Chad Hellingman/Kamloops Storm

New den members: A look at the Victoria Grizzlies 2022-23 recruits

The Victoria Grizzlies are preparing for the future and before the 2022 playoffs start, the team has signed four new players for next season.

Whenever it comes, the end of the playoffs will see several Grizzlies players depart the team. The new players signed will form a big part of the 2022-23 team at The Q Centre. For this article, I will profile these new players but fefore that, I want to talk about several players departing the Grizzlies after the season.

As a 2001-born player, goaltender Cole Schwebius ages out at the end of this season. He was acquired by the Grizzlies from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last November. Also aging out is 20-year-old defender Clark Hiebert, who Victoria signed back in September, before the start of the season.

Joining Schwebius and Hiebert in moving on after the season is forward Noah Fladager. The Grizzlies picked up Fladager in January after his release from the Swan Valley Stampeders of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Aside from players aging out, several are departing for post-secondary schools. Forward Jack Gorton heads to Boston University while forward Andrew Amousse is off to American International College. Defender Isack Bandu is committed to Northern Michigan University and fellow blueliner Eli Barnett is set to be a rookie at the University of Vermont this fall.

Forward Connor Eddy will join Bandu at NMU while Jackson Morehouse will attend Dartmouth College. Grizzlies captain Ellis Rickwood starts his NCAA career at Clarkson University and forward Kalen Szeto at Yale University.

Coming from America

Forward Jack Brandt is the first recruit, he is a 2003-born forward from Columbus, OH. During the 2021-22 season, Brandt has played for the Neponset Valley River Rats 18U AAA team. In 24 games, Brandt had four goals and 14 assists as a 17-year-old.

He added 11 goals and 36 assists in 24 high school hockey games with Tabor Academy in Marion, MA. Brandt becomes the latest US-born player to join the Grizzlies, joining fellow Americans on Victoria’s roster like Tyler Waram and Justin Gibson.

Also coming from America is forward Owen Hardy. Although he’s been playing hockey south of the border, Hardy is a 2003-born forward from Stittsville, ON. He spent last season at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, IL.

This season, Hardy split time between the Midwest Prep Hockey League and US high school prep hockey. In 16 MPHL games, Hardy scored nine goals and nine assists. His US prep school points aren’t available online.

Also coming from Lake Forest Academy is Masen Culley. Culley is another Canadian playing prep school hockey in the US. He’s a 2004-born defender from Ashton, ON and in sixteen MPHL games, Culley scored eight goals and seven assists.

Coming from the home and native land

Joining the Grizzlies from the Vancouver North West Hawks U18 AAA of the BC Elite Hockey League is Ryan Watt, a 2004-born forward from North Vancouver, BC.

This season, Watt scored 24 goals and 29 assists in 36 games for the NW Hawks. He was also signed as an affiliate player by the Langley Rivermen, getting into one game.

The final new player thus far is Zakery Anderson, who is a 2004-born forward from Kamloops, BC. Like Watt, Anderson was also an affiliate player in the BCHL this season, but not for Victoria. He played three games for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

During the 2021-22 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season with his hometown Kamloops Storm, Anderson scored 22 goals and 18 assists in 40 games. Anderson already has one BCHL goal from his time with Salmon Arm.

The new core

The Grizzlies will be busy forming the new core of players with these new additions, plus more. After the playoffs, they’ll host several prospect camps around the province.

There is one in Victoria next month and in May, they’ll hold another prospects camp in Kamloops. In June, there is a camp in Troy, MI which Victoria is co-hosting with the Oakland Junior Grizzlies. 

The Grizzlies are also forming a team for the BC Spring Hockey League. It’s a spring league meant for young prospects to showcase their skills. I wrote an article about it before the 2021 Pod Season.

Several players were inked by the Grizzlies after attending different prospects camps. Goaltender Kyle Kelsey was signed out of last year’s Grizzlies prospect camp in Abbotsford. Eddy and Waram both played for Victoria in the BCSHL in the past.

There are no doubt more announcements coming, but for now, these skaters will form part of the core of next year’s Grizzlies team. With the success Victoria has had thus far this season, they all have big skates to fill.