Cowichan Valley Capitals update: Major 2023-24 roster changes

After being sold to new ownership last September, the Cowichan Valley Capitals started overhauling their roster. From November to February, the Capitals signed 10 new players to the roster. and saw five players depart the team.

This kind of roster turnover also occurred last season. After the Capitals replaced Brian Passmore with Mike Vandekamp, the team’s roster underwent several changes.

In his second season as Capitals head coach and general manager, Vandekamp has continued overhauling the roster. Included in the overall moves are two new goaltenders. This article is about the Capitals’ roster changes between November and February. We’ll begin with the players that left the team.

Player departures

In November, the Capitals made a trade with the Coquitlam Express which saw Cowichan Valley acquire Gavin Giesbrecht and future considerations for Cole Melady and Matheson Mason.

Melady had been with the Capitals since the 2022-23 season while Mason never played for Cowichan Valley. The Capitals traded his BCHL playing rights to the Express and Coquitlam flipped him to the Blackfalds Bulldogs on Feb. 10.

In late November, forward Niklas Gudmundson signed with the North American Hockey League’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Gudmundson played only 10 games for Cowichan Valley before heading north. In early December, forward Ronan O’Donnell jumped to the Madison Capitols of the U.S. Hockey League. O’Donnell had signed to Cowichan’s roster in July 2023.

In late December, forward Ethan DeKay joined the Wisconsin Windigo of the NAHL. Last season, DeKay was traded to the Capitals by the Brooks Bandits. It’s something I covered in a previous article.

New arrivals from November to December

As mentioned above, the Capitals traded for Giesbrecht from Coquitlam after he had joined the Express before the 2022-23 season. Cowichan Valley acquired forward Andrej Kovacevic from the Langley Rivermen in early November for future considerations.

In late November, the Capitals nabbed defender Frédéric Deschênes from the West Kelowna Warriors for futures. Before coming to the B.C. Hockey League, Deschenes played in the USHL for the Des Moines Buccaneers.

Vandekamp signed defender Spencer Shugrue to the Caps’ roster in mid-December. He is a veteran of the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades but started the season in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the Winkler Flyers.

Also before Christmas, former Penticton Vees forward Austin Cameron signed with the Capitals. Although a rookie in the BCHL this season, Cameron is a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League veteran. He played 62 games for the Summerland Steam in 2022-23. Before joining the Capitals this year, Cameron got into nine games for the Vees.

New arrivals in January and February

In January, the Capitals welcomed Ethan Morrow to the roster. Before the 2023-24 season and the BCHL left Hockey Canada, Morrow was traded to the Blackfalds Bulldogs, when that team was still part of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Morrow also has his BCHL rights traded to the Capitals.

The Capitals held Morrow’s BCHL playing rights after acquiring him as future considerations from the 2023 trade deadline move that saw Luke Strickland join the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Wellington Dukes. Morrow’s transactions journey was something I wrote about in a previous article.

In late January, the Capitals also signed AJHL veteran forward Myles Gauld. He played parts of two seasons with the Camrose Kodiaks, but before coming to Cowichan Valley this season, Gauld played for the Bonnyville Pontiacs.

In February, the Capitals traded for Nanaimo Clippers forward Jack Edwards. Before joining the Clippers as a rookie this season, Edwards spent several seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite hockey program.

Finally, Cowichan Valley brought in goaltender Aiden Fischer from the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Before joining the Broncos, Fischer played at the Burnaby Winter Club, so he has ties to B.C.

Improved standings

The Capitals have already surpassed their win total from last season after posting a record of 10-38-4-2 in 2022-23. They finished ninth place in the Coastal Conference. Whatever happens this season, the team has already improved over last year and as of this writing are in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Coastal Conference.

In a previous article, I covered part of Vandekamp’s first tenure with the Capitals. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, Cowichan Valley could have gone on a run to the Fred Page Cup final series. Vandekamp, a veteran general manager and head coach, looks like he has the Caps on the path to return to a post-season berth this spring.