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Major junior transplants in the BCHL

Over the years, many players with major junior experience have come to play in the BCHL. On the flip side, a number of BCHL players have moved on to major junior teams.

Current Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn is a famous example of this. He played parts of three seasons for the Victoria Grizzlies before leaving for the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets early into the 2007-08 season.

There are several advantages to playing in the BCHL. One of them is the league allows six 20-year-old players on team rosters while comparatively, major junior teams are only allowed three 20-year-olds on their rosters.

BCHL players can earn scholarships to NCAA schools. Players with major junior games under their belts earn scholarships to Canadian universities across the country.

For this article, I want to highlight a handful of players who came from major junior leagues across Canada to the BCHL. They finished or will finish their junior careers on BCHL teams. 

Please note, this article includes just a small selection of players. I can’t highlight every single one who has played at both levels. To be eligible here, players must have played at least one game of major junior hockey.

Goaltenders

For this section, I will highlight three goalies – Lucas PfeilCarter Woodside, and Kurtis Chapman.

Pfeil played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers from 2018-20. Woodside played one game for the Regina Pats of the WHL during the 2018-19 season. Chapman also played for Regina, as well as the Kootenay Ice on and off from 2015 to 2018.

Woodside is the Grizzlies’ number one goaltender this season while Chapman was Victoria’s number one goalie in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, Pfeil was the Cowichan Valley Capitals’ number one goalie during the 2020-21 season. Both Pfeil and Chapman came to the BCHL for their 20-year-old season. Woodside joined the BCHL when he was 18.

Pfeil headed west after choosing to leave the Kitchener Rangers. There was uncertainty about whether the OHL would operate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Rangers added two new goalies before Pfeil departed.

As for Chapman, he came to Victoria in 2018 to fill a need. In return, the Grizzlies gave the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League a player development fee. He had joined the Mustangs after being cut by the Ice.

As for Woodside, he was reassigned by the Regina Pats to the Prince Albert Mintos U18 AAA in September 2018 and spent the duration of 2018-19 with the Mintos.

The following season, he went to play junior B with the Princeton Posse of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and signed with the Prince George Spruce Kings midway through the year.

Forwards

For this section, I want to highlight three players – Holden KatzalayNolan Hutcheson, and William Poirier.

Katzalay played 59 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL as a 17-year-old in 2017-18 before joining the Surrey Eagles in 2018-19. He then split the 2019-20 season between the Eagles and the Vancouver Giants. After getting into 39 games with Vancouver to wrap up the season, Katzalay returned to Surrey as a 20-year-old and skated with the Eagles in last season’s Burnaby pod.

As for Hutcheson, he played 183 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves from 2017-20. He then joined the Nanaimo Clippers for the Port Alberni pod to round out his junior hockey career as a 20-year-old. Hutchson was third in scoring for the Clips last season with 13 points in 20 games.

He had actually committed to the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League in December 2020. The COVID-19 Pandemic delayed the start of the OJHL season and this past January, Nanaimo acquired Hutcheson in exchange for the junior A rights to goalie Matthew Dunsmoor.

In Poirier’s case, he played for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2015-17. He was traded to the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs and played for them from 2017-19 before coming to the BCHL to skate for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

He signed with the Silverbacks before the 2019-20 season and the veteran of 255 QMJHL games finished third in scoring on Salmon Arm with 41 points in 51 games.

Defenseman

For the final section, I want to highlight Clark Hiebert and Colin Campbell. They are former teammates on the OHL’s Guelph Storm.

Hiebert committed to the Victoria Grizzlies for the 2021-22 season and has been a solid addition to their blueline crew. Campbell committed to the Cowichan Valley Capitals for this season and is among their leaders in ice time during the early going of his career in the BCHL.  Both players are 2001-born skaters who were going into their final years of junior hockey eligibility when they signed with their respective BCHL teams.

Simply put, there are numerous opportunities for roster spots on BCHL teams, especially as it relates to allowing up to six 20-year-old players. That, and the BCHL was one of the few leagues that operated during the tumultuous 2020-21 season.

More players coming

Recently, the Vernon Vipers recruited forward Matthew Culling, a veteran of 153 WHL games, to their team. Meanwhile, the Cowichan Valley Capitals also added forward Griffin Wilson to the team. He last played for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. The Capitals also signed goaltender Evan May, who last played for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. 

In the future, I’ll have to write another article on another batch of major junior players coming to the BCHL. The players I’ve profiled here aren’t the first, and if history is any indicator – certainly won’t be the last.