HUMBOLDT — The Humboldt Broncos are hoping youth will be served this season.
Down to 25 on the roster on Sunday, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League squad is filled by many talented young players. Head coach and general manager Scott Barney said the team has only three 20-year-olds and two 19-year-olds.
“We have a lot of young talent... It’s really exciting,” Barney said. “I think it's good for the community and good for the Broncos organization for the future.”
The head coach and general manager, who moved up to those roles partway through last season, said that the returning players are bringing good leadership. After a weekend team golf outing, Barney said:
“It really seems like the guys are gelling together. That’s good to see with a young group and so many new faces.”
The Broncos kick off the 2019-20 campaign with a home-and-home series against the Notre Dame Hounds. The teams play at the Elgar Petersen Arena on Saturday, Sept. 14 and in Wilcox on Sunday, Sept. 15.
While the Broncos’ top five scorers from last season have aged out, including team leader Michael Clarke (28 goals and 71 points), they do return the trio that placed sixth through eighth on the squad. Logan Foster, now a 20-year-old, had 11 goals and 28 points in 40 games for the Broncos. Meanwhile fellow 20-year-old Bryson Cecconi had 11 goals and 27 points last season and 18-year-old Zach McIntyre recorded 11 goals and 26 points as a rookie. Among the other forwards back is Reid Arnold. Barney said that Arnold, along with defenceman Kade Olsen, are underrated players who are important contributors. After missing last season due to an injury sustained in the 2018 bus crash, Graysen Cameron has been competing to return to the Broncos.
During the summer, the Broncos added Tristan Shewchuk via a trade. The 18-year-old had 20 points last season for the Melville Millionaires, who picked him first overall in the 2016 SJHL Bantam Draft.
“We feel his offensive potential hasn’t even been tapped yet,” Barney said. “We see a great future for him here and I think he is really enjoying being here.”
Two youngsters that will be looked at to contribute up front will be 18-year-old Braiden Koran and 16-year-old Karter McNarland. Brandey said that Koran, who played Junior B in British Columbia last season, is a strong winger who takes pucks to the net, plays physical, and has a great shot.
The Broncos tabbed McNarland in the first round of the 2018 SJHL Bantam Draft. The Saskatoon product had 35 points in midget AAA last season.
“His hockey IQ to me is really, really off the charts,” Barney said. “Potential is high for him going forward.”
On the backend, a young group of returners will help lead the way. Chase Felgueiras, who was on the radar for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, turns 19 in November. He had 24 points last season. Olsen is 18 while Colin MacPherson, who joined the team from Alberta partway through the season, is 19.
A couple of the newcomers looking to contribute on the blue line are Humboldt’s own Noah Barlage, a 16-year-old, as well as 18-year-old Cody Hough of Maple Ridge, B.C. Hough skates well and will be looked at to step in and bring offence on the backend, Barney said.
Of Barlage, the head coach said:
“He has worked so hard over the summer. He is ready for junior hockey. He just keeps getting better and better as a player and he’s a super person as well.”
In net, the Broncos will have two young, talented goalies who are moving up from the midget ranks. North Vancouver’s Michael Harroch is a fast netminder who moves well in net. In the 6-foot-3 Brendan Forman from Vernon, B.C., Barney said the team has a big goalie with quick reflexes.
“They are both going to push each other,” Barney said. “Both are going to play.”
As the Bronco whittled down their roster, Barney said that last week was filled with tough decisions. However, “In the end, the players kind of decide for you who is going to stay and who isn’t,” the former National Hockey League player said.
In the exhibition season, Humboldt beat Kindersley, 5-1, in a rookie game and fell 4-3 to the Klippers in another contest. The Broncos beat Melfort, 5-3, at the EPA and lost to that team by the same score. Barney said the preseason contests were important for his young team as they introduce the players to various elements of the junior game:
“The pace. The speed. The experience. The strength of different guys. If guys aren’t ready, we don’t want to push them into junior hockey. We feel we have guys who are ready to play junior hockey.”
Barney praised the home crowds during the exhibition season. Of the community he said:
“I think they are ready to get it going and we are as well. Hopefully, it’s a packed building here Saturday for the home opener versus Notre Dame.”