since the franchise returned to Chilliwack.

Cholowski played one season at St Cloud State before signing an entry-level deal with Detroit. He then played one season in the WHL with Prince George and Portland before cracking the Red Wings starting roster in 2018-19 and wound up playing in 52 games.

In 2019-20, Cholowski split time between the Red Wings and their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapid Griffins.

The jury’s still out

Skyler Brind’Amour: Son of former NHLer and current Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, Skyler played two seasons with the Chiefs and served as captain in 2018-19.

Brind’Amour was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round in 2017. Currently, he is playing with Quinnipiac University.

Vincent Desharnais: Desharnais played one season with the Chiefs and was drafted in the seventh round by Edmonton Oilers in 2016. Desharnais then played four seasons with Providence College.

Currently, Desharnais is playing with the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL with former Chiefs goaltender Mitch Gillam.

Jordan Kawaguchi: Kawaguchi played four seasons with the Chiefs, tying Doug Ast as the all-time scorer in Chiefs history. He captained the Chiefs for two seasons from 2015-17, leading them to the BCHL finals both years.

Kawaguchi is currently going into his fourth season with the University of North Dakota and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award this past season.

Luke Esposito: Esposito, who is the nephew of former NHLer Mark Messier, played one season with the Chiefs in 2012-13. Esposito played four seasons with Harvard before signing with the Grand Rapid Griffins. Currently, Esposito is playing with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.

Kohen Olischefski: Olischefski played two full seasons with the Chiefs from 2015-17. Currently, Olischefski is playing at the University of Denver and will be one of the Pioneers captains next season.