(This article was originally published on May 2, 2020)
Since joining the BCHL in 2011-12, the Langley Rivermen have had their fair amount of notable alumni who have gone on to do big things in hockey and in their own communities. The organization has also been lucky enough to have four players have their name called at the NHL Entry Draft. Evan Campbell, Matt Ustaski, Marcus Vela, and Angus Crookshank were all drafted into the NHL during their time in Langley.
Evan Campbell (Edmonton Oilers)
Campbell joined the Rivermen partway through the 2011-12 season after being traded from the Coquitlam Express. During his BCHL career, Campbell played 100 games and put up 87 points.
The Port Coquitlam, BC product found his game when he joined the Rivermen as he put up 31 goals and 54 assists in 82 games over the course of two seasons. He also saw post-season action as he scored twice in four games during the 2013 Fred Page Cup playoffs. Campbell went on to earn a scholarship to UMass-Lowell and was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round, 128th overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
After his time in the BCHL came to an end, Campbell went on to have a successful college career at UMass-Lowell. In 128 NCAA games, he scored 27 times and added 28 assists. His most successful college year came in 2014-15 where he put up 12 goals and15 assists in 34 games.
Once his NCAA career was over, Campbell suited up once for the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL during the 2016-17 season. However, after having to get surgery on his knee, he retired from hockey.
Matt Ustaski (Winnipeg Jets)
Ustaski came to the Rivermen back in 2012 and played two seasons in Langley. During those two years, he scored 40 goals and added 36 assists in 106 BCHL games which secured him a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. After his final season with the Rivermen where he scored 29 goals, Ustaski heard his name called at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft when he was selected in the 7th round, 92nd overall by the Winnipeg Jets.
During his collegiate career at Wisconsin, Ustaski played in 100 games, scoring 13 times and adding nine assists. After finishing up with the Badgers, Ustaski headed into professional hockey, mostly in the ECHL and Southern Professional Hockey League.
His first taste of pro hockey came with the Jacksonville IceMen in 2017-18 where he played in 14 games and picked up seven points. During the 2017-18 season, Ustaski was also loaned to the Manitoba Moose for his lone career AHL game.
Ustaski lived out of a suitcase a bit this past season, he started with the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL where he played three games and posted a single assist. He then ended up playing for the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the SPHL, where he suited up in 19 games and picked up ten points.
He was also loaned out twice to two different ECHL teams. He played seven games with the Idaho Steelheads and scored one goal and three assists. Then he played five games with the Rapid City Rush and picked up one assist.
Marcus Vela (San Jose Sharks)
Vela suited up for the Rivermen from 2013 to 2015 on his way to being drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 7th round, 190th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. During his time in Langley, Vela scored 31 goals and added 37 assists in 104 games and earned a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire.
The Burnaby native played for UNH from 2015 until 2019, scoring 20 goals and adding 34 assists in 135 NCAA games. During his senior season, Vela was named team captain and also put up a season-high 18 points. After his senior season, Vela headed to the American Hockey League where he played six games and added two assists at the end of the 2018-19 season for the San Jose Barracuda.
Last season, Vela started out playing three games with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL before his rights were traded in the AHL from the Barracuda to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins assigned Vela to the Toledo Walleye, which is their ECHL affiliate. He appeared in 49 games for the Walleye and scored 12 goals and 13 assists.
Angus Crookshank (Ottawa Senators)
Crookshank played with the Rivermen from 2016 to 2018 where he put up 32 goals and 35 assists in 77 games. The North Vancouver native also suited up in 13 playoff games for the Riv, scoring five goals and adding five assists. During the 2017-18 season, Crookshank scored 22 times and picked up 23 assists on his way to being drafted in the 5th round, 126th overall by the Ottawa Senators at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
After the 2017-18 BCHL season, Crookshank headed off to the University of New Hampshire where he just wrapped up his sophomore year. In his first two seasons with UNH, Crookshank put up 28 goals and 19 assists throughout 70 NCAA games. This season he was awarded the Guy Smith award for the top offensive players on UNH after leading the team with 16 goals.
Although only four players have been selected directly from the Rivermen in the NHL Entry Draft, it’s an impressive number for a team entering its tenth season in the BCHL. Given the track record the franchise has in Langley, expect to hear more players who have donned the blue, silver, and cream colours of the Rivermen called by NHL teams in the future.