Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rockets game notes vs. Rebels

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open a four game road trip tonight with a stop in Red Deer against the Rebels. This is the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams. These two teams met back on December 17th with the Rockets earning a 6-3 win. Justin Kirkland scored twice and added an assist in the victory. Jackson Whistle made 25 saves. The Rockets are coming off a 9-3 win Saturday against the Everett Silvertips. Tyrell Goulbourne scored twice and added three assists. The Rockets exploded for five goals in the second period in the lopsided game. The Rockets have won five straight games in Red Deer dating back to the 2009-2010 season. The Rockets last loss in Red Deer was February 27/2009 in a 3-2 setback. Stepan Novotny and Ian Duval scored in the one goal loss as the Rockets fired 43 shots at first star Darcy Kuemper. Following tonight’s tilt, the Rockets are in Edmonton (Wednesday), Lethbridge (Friday), and Kootenay (Saturday). The Rockets next home game is February 6th against the Kamloops Blazers.        

Lordy, Lordy it’s 40!! Rourke Chartier became the first player in Rockets history to score 40 goals in 40 games Saturday night. The last Rockets player to score 40 goals was Myles Bell back in the 2013-2014 campaign when he responded 42 times. Bell scored his 40th goal in his 61st game. Geordie Wudrick scored 43 goals in the 2010-2011 season. Wudrick’s 40th goal came in his 70th game. Jamie Benn scored 46 times in the 2008-2009 campaign. Benn would score his 40th in his 50th game.   

Goulby is WHLPOW: Tyrell Goulbourne was named the WHL Player of the Week. Goulbourne tallied seven points (3g-4a), while posting a plus-five rating in just two games over the past week, leading the Rockets to two consecutive victories in that span. On Friday, January 23rd, Goulbourne scored the opening goal and set up another in a 5-3 win over the visiting Everett Silvertips. In the rematch on Saturday, Goulbourne contributed with a five-point effort (2g-3a) and finished the game with a plus-four rating while earning first star honours in a 9-3 triumph over the ‘Tips. The 21-year-old from Edmonton has notched 33 points (17g-16a) along with a plus-14 rating in 39 games this season.

Rockets catch eye of NHLCSS: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets made the mid-term rankings for NHL’s Central Scouting Service. Nick Merkley is rated 13th, Devante Stephens is ranked 108th and 17 year-old defenceman Joe Gatenby is 134th among North American skaters. Stephens makes his first appearance on the list after failing to catch the eye of Central Scouting in the preliminary rankings. The 2015 draft will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.      
This and That: The Rockets have lost only twice in regulation time on the road this season. Those two losses came in Tri City and Calgary...The Rockets are riding a four game road winning streak….The Rockets are 48-9-2-0 on opposition ice in the last two seasons….The Rockets have 25 games left in the regular season. Of those 25, thirteen will be played on the road with twelve on home ice…The Rockets closed out a five game home stand going 3-2-0-0. The team out-scored the opposition 26-17. The Rockets suffered a 5-3 loss to Medicine Hat, a 7-1 win over Tri City, a 5-2 loss to the Seattle Thunderbird, a 5-3 win over the Everett Silvertips and a 9-3 win over the Tips….The Rockets have a league high 19 road wins this season...Justin Kirkland is one goal shy of his career high 17 he scored last season...The Rockets played 11 games without Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey. The Rockets were 9-2-0-0 in those 11 games.…The Rockets have played in 11-one goal games this season. The team is 7-2-0-2 in those games…The Rockets have not been shut-out in 123 consecutive games. The last time the Rockets were held without a goal was March 3, 2013 in a 3-0 loss in Kamloops…Tyrell Goulbourne celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday.

Who’s Hot: Madison Bowey has 3+4=7 in his last five games…Leon Draisaitl has points in six of his last seven games. The 19 year-old has goals in four of seven games and is 4+7=11 in those seven games……Tyson Baillie has 8+6=14 in his last 13 games….Rourke Chartier has 8+5=13 in his last 10 games…Chartier has points in 15 of his last 18 games…Cole Martin has 13 assists in his last 15 games…Justin Kirkland has 7+10=17 in his last 14 games…Rourke Chartier has 16 more goals (40) than he had all of last season. Chartier has goals in 22 of his last 29 games….Nick Merkley has 6+6=12 in January. 

Three Star Balloting: *Other first star winners are: Leon Draisaitl, Tyrell Goulbourne (twice) and Cole Martin.
Player:                          1st Star    2nd Star   3rd Star   Total 
Rourke Chartier:              6              6              2            14
Jackson Whistle:             7              4              2            13
Nick Merkley:                   5              2              5            12
Tyson Baillie:                   2              5              2             9
Madison Bowey:              2              2              3             7

Walking wounded: 

Tanner Wishnowski: missed 47 games    Mitch Wheaton: missed 43 games
Dillon Dube: missed 25 games                Joe Gatenby: missed 7 games               
Jake Morrissey: missed 6 games.           Justin Kirkland: missed 6 games
Cole Martin: missed 1 game                   Rourke Chartier: missed 1 game.
Total # of games = 163 man games lost to injury and includes departed players. (Unofficial)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes

    • Sheldon Kennedy was a great junior hockey player. I had the privilege of watching him every step of the way as #12 skated with abandon on the ice as a member of the Swift Current Broncos. But more importantly, Sheldon Kennedy is an inspiration. I know his story. So do you. It is well documented. But I honestly have an even greater appreciation for the man after he spoke to the Kelowna Rockets players at a Canmore hotel last night. I had the privilege of interviewing him afterwards and will share that with you on Tuesday night's broadcast. “If we look at the situation the Kelowna Rockets find themselves in, there is an expectation, a big expectation for them to win", Kennedy told me. "How are you going to respond to that? For me, it was a candid conversation and a chance to share some of my experience, strength and hope”.Kennedy spoke to the players for 30 minutes before opening the floor to questions. Kennedy knows something about adversity. For years he was sexual abused by junior hockey coach Graham James but was able to win a Memorial Cup with the Swift Current Broncos in 1989. “Sometimes when we miss a shift, or we miss a game or we sit out the power play, it almost takes us out. But each guy has to ask themselves how they are going to respond to that”, Kennedy added. Again the entire conversation with Sheldon Kennedy can be heard on our broacast in the 1st intermission Tuesday night from Red Deer.
    • Kelowna Rockets Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey seems to be taking everything in stride after the team gave away a first round bantam pick to the Prince Albert Raiders in the Leon Draisaitl trade. It marked the first time in franchise history the team doesn’t have a first round pick. How does Frey feel about not having that coveted first round selection? “I guess on draft day we can show up after lunch now”, the personable Frey said with a chuckle.
    • The NHL and the AHL have skills competitions. Why doesn’t the ECHL? If they did would Myles Bell have won the hardest shooter competion? Shea Weber won the hardest shot competition in the NHL. Bell has one of the hardest shots I've ever seen in junior.
    • What does Everett Silvertips head coach Kevin Constantine think of the Rockets? "There is certain competitiveness in each of the players ...that is what I like most about that team. Most people want to talk skill, but the bottom line still is the game is a game of passion and so the compete level at each of the positions is so strong. I think that Rockets team has a chance to play against skilled teams but also against teams big and physical too.”
    • Where is Luke Moffatt? Remember him? A first round bantam pick of the Kelowna Rockets in 2007, the resident of Phoenix Arizona never once stepped on Prospera Place ice. Instead, the highly coveted player attended the University of Michigan for four years and was eventually drafted by the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche in the 7thround in 2010. Where is he now? Moffatt, now 22, is playing professional hockey in Sweden with the Frolunda Indians. Do you ever wonder what would have happened to Moffatt had he chosen the WHL over Michigan and where his hockey career would have taken him? Without question, Moffatt would have received top quality minutes early in his career with the Rockets. High draft picks, specifically first rounders do in Kelowna. Moffatt would have won a WHL championship in 2009. Had Moffatt chosen the CHL, he would have the chance to play 288 regular season games. In the NCAA he played 140 fewer games. But if you asked him, Moffatt would likely tell you he wouldn't have changed a thing. Living with regrets is wasted energy.
    • I’ve been asked numerous times if I believe Leon Draisaitl’s heart is truly in winning a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup. My answer is yes. Did you notice the 19 year-olds shot blocking Friday night against the Tips? Did you notice the one shot he took off the side of his arm or rib in the first period of that game? You don’t do that if you are not committed. Did you also notice him track back hard in his own zone against Seattle to negate a good scoring chance? If gifted offensive players have discrepancies in their game it is usually a commitment to defense and Draisaitl falls into that category to a certain degree. He, like other skilled players, seem to be more interested in the offensive zone. But watch the good things he does, especially at the face-off circle, and appreciate the chance to see one of the best players in the WHL wearing Kelowna Rockets colours.
    • I liked Kevin Constantine’s approach with his players, specifically when playing four games in five nights. “You would like to make adjustments but the challenge is you don’t want to put too much stress on the thinking process of the players. If you introduce too many things they can get too caught up in those changes and it freezes a bit of your own game. If you can’t practice those things and give those adjustments to a fresh mind there is a fear of over coaching.” I could listen to Constantine talk about coaching all night long. I think he is a smart man and love every interview I conduct with him.
    • Rookie Devante Stephens loves making an impact on this year’s edition of the Kelowna Rockets. “In the off-season I had to train hard because the season before I broke my femur. Every day is a day I have to prove I belong here. It’s an honour”, Stephens told colour analyst Gord McGarva before Saturday night's game against the Tips. Stephens was never drafted in the WHL bantam draft but could be taken in the NHL draft after being named to NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings. “It feels real good. You are not expecting this to happen. When it happens you say, wow, people are looking at me. It gives me more confidence going into games.``
    • Talk about getting lucky a second time. The Kelowna Rockets arrived in Canmore Alberta last night to warm temperatures. When the bus rolled into town it was a balmy +8. The weather is expected to hold throughout the week. Anything remotely close to the freezing mark is music to our ears. It is expected to hit 15 in Lethbridge tomorrow.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chartier scores 40th in 40th game in lopisided win

  • Rourke Chartier celebrated his 40th goal last night in typical, nonchalant fashion. When the puck went in, Chartier was flat on his back after winning a puck in the corner and cutting hard towards the net and chipping it past startled Tips goaltender Carter Hart. The soft spoken 18 year-old forward wouldn't have had it any other way. No big celebration. No riding his stick at centre ice. Chartier had the right to do it though after becoming the first Kelowna Rockets player to reach 40 goals in just 40 games. The first round bantam pick from 2013 was one of five different goal scorers in the second period in a 9-3 win over the visiting Everett Silvertips. The victory completed a weekend sweep of the Tips in a much anticipated showdown between the two Western Conference leaders.
  • How good was Tyrell Goulbourne? The 20 year-old was at his energetic best. After scoring the franchise's 5,000th goal the night prior in a 5-3 win over the Tips, the Edmonton product scored the home teams opening goal and was full marks for being named the game’s first star. Goulbourne's skating, his greatest asset outside of his fists, were on display. The assist he collected on Nick Merkley's second period goal showed off how quick the Philadelphia Flyers draft pick truly is. Goulbourne picked up the puck at his own blue line and zoomed up ice with a great burst of speed before firing the puck in front of the Tips where Merkley simply deflected it open. Goulbourne has been solid since the trade deadline and as head coach Dan Lambert put it, "Goulby is playing the best hockey of his career right now".
  •  As mentioned, 16 year-old Carter Hart got the start in goal for the Tips after veteran Austin Lotz was steady in giving up four goals the night prior in a 5-3 loss. Hart gave up 6 goals on 14 shots before being pulled after the Rockets reeled off two goals in a span of 51 seconds.
  •  As lopsided as the score was at game’s end, it was 1-1 after 20 minutes and the Rockets enjoyed their first lead when Tyrell Goulbourne scored a shorthanded goal to make it 2-1 four and a half minutes into the second period. 
  • I really liked how the Rockets shorthanded unit attacked the Tips when they were on the power play. Goulbourne and Cole Linaker were especially good in being aggressive and winning loose battles for pucks. The Rockets now have 12 shorthanded goals this season. The team had 13 shorthanded goals in 2013-2014 and the same number in 2012-2013.
  • The Tips made things interesting when they scored a power play goal at the seven minute mark of the third period to make it a 6-3 game. Head Coach Kevin Constantine elected to pull his goaltender in an effort to get his team within a goal with just over 6 minutes left to play. Sure it backfired with Leon Draisaitl finding the back of the net to make the score 7-3, but I liked the call of the veteran coach. If the Tips score quickly with the goaltender pulled to make it a two goal game, how do the Rockets react as momentum switches towards the Tips? In my opinion is worth the gamble. When you are trailing 6-3 in a game and it's in the third period, it is worth shaking the dice. 
  • It was nice to see Josh Morrissey score his first goal in a Rockets uniform. Sure it came late in the game to make the score 8-3, but it was good to see the 19 year-old have some offensive success while putting up a +4 rating. Defensive partner Cole Martin did one better though. Martin was an incredible +6. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rockets pay price in two goal win

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Kelowna Rockets head coach Dan Lambert challenged his team to show him that they were willing to pay a price to win. Mission accomplished. Leon Draisaitl blocked a shot in the first period off his ribs, Tyrell Goulbourne was a horse on the penalty kill and Madison Bowey, who is gifted offensively, took care of his own end first in a 5-3 win over the Everett Silvertips. The individual efforts went far beyond that though. How about Josh Morrissey's  massive hit in the second period and Chance Braid's bone crusher in front of the Tips bench? Even defensive defenceman Cole Martin got into the act by getting into a rare fight when Morrissey was given a rough ride into the end boards. The Rockets were not without their share of errors, but it may have been the team's best effort with this 'new' group. Again, it wasn't all roses, but it was a step in the right direction in becoming a better team.
  • I thought it was a terrific start for the Rockets who played significant minutes in the o-zone, specifically in the first period. The only downside was a lack of shots on Tips goaltender Austin Lotz. The Rockets could only manufacture seven shots in the period with Tyrell Goulbourne scoring the franchise's 5,000th goal to open the scoring. I thought Goulbourne had a great game by using his speed both five on five and on the penalty kill. It was nice to see him find the back of the net for the first time in 10 games.
  • Despite a lopsided advantage in terms of territorial play, the Tips had at least three great chances to score in the first period. All three were the result of turnovers committed by the home team. Jackson Whistle had a solid game and made several large saves to keep the Tips off the board until a seeing eye wrist shot early in the second period from Everett d-man Ben Betker found the back of the net. In my books Whistle could have been named a star for his quick feet and never give up approach to the game. It was a solid bounce back game for Whistle, who was pulled last Friday in a loss to Seattle.
  • Madison Bowey and the entire d-core deserve credit for keeping Tips leading scorer Nikita Sherbak off the board. Bowey in particular did a great job of getting his stick on pucks when the 19 year-old Russian attempted to deliver it to the net. I liked the fact that the Rockets captain played a more 'stay a home' style and concentrated on the defensive side of the game. While he too  was held pointless, the Washington Capitals draft pick was affective. Since his return from the world juniors, Bowey has been terrific.   
  • The Tips are an interesting group. At a flick of a switch they seem to be able to generate offense at will. Down by a goal, they would quickly regroup and attack aggressive at the Rockets net. The Tips, playing their third game in four nights, would not relent. They appeared to be fresh in the third period despite playing in Prince George on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Great teams battle no matter the road blocks the schedule maker puts in front of them. The Tips are an elite group.
  • The Rockets power play was a bright spot in the two goal win. Despite having only two chances with the extra man, two quick strikes from Rourke Chartier and Tyson Baillie proved that this unit is lethal when given the chance.
  • It was the best game Josh Morrissey has played in a Rockets uniform. I thought he was better defensively and chipped in with two assists. Morrissey's hit on Gunner Wegleitner was as good as you will see this season. The Everett forward did not return.
  • The good news is these two teams are back on the ice tonight for a rematch. Can it get better than last night? The answer is yes!! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rockets game notes vs.Tips

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game four of a five game home stand against the visiting Everett Silvertips. This is the second of four meetings between these two teams this season. They meet again tomorrow night at Prospera Place. In the first meeting October 3rd in Everett, the Rockets earned a 5-4 overtime victory. Cole Linaker scored the game winning goal at the 24 second mark of overtime. Tyson Baillie had two goals in the win. The Rockets are back at Comcast Arena on March 3rd. The Rockets are coming off a 5-2 home ice loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds last Friday. Nick Merkley and Madison Bowey scored in the team’s 8th regulation loss of the season. Jackson Whistle was pulled in the third period after giving up four goals on 19 shots. Michael Herringer came into the game in relief and made four stops. The Rockets were 0 for 2 on the power play despite firing 38 shots at the T-Birds net. Following these two games, the Rockets are back on the road this Tuesday for four games in five nights starting against the Red Deer Rebels (Tuesday) before making stops in Edmonton (Wednesday), Lethbridge (Friday), and Kootenay (Saturday). The Rockets next home game after this double header is February 6th against the Kamloops Blazers.       

Dare to Compare: After 45 games the Rockets have a record of 34-8-3-0. After 45 games last season the team was 37-6-0-2.  The Rockets have scored 192 goals after 45 games. Last season at this point they had scored 193 times. The team allowed 112 goals after 45 games last season. This season the Rockets have allowed 114 goals against.

Rockets catch eye of NHLCSS: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets made the mid-term rankings for NHL’s Central Scouting Service. Nick Merkley is rated 13th, Devante Stephens is ranked 108th and 17 year-old defenceman Joe Gatenby is 134th among North American skaters. Stephens makes his first appearance on the list after failing to catch the eye of Central Scouting in the preliminary rankings. The 2015 draft will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
      
This and That: Following these two games against the Tips, the Rockets will have 25 games left in the regular season. Of those 25, thirteen will be played on the road with twelve on home ice…The Rockets are 2-1-0-0 on this five game home stand, having out-scored the opposition 12-11. The Rockets have suffered a 5-3 loss to Medicine Hat, a 7-1 win over Tri City and a 5-2 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds…The Rockets are just 3-3-0-0 in their last 6 home games….The Rockets started the season with 9 straight wins at Prospera Place…The Rockets have allowed 4 goals or more in five of their six regulation losses at Prospera Place this season. The only game where they didn’t give up 4 or more goals and lost was in a 3-1 home ice setback to the Regina Pats…The teams that have beaten the Rockets on home ice this season are Portland, Regina, Prince George (twice), Medicine Hat and Seattle…The CHL Top 10 rankings again came out this week and the Rockets remain the second best team in the country. Brandon is rated number three while Medicine Hat is number 7. The Everett Silvertips sneak into the top ten at number 10…Former Kelowna Rockets leading scorer Myles Bell was named the MVP in the East Coast Hockey League all-star game Wednesday night. Bell now plays for the Evansville Icemen…Who will score the Kelowna Rockets 5,000th goal? The next one is the 5,000th….The Rockets have 769 regular season wins in Kelowna dating back to the start of the 1995-96 season….Justin Kirkland is one goal shy of his career high 17 he scored last season...The opposition has opened the scoring in five of the last eight games…The Rockets played 11 games without Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey. The Rockets were 9-2-0-0 in those 11 games.…The Rockets have played in 11-one goal games this season. The team is 7-2-0-2 in those games…The Rockets are 40-8-1-1 in the last two seasons against teams in the BC Division…The Rockets have not been shut-out in 121 consecutive games. The last time the Rockets were held without a goal was March 3, 2013 in a 3-0 loss in Kamloops.

Who’s Hot: Madison Bowey has 2+4=6 in his last three games…Leon Draisaitl has points in four of his last five games. The 19 year-old has goals in three of five games and is 3+3=6 in those five games……Tyson Baillie has 6+5=11 in his last 11 games….Rourke Chartier has 6+3=9 in his last 8 games…Chartier has points in 13 of his last 16 games…Cole Martin has 11 assists in his last 13 games…Justin Kirkland has 7+10=17 in his last 12 games…Rourke Chartier has 14 more goals (38) than he had all of last season. Chartier has goals in 20 of his last 27 games….Nick Merkley has 4+4=8 in January. 

Three Star Balloting: *Other first star winners are: Leon Draisaitl, Tyrell Goulbourne and Cole Martin.
Player:                          1st Star    2nd Star   3rd Star   Total 
Jackson Whistle:             7              4              2            13
Rourke Chartier:              6              4              2            12
Nick Merkley:                   5              2              4            11
Tyson Baillie:                   1              5              2             8
Madison Bowey:              2              2              3             7

Walking wounded: 
Tanner Wishnowski: missed 45 games    Mitch Wheaton: missed 40 games
Dillon Dube: missed 25 games                Joe Gatenby: missed 7 games               
Jake Morrissey: missed 6 games.           Justin Kirkland: missed 6 games
Cole Martin: missed 1 game                   Rourke Chartier: missed 1 game.
Total # of games = 159 man games lost to injury and includes departed players. (Unofficial)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

What if's in Rockets loss

  • 'What ifs' may best describe the Kelowna Rockets 5-2 home ice loss last night against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. What if Tomas Soustal scores on what looks to be an easy tap-in halfway through the first period when the shots are 11-1 Kelowna? What if Leon Draisaitl's backhand shot in the second period goes in rather than rings off the goal post when the score is 3-1 for the T-Birds? What if Tate Coughlin scores rather than the feed from Joe Gatenby going off his skate and wide of the open net? What if the Rockets don't surrender a soft goal in front of their own net 15 seconds after making it a one goal game on Nick Merkley's 14th of the season? But as the saying goes, if 'ifs' and 'buts' were candy and nuts, wouldn't it be a Merry Christmas? It sounds like cheap excuses, but frankly missed opportunities played a significant factor in the Rockets 8th regulation loss of the season. The T-Birds were badly outplayed in the first period and didn't manufacture a shot until the midway point of the first period. Thanks to goaltender Taran Kozan, who was named the first star, Seattle was clinging to a 2-0 lead.   
  • The best scoring chance for the Rockets in the first period came from Tomas Soustal on a quick developing two on none. Linemate Gage Quinny intercepted a Shea Theodore pass right in front of the T-Birds net and quickly sent the puck to Soustal, who had to kick it from his skates to his stick, only to see Seattle goaltender Taran Kozun make the save. Had Soustal scored, would the complexion of the game turned in a positive way for the home team? Up until that point, Seattle had no business being in the game. That said, the visitors were opportunistic by scoring two goals in 57 seconds to close out the period up 2-0.
  • I don't want to take anything away from the T-Birds though. They played a smart game. They relied on their goaltender to make the original save and played an extremely patient and disciplined game. People like to throw sand in the face of T-Birds defender Evan Wardley for his chippy play, but he was smart and composed and didn't play outside of the rules. I thought his composure had a trickle down affect on his team. Rather than playing dirty, Wardley and his teammates knew that taking bad penaties would be hockey suicide. The Rockets had only two power play chances on the night, one in the first and one in the third period. Fans that watched the game will suggest that the T-Birds should have been penalized more, which may be true, but at the end of the day the officials did not play a factor in the loss. The Seattle Thunderbirds earned it. 
  • It was a rough night for several players including Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle. The T-Birds scored two goals on 9 shots in the first period. The veteran allowed three goals on four shots before he was eventually pulled by head coach Dan Lambert after Shea Theodore scored a power play goal early in the third period to make the score 4-1. Michael Herringer faced only four shots in relief but did make a nice shoulder save to give his team a chance at a comeback late in the period.
  • It was a rough night for Rockets defenceman Josh Morrissey. At the end of the game the 19 year-old is a -4. Again he is on the ice for a empty net goal, but the 19 year-old can play far better than what he has shown in the first three games. If anyone is feeling a 'world junior hockey hangover', Morrissey may be exhibiting the symptoms the most.  Madison Bowey, the Rockets captain, hasn't shown any weakness in his game whatsoever. If anything, Bowey is better upon his return.  
  • What I think is happening right now is some players are trying to do too much. I have never seen defensive defenceman Cole Martin up in the rush as much as I've witnessed in the last three games. Martin was seen no less than three times deep in the offensive zone. I can't honestly remember a time in the past that he would venture behind the opposition net.
  • I liked the Rockets physical play in the second period when two fights erupted in 20 seconds. Riley Stadel fought Keegan Kolesar and then Tyrell Goulbourne had a lopsided tilt with T-Birds Luke Osterman. The rookie must have had no clue who Goulbourne was because picking a fight with the 20 year-old is ill advised unless you are extremely good with your fists. I was surprised to learn afterwards that it was Osterman's 8th fighting major of the season. He has more tilts this season than Goulbourne does. If Osterman's nose isn't broken, he is a lucky man. Rockets 20 year-old Chance Braid was also involved in a third period fight with Jerret Smith. This one too was lopsided with Smith bleeding and heading off the ice surface for repairs.
  • Why isn't T-Birds forward Keegan Kolesar  playing at the Top Prospects Game? Anyone? Anyone?     
  • For those that want to jump off a cliff with the Rockets 1 and 2 record since the trade deadline, remember the team was 1 and 4 in its first five games after the trade deadline in 2009.
  • For what its worth, the Rockets are now 0-2-1-0 in televised games this season. Last night's tilt was shown to a national audience on Sportsnet. The team also lost to Portland - at home - in November on a Sportsnet game. Sportsnet is covering two more featuring the Rockets on February 20th (in Victoria) and March 20th (in Vancouver). The other loss came on a Shaw game against the Regina Pats.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rockets vs. Seattle Thunderbirds

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game three of a five game home stand against the Seattle Thunderbirds. This is the second of only four meetings between the two teams this season. The Rockets were a 6-4 winner back on October 4th. After tonight’s game the two teams conclude the seasonal series with games in Seattle (February 10th) before wrapping up the series at Prospera Place (March 18th). The Rockets were 1-0-0-1 in only two home games against the T-Birds last season, losing 4-3 in a shootout and winning by a 7-3 score. The Rockets have won five of their last six games following a 7-1 win over the visiting Tri City Americans on Wednesday. Dillon Dube and Rourke Chartier each scored twice in the win, the teams 34th of the season. Chance Braid, Justin Kirkland and Rodney Southam added singles in the lopsided win. The Rockets scored four-third period goals and ended the night with two power play goals and one shorthanded marker. Following tonight’s game the Rockets host the Everett Silvertips next Friday January 23rd and 24th for a rare double header. The Rockets don’t return to the road until January 27th when they make their second and final visit to Red Deer before making stops in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Calgary and Kootenay to end the team’s final extended road trip of the season.        

This and That: Rookie Dillon Dube has 10 goals in 19 games or on average (0.53) goals per game. If he had played in every game this season and avoided the injury bud, the 16 year-old would have projected to score 23 times on his current pace….By comparison, Nick Merkley scored 25 goals last season as a 16 year-old rookie. Rourke Chartier had 13 goals as a 16 year-old….Madison Bowey collected two assists Wednesday night, giving the 19 year-old defenceman 100 career assists and 150 career points….Jackson Whistle appeared in his 100th career game Wednesday against the Tri City Americans…The Rockets had 13 different players hit the score-sheet Wednesday night…The seven goals scored Wednesday was the second time the Rockets have put up seven goals on home ice this season. The Rockets were a 7-5 winner over the Vancouver Giants on October 1st…..Who will score the Kelowna Rockets 5,000th goal? The team, since re-locating from Tacoma to Kelowna has scored 4,997 times….The Rockets have 769 regular season wins in Kelowna dating back to the start of the 1995-96 season….Justin Kirkland is one goal shy of his career high 17 he scored last season...The opposition has opened the scoring in four of the last seven games…The Rockets played 11 games without Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey. The Rockets were 9-2-0-0 in those 11 games.…The Rockets have played in 11-one goal games this season. The team is 7-2-0-2 in those games. The two-one goal losses in regulation time came against the Portland Winterhawks and Prince George Cougars…Tyrell Goulbourne will play in his 250th career game tonight against the T-Birds…The Rockets won their 30th game January 2nd, marking the 14th time in the last 15 seasons the franchise has achieved that mark. The only blemish over that stretch was a 22 win season in 2006-2007, the only time they have failed to make the playoffs….The Rockets are 40-8-1-1 in the last two seasons against teams in the BC Division…Nick Merkley will represent the WHL at the Top Prospects game later this month in St. Catharine’s Ontario….The Rockets have not been shut-out in 120 consecutive games. The last time the Rockets were held without a goal was March 3, 2013 in a 3-0 loss in Kamloops…Happy Birthday to defenceman Riley Stadel who turned 19 today…Rockets Head Coach Dan Lambert (Jan 12th) and Assistant Coach Travis Crickard (Jan 11th) blew out candles a few days ago. Assistant Kris Mallette gets his ‘party started’ on January 19th…Nick Merkley had 4 assists October 4th in Seattle….The Rockets are rated as the second best team in Canada according to this week’s CHL Top 10 rankings….  

Three Star Balloting:

Player:                          1st Star    2nd Star   3rd Star   Total 
Jackson Whistle:             7              4              2            13
Rourke Chartier:              6              4              2            12
Nick Merkley:                   5              2              4            11
Tyson Baillie:                   1              5              2             8
Madison Bowey:              2              2              3             7
*Other first star winners are: Leon Draisaitl, Tyrell Goulbourne and Cole Martin.                

Who’s Hot: Madison Bowey has 1+4=5 in his last two games…Leon Draisaitl is riding a four game point streak. The 19 year-old has goals in three of four games and 3+3=6 in four games……Tyson Baillie has 6+5=11 in his last 10 games….Rourke Chartier has 6+3=9 in his last 8 games…Chartier has points in 13 of his last 16 games…Cole Martin has 11 assists in his last 12 games…Justin Kirkland has 7+10=17 in his last 11 games…Rourke Chartier has 14 more goals (38) than he had all of last season. Chartier has goals in 20 of his last 27 games….Nick Merkley has 3+4=7 in January.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A step in the right direction

Whistle wins in 100th appearance - Shoot the Breeze Photography 
  • Rodney Southam had to be grinning from ear to ear after scoring the game winning goal last night against his old team. The only problem was no one was able to see it considering the 18 year-old was wearing a full face shield after a scrap earlier this month against the Vancouver Giants. The former Americans forward scored at the 14:39 mark of the first period in the Kelowna Rockets 7-1 win over the Tri City Americans. Southam spent parts of three seasons with the Americans before being dealt to the Rockets on November 4th for a fifth round bantam pick. It was Southam's second game winning goal of the season and 7th of his career.
  • Southam was one of 13 players on the roster to pick up a point in the game. Rourke Chartier and Dillon Dube each scored twice in the team's 34th win of the season. Southam, Justin Kirkland and Chance Braid - with his first goal in a Rockets uniform - scored in the lopsided win. Leon Draisaitl and Madison Bowey each chipped in with two assists.
  • Head Coach Dan Lambert elected to put Justin Kirkland with Tyson Baillie and Leon Draisaitl and it worked. Kirkland had a goal and an assist and followed that up with a solid battle level. Baillie ended the night with only one assists but had a strong game.
  • I thought Americans goaltender Evan Sarthou made some nice saves despite surrendering 7 goals against. The 17 year-old made a nice toe save early on Justin Kirkland. With number one goaltender Eric Comrie sidelined with an injury, the Black Diamond Washington product faced 35 shots, with many considered as high quality opportunities.         
  • Am I the only one that notices that Leon Draisaitl creates on average five good scoring chances a game? Probably not. Either the 19 year-old has the scoring chance himself or he finds a teammate with a glorious pass which is routinely on the tape.   
  • It was only the second time this season the Rockets have scored 7 times on home ice. The Rockets were a 7-5 winner over the visiting Vancouver Giants back on October 1st.
  • Jackson Whistle earned the win in his 100th appearance in the WHL. The 19 year-old goaltender was sharp by showing off his good glove hand. Oddly, the only goal he surrender was a Brian Williams point shot that beat Whistle to the glove hand side.
  • It was nice to see 20 year-old Chance Braid score a goal. Braid found the back of the net with a quick shot while enjoying some rare power play time. Braid has now scored two goals at Prospera Place this season after getting one earlier with the Prince George Cougars. Head Coach Dan Lambert spoke glowingly about his play on our post game show and admitted he is much better player than he believed.
  • Rourke Chartier now has 60 points, two more than his previous career high set last season.
  • Madison Bowey hit two milestones last night. With a two assist effort, Bowey now has 100 career assists and 150 career points.   
  • Tyrell Goulbourne will play in his 250th career game Friday night against the Seattle Thunderbirds. 
  • The 50/50 jackpot was won by a gentleman from Ontario. How nice. It was nice until I found out it was Rob Fauld's of Sportsnet.  All joking aside, Fauld's and fellow Sportsnet broadcasters R.J Broadhead and Sam Cosentino were in the building watching the game. It was an easy guess to see who was buying beverages after the game with the 6 thousand dollar jackpot.   

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Game notes vs. Americans


Eric Comrie
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game two of a five game home stand against the Tri City Americans.  This is the 4th and final meeting of the season between the two teams’. The Rockets are 2-1-0-0, with wins of 4-0 (Oct 22) and 4-1 (Nov 26th) and a 5-2 setback in Tri City (Oct 18th). This also marks the final appearance of 19 year-old Americans goaltender Eric Comrie at Prospera Place. Comrie, who is signed by the Winnipeg Jets, joined Rockets defencemen Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey on Team Canada’s entry at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Surprisingly, Comrie is 0-2-0-0 with one relief appearance in Kelowna in his four year career. Comrie did not play a regular season game in Kelowna last season. The Rockets are coming off a 5-3 home ice loss Saturday to the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers. Leon Daisaitl, Madison Bowey and Justin Kirkland scored in the loss. The Tigers scored back-to-back shorthanded goals 61 seconds apart in the win, snapping the Rockets four game winning streak. Following tonight’s game the Rockets host Seattle Friday and then have a week off before returning to action Friday January 23rd and 24th against the visiting Everett Silvertips for a rare double header between the two teams’. The Rockets don’t return to the road until January 27th when they make their second and final visit to Red Deer before making stops in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Calgary and Kootenay to end the teams’ final extended road trip of the season.         

This and That: Rockets Assistant Coach Kris Mallette has the bragging rights over this current NHL player and former Canuck, having been drafted well before him in the 1997 NHL draft. The answer at the bottom of ‘This and That’….Who will score the Kelowna Rockets 5 thousandth goal? The team, since re-locating from Tacoma to Kelowna, has scored 4 thousand 990 goals….The Rockets have 768 regular season wins in Kelowna dating back to the start of the 1995-96 season….The Rockets were 36-5-0-2 after 43 games last season. This season the team is 33-7-3-0 after 43 games…The Rockets this season has taken 369 fewer shots after 43 games than a year ago. That averages out to 9 fewer shots on the visitors net per game…The team has allowed 79 fewer shots on net at the same time last year…Rourke Chartier is one point shy of his career high of 58 points set last season…Chartier has just one goal in his last five games…Justin Kirkland is two goals shy of his career high 17 he scored last season...The opposition has opened the scoring in four of the last six games…Rodney Southam has more point this season in 26 games than he had in 63 games with the Tri City Americans over three seasons…The Rockets played 11 games without Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey. The Rockets were 9-2-0-0 in those 11 games.…Gage Quinney has 4+3=7 in 10 games with the Rockets… The Rockets have played in 11-one goal games this season. The team is 7-2-0-2 in those games. The two-one goal losses in regulation time came against the Portland Winterhawks and Prince George Cougars…Tyson Baillie set a new career high with his 27th goal of the season Wednesday night. Baillie has 85 career goals and is 15 points shy of 200 for his career…The Rockets won their 30th game January 2nd; marking the 14th time in the last 15 seasons the franchise has achieved that mark. The only blemish over that stretch was a 22 win season in 2006-2007, the only time they have failed to make the playoffs….The Rockets are 40-8-1-1 in the last two seasons against teams in the BC Division…Nick Merkley will represent the WHL at the Top Prospects game later this month in St. Catharine’s Ontario….The Rockets have not been shut-out in 119 consecutive games. The last time the Rockets were held without a goal was March 3, 2013 in a 3-0 loss in Kamloops…Defenceman Riley Stadel turns 19 on Friday….Rockets Head Coach Dan Lambert (Jan 12th) and Assistant Coach Travis Crickard (Jan 11th) blew out candles a few days ago. Assistant Kris Mallette gets his ‘party started’ on January 19th…Kris Mallette was taken in the 3rd round of the 1997 NHL draft by Philadelphia, three rounds ahead of Matt Cooke, who has played one thousand 36 games in the NHL with Vancouver, Washington, Pittsburgh and the Minnesota Wild. Cooke was taken in the 6th round by the Canucks in 1997.       

Three Star Balloting:
Player:                          1st Star    2nd Star   3rd Star   Total 
Jackson Whistle:             7              4              2            13
Rourke Chartier:              5              4              2            11
Nick Merkley:                   5              2              4            11
Tyson Baillie:                   1              5              2             8
Madison Bowey:              2              2              3             7
*Other first star winners are: Leon Draisaitl, Tyrell Goulbourne and Cole Martin.
                                                                                 
Who’s Hot: Leon Draisaitl has goals in three straight games…Tyson Baillie has 6+4=10 in his last 9 games….Rourke Chartier has 4+2=6 in his last 7 games…Chartier has points in 12 of his last 15 games…Cole Martin has 11 assists in his last 11 games…Justin Kirkland has 6+9=15 in his last 10 games…Rourke Chartier has 12 more goals (36) than he had all of last season. Chartier has goals in 19 of his last 26 games….Nick Merkley has 9+28=37 in his last 27 games. 

Walking wounded: 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rockets week includes pivotal practice time

Chance Braid - Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • A few WHL fans outside the Okanagan will be chuckling over the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 loss Saturday night to the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers. It marked the debut of Josh Morrissey and Chance Braid and featured the first time the Rockets had essentially all the players on their roster on the ice following the conclusion of the trade deadline. While it may look good on paper, chemistry has yet to be found and line juggling is common place with three news faces (Draisatli, Braid, Morrissey). Head Coach Dan Lambert and his coaching staff are attempting to find out what works and what doesn't and that traditionally takes more than one or two games to iron out.  
  • Do you need proof that it takes time to form chemistry when new faces are added to the line up? Look back to 2009 when the Rockets acquired Mikael Backlund, Ian Duval and Ryley Grantham. The Rockets managed a 3-2 win over Tri City in the first game with those three wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. They had to score three-third period goals to escape with the win. The Rockets would then go into Prince George and would lose back-to-back games and would lose another two after that - one in overtime - before finally coming together as a group. The most important aspect of the 2009 team was the way they finished the season with eight consecutive wins.  
  • Not like 19 year-old defenceman Josh Morrissey needs defending, but his -3 rating Saturday night can be misleading. Morrissey was on the ice for one of the Tigers shorthanded goals that frankly would normally be stopped by goaltender Jackson Whistle. Morrissey was again on the ice when the Tigers scored into an empty net.
  • The Rockets surrendered two shorthanded goals Saturday night in a 5-3 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers. When was the last time that happened? Not that along ago actually. The Rockets surrendered two shorthanded goals in a 3-1 home ice loss to the Regina Pats on November 29th.  
  • The guy pictured to the right is 20 year-old Chance Braid. Braid was acquired from the Prince George Cougars just prior to the conclusion of the trade deadline. Not only does Braid fill the final overage spot left vacant by Colton Heffley, the feisty forward provides additional toughness. A similar move was made in 2009 and 2004 when the team acquired Ryley Grantham (09) and D.J Kings (04). Braid is a tough customer with 11 fighting majors last season and 29 over his career. While he had a quiet night in his debut Saturday, look for Braid to make an impact if opposing teams take liberties on the Rockets skilled players.  
  • Josh Morrissey wore sweater #7 for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. The Winnipeg Jets first round pick wore sweater #10 with the PA Raiders. In Kelowna, Morrissey wears sweater #27. Is he fine with that? He told me he's a fan of hall of fame defenceman Scott Niedermayer, who wore #27  over his 12 hundred 63 games in his NHL career.
  •  How good was that ceremony Saturday night before the game? With the largest crowd of the season on hand (6362 hundred) Bruce Hamilton, Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey were honoured for helping Canada win gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. The response from the crowd with a standing ovation made my hair stand up on my neck. It was also impressive to see a standing room only crowd at the north end of the ice. It really felt like playoff hockey.      
  • Happy Birthday to Kelowna Rockets head coach Dan Lambert. Lambo is 45 today. 
  • No 'hockey hangover' for Madison Bowey. The 19 year-old captain had a goal and collected two assists in his first game back after the World Junior Hockey Championship. Bowey now has 98 career assists and is two points shy of 150 for his WHL career.
  • Tyrell Goulbourne is in a fiesty mood. The 20 year-old has three fights in his last 6 games. Prior to that he had only three fights in the first 29 games of the regular season. 
  • Jake Morrissey made a strong bid for retaining the  back up duties with a 35 save performance Friday night in Kamloops. Up until that start, I thought he and Michael Herringer were in a dead heat to see who would sit on the bench and watch starter Jackson Whistle. Herringer's last start was in Kamloops and while it was a win, it was no where near as impressive as Morrissey's appearance that included stopping 6 of 7 Blazers in the shootout.
  • Leon Draisaitl has scored in three straight games with the Rockets. If you include his statistics from last season with the PA Raiders, the 19 year-old has goals in 10 of his last 11 regular season games.
  • Draisaitl's longest goal scoring streak last season was 5 games. That streak came in the final month of the regular season.
  • In his last 22 regular season games, Draisaitl has points in 20 of them.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rome wasn't built in a day and either is a WHL contender


Pre-game gold medal ceremony - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Hockey fans had their first look Saturday night at what is expected to be the new and improved version of the Kelowna Rockets. To say it is a work in progress would be an understatement. With not even one practice together as a complete team, the Medicine Hat Tigers looked faster and more polished in a 5-3 win. The Tigers, who made a significant trade with the Regina Pats on January 5th to acquire 19 year-old's Dryden Hunt and Kyle Burroughs, looked like a more cohesive unit that had played together before. The Rockets, at times, not so much. With Josh Morrissey and Chance Braid making their debuts with their new team, the home team looked slightly out of sync in their 7th regulation loss of the season.
  • The game winning goal was scored on the power play when Tigers import Markus Eisenschmid, who played a greasy game, deflected a point blast from WHL leading scorer Trevor Cox. Was it that goal that was the difference or the back-to-back shorthanded goals the Rockets surrendered in a 61 second span of the second period? Regardless, the Rockets held the lead in the game for only 5 minutes and 43 seconds. Every time the Rockets scored the Tigers found an answer in a game that had a playoff feel to it.
  • Leon Driasaitl gave the largest crowd of the season at Prospera Place, 6 thousand  - three hundred 62, some hope when he scored his third goal in three games to tie the score at three. But fellow German Markus Eisenschmid would get the game winner before Cole Sanford would seal the win with an empty netter to make it a 5-3 final.
  • Outside of Nick Merkley, I didn't see anyone on the Rockets side that matched the work ethic that the Tigers played with Saturday night. A high skill set without a complementary solid work ethic won't produce fruitful results.    
  • Madison Bowey was in the penalty box when the Tigers scored the game winning goal, but the Kelowna Rockets captain had a solid outing in his first game back from the World Junior Hockey Championships.  Bowey had a goal and two assists and was named the games second star.
  • In his Rockets debut, Josh Morrissey earned his first point, an assist, on Leon Draisaitl's third period power play goal. Morrissey ends the night with a -3 rating, but was on the ice for both shorthanded goals. While the Tigers were full marks on the first shorthanded goal, the second one 1:01 minutes later is one that Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle would like to have back as the rising shot from long range that whizzed past his head would normally be stopped.
  • Tigers goaltender Marek Langhamer would also like to have one back after Bowey's wrist shot hit him in the mask and trickled over his head and into the net. Langhamer's best stop was on Nick Merkley on a third period power play.
  • Ideally, a lesser opponent would have enabled the Rockets to adjust better to new teammates/line-mates and the result would have likely been more favorable. Instead the Tigers, who have to be considered one of the favourites to challenge for an Eastern Conference crown, played a solid game and took advantage of the majority of the errors the Rockets created.      
  • With several bodies back in the line up, the Rockets were able to scratch rookies Lucas Johansen and Tate Coughlin. Johansen had played every game this season.      
  • Before the game, Madison Bowey, Josh Morrissey and General Manager Bruce Hamilton were honoured for winning gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Bowey and Morrissey received Taylor Made golf clubs for their efforts.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Notes, quotes and anecdotes


An old pic I took from 2009 with Tyler Myers and gold medal
  • It should be a special night when defencemen Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey are welcomed back to Kelowna in front of the Prospera Place faithful. It will be especially sweet Saturday night because both players and GM Bruce Hamilton will have gold medals around their necks. The last time that happened was in 2009 when Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers were honored for winning gold with a pre-game ceremony. Don't miss it. Be in your seats by 7:15. The game against the high powered Medicine Hat won't be bad either.
  • It is hard to believe but when Morrissey and Draisaitl take to the ice Saturday night it will mark only the second time in Kelowna Rockets franchise history that the team has had two-first round picks on its roster. While Tyler Myers and Luke Schenn were both picked in the opening round in 2008, those two unfortunately didn't play together the following season. The Leafs elected to keep Schenn while Myers was returned to Kelowna by the Buffalo Sabres to help the team win a WHL title. The only other time the Rockets had two-1st round picks on the team was when Mikael Backlund joined the squad after the World Junior Hockey Championships after competing for Sweden. Backlund was a first rounder of the Calgary Flames and joined Myers on the team that season as first round selections.        
  • What is it like the first game back for a player after winning a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships? In 2009, Jamie Benn had just one assist in his first game back. Benn scored only once in his first five games upon his return. Defenceman Tyler Myers didn't have a point in his first game back after winning gold. The playoff MVP that season had just two assists in his first five games after playing for Team Canada. A world junior hockey hangover is typical.         
  • I’d be surprised if the Rockets acquire another goaltender before Saturday’s trade deadline. Management is comfortable with Jackson Whistle as a starter but the backup spot, among several WHL observers, is a question mark. It appears the Rockets will keep three goalies with Jake Morrissey and Michael Herringer sitting on the bench as an insurance policy if Whistle falters. It sure will be interesting to see who backs up Whistle when the playoffs start. It will be a clear indication on which of the two the coaching staff have the most faith in.       
  • January 10th is the WHL trade deadline. What I always remember is that it is also Mark Guggenberger’s birthday. Guggenberger was in goal when the Rockets won the 2009 WHL championships. He too, like Whistle, was a bit of an unknown commodity who had great success in his 19 year-old season.   
  • The best interview over the past 7 days goes to Prince George Cougars GM Todd Harkins. I had a real nice chat with him before a game last week. I asked him as a first year general manager if he was going to make a splash in his first WHL trade deadline. “I will listen. I don’t want to be taken advantage of and I won’t take advantage of anyone. Harkins says the worst part about the trade deadline is the social media speculation on which players may or may not be traded. "What people don’t realize in social media is these are kids. They are not pros. They play like pros and I think that is the misunderstanding. They love the game at this age and they just want to play and they are doing their best. We have to be careful how we treat them in those social media rings as fans”.     
  • I liked Harkins philosophy when acquiring players. In the past Cougars management stayed away from some players that didn’t want to commit to playing in the WHL’s most northern outpost. “Our philosophy has changed. We are creating an experience for the players. We want these kids to develop as a person and as a player to get them to the National Hockey League. We go after players that want to play in our league and want to become pros. We are not dodging kids. We are picking the best players that we think are capable of being Prince George Cougars and wanting to become pros”, Harkins added.       
  • Is an NHL team going to draft Prince George Cougars forward Chase Witala? The 19 year-old is the best player I saw last week. His 22 goals are impressive and he has played especially good against the Kelowna Rockets with 4+6=10 points in the seasonal series.
  • Vancouver Giants head coach Claude Noel says it’s good that Leon Draisaitl is back in the Western Hockey League. The personable coach says if Draisaitl was 20, the perfect spot to put him would be  the AHL. “I’m a big proponent of the American Hockey League. I know it is a bad word for some prospects. It allows you to mature. It is not an easy league. It is a good place to learn. If you look at successful teams in the National League; Detroit, Chicago and LA, they all go through the American Hockey League. There is no entitled players that stay up with the big team. That is the route they go.”  
  • All the hype heading into this WHL season revolved around 16 year-old Vancouver Giants rookie Tyler Benson. Rightfully so. Benson was the first player taken in the WHL bantam draft after putting up huge numbers two seasons prior in bantam. But is 16 year-old Spokane Chiefs rookie Kailer Yamamoto stealing some of Benson’s thunder? Yamamoto, like Tampa Bay Lighting forward Tyler Johnson, was born in Spokane and has been terrific with 16 goals and 36 points in 35 games.  Not bad for a 5th round bantam pick. In the Eastern Conference, all the talk is about Regina Pats forward Sam Steel. Yamamoto has more points than both players. 
  • As impressive as Leon Draisaitl’s debut with the Rockets was Wednesday night with a goal and an assist, the most impressive debut in my 15 years behind the mic of the Kelowna Rockets came from Chuck Kobasew in the fall of 2001. It was October 3, 2001 when Kobasew scored three goals in 7-5 loss in Portland. The way Kobasew scored his three goals was amazing. The then 19 year-old scored at 1:46 of the second period, then at 3:59 and then again at 4:24. His first three career WHL goals came in a span of 2 minutes and 38 seconds. It was a welcome to the Western Hockey League moment I will never forget.      
  • I asked Claude Noel about some of the challenges the Rockets could face with a player like Leon Draisaitl in the line up. "Sometimes when a good player comes into your team via trade or reassignment, some of your guys stand around and watch him and they don’t work the way they normally work and are frozen a little bit. I think the environment here should be a positive for him”.   
  • What does Noel think of Winnipeg Jets prospect Josh Morrissey?  “He is a great player. He will help you from the back end because he can get the puck to the forwards. With the forwards the Rockets have, that will be a huge asset. He was great for the Jets farm team last year in the playoffs. You can’t lose with him”.
  • The best quote in the last seven days comes from Cougars GM Todd Harkins. Harkins was drafted by the NHL's Calgary Flames in the second round in 1988. Now his son Jansen could be taken in the first round on this summers draft. "I just hope he is drafted 41 or lower so he has bragging rights on me", Harkins said with a chuckle.
  • I was looking at the Rockets opening season line up against the Kamloops Blazers from September 20th. Seven players are no longer a part of the team including Cole Lind, who was brought in as an affiliated player with several veterans still away at NHL training camps.