Garrett James Photography

Vernon Vipers: Graduating players and eligible returnees

Rather than launching into a second round playoff series against their rivals in Penticton earlier this spring, the Vernon Vipers found themselves ground to a halt by COVID-19. Vernon beat Wenatchee in five games to open the playoffs and looked poised to give the Vees a run for their money, despite finishing 26 points back of first place.

The Vipers roster had no fewer than five players with Canadian Hockey League experience on it, including 47 point man Dawson Holt, who was second on the team in scoring.  Both he and top scorer Matt Kowalski will play USports hockey in 2020-21 for Queen’s and the University of Saskatchewan respectively.

Reigning Canadian Junior Hockey League academic player of the year JoJo Tanaka-Campbell is the highest returning scorer after he put up 26 points in 52 games as a rookie in 2019-20. Tanaka-Campbell headlines a strong group of 19-year-old forwards that includes Max Bulawka (10 points in 18 games) and Ryan Shostak (16 points in 40 games). Cameron MacDonald will likely show a big improvement on the 25 points he posted as a 17-year-old.

Hunter Donohoe is the lone 20-year-old skater eligible to return to Vernon next season. The defenseman had 11 points in 35 games since joining the Vipers in mid-November. The blueline will also be anchored by Clarkson-bound Trey Taylor, who is going into his third BCHL season at just 18-years-old.

Vipers general manager and head coach Jason McKee also has to sort out his goaltending. Both Reilly Herbst and Keegan Karki are 20-year-olds next season, and it’s doubtful the team will use two of its six coveted overage roster spots on that position.

The depth chart below is based on coaches going with a 23-man roster of 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders.

All college commitment years are collated from each player’s profile on the Vipers roster on the BCHL website.

Graduating Players

Ben Helgeson (University of Wisconsin)
Connor Marritt (Northern Michigan University)
Logan Cash (University of Vermont)
Christian Felton (Bentley University)
Connor Sleeth (SUNY-Oswego)
Landon Fuller (Trinity Western University)
Ben Sanderson (Colorado College)
Matt Kowalski (Queen’s University)
Dawson Holt (University of Saskatchewan)
Jackson Caller (aged out)

Eligible Returnees

(* indicates an open spot – assuming the team goes with 13 forwards and eight defencemen)

Jack Glen (01)
JoJo Tanaka-Campbell (01)
Brett Fudger (01)
Ryan Shostak (01)
Max Bulawka (01)
Colby Feist (02)
Cameron MacDonald (02)

Hunter Donohoe (00)
Keigo Hachisuka (01)
Nicholas Kent (01)
Trey Taylor (02)

Keegan Karki (00)
Reilly Herbst (00)