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One year later: Comparing the 2021-22 Kings to the 2022-23 Kings

Before the 2022 Fred Page Cup playoffs, the Powell River Kings failed to make it to the dance. It was the first time they didn’t make the playoffs in over 20 years.

The 2021-22 season was a rebuilding year for the Kings. Head coach Brock Sawyer and Chad Van Diemen were each in their second year in Powell River.

Ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions resulted in several Kings players heading south before the 2021 Pod Season. There, they joined teams playing under less restrictive measures. While several players came back, other players moved on.

This article will show the differences between this season’s iteration of the Kings and last season’s. To illustrate the changes, I’ll break them down by position, so let’s start with goaltending.

Healthy and consistent goaltending

During the 2021-22 season, the Powell River Kings iced five separate goalies. During the 2021 Pod Season, the Kings were allowed to have three goalies on their roster.

In 2019-20, before the pandemic, the Kings used seven different netminders. Finding consistent and stable goaltending has been a problem for the Kings over the last few years, but this season has seen that problem resolved.

The goaltending tandem in 2022-23 is Kyle Metson and Liam Vanderkooi. Both goalies were acquired via trades during the off-season and have remained relatively healthy throughout the season.

Last season, goaltender injuries were a big problem for Powell River. Starting goalie Zak Brice was injured in late November and backup goalie Thomas Wardle was removed from the active roster in January 2022 because of an injury. When Brice came back, he and Matthias Smith were the new tandem.

After this year’s playoffs, Vanderkooi ages out of junior hockey while Metson has one more season before aging out.

Healthy and consistent defense

For the 2022-23 season, Powell River has used seven defenders. Last season, the Kings had 13 blueliners dressed as regulars.

Several defenders were affiliate player call-ups from junior and under-18 teams. These were players like Ben Coghlan, Max Chelico, and Max Carlson. Early in the season, adding new players to the Kings blueline didn’t end up helping generate much offense from the back end.

At the 2022 trade deadline, the Kings acquired offense-minded defender Matthew Yakubowski from the Winnipeg Freeze of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. In 32 games with the Freeze, Yakubowski scored 14 goals and added seven assists. With Powell River, he chipped in with two assists in 22 games.

In terms of offense, Powell River’s highest-scoring defender in 2021-22 was Casey Aman, who had seven goals and 20 assists in 54 games. Acquiring Yakubowski was supposed to help Powell River’s offense from the blue line, but unfortunately for the Kings and their fans, it didn’t pan out.

Improved offensive output from forwards

Parker Lalonde led Powell River in scoring during the 2021-22 season. In 53 games, he scored 18 goals and posted 23 assists. This season, Lalonde did not repeat as the Kings top scorer.

This season, Karter McNarland was Powell River’s top point-getter with 40 points in 49 games. He was one of five players on this year’s Kings’ roster to notch more than 30 points.

In 2021-22, only two players on the Kings roster scored more than 28 points and only eight players scored more than 23 points. Comparatively, Powell River’s offensive production is up significantly for the 2022-23 season.

Five players on this season’s team scored more than 29 points and 10 had more than 18. This season, returning Kings players and new recruits have stepped up and improved the team’s offensive production.

To be clear though, three of the top 10 scorers for Powell River this season were defenders. Still, having the forwards score more obviously helps the team’s overall record.

Back in the playoffs

Before last season, Powell River made the playoffs 19 consecutive times because the last season they didn’t qualify for the Fred Page Cup competition was 2000-01.

Compared to last season, the Kings have greatly improved and they might be a dark horse in the playoffs. Despite the first round loss to Surrey this post-season, it bodes well for Powell River’s future to make a return to the dance.