2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: PART 4 – LOOKING AHEAD
Medicine Hat, AB –– The 2017-18 edition of the Medicine Hat Tigers will look completely different than the season before as the coaching staff will have some hard decisions to make with 10 players once again up against the overage rule, only allowing to keep 3 in the end. Those 3 players could be a combination of a goaltender, defenseman and forward and anything in between. It will make for a very competitive training camp in August and roster moves following the Exhibition season.
Compared to the 2015-16 season, this past season was completely different. The core was intact. Returning veterans Clayton Kirichenko, Chad Butcher and Steven Owre were destined to finish their careers off with a bang. With third year players Mark Rassell, Mason Shaw, David Quenneville looking to bring leadership of their own. The additions of imports John Dahlstrom and Kristians Rubins made the Tigers a better team offensively and rookies Ryan Chyzowski and Dylan MacPherson played big roles heading down the stretch to the post season. All in all the Tigers season was a memorable one with a group of talented players who gave it their all and put on display an entertaining show.
In the final part of our Year in Review, we take a look ahead to next season’s roster!
It will be a different offseason for the Tigers as they have 10 players to make a decision on before the puck drops on the 2017-18 season. Both goaltenders are eligible to return. Michael Bullion rose to the occasion to start in the Tigers net down the stretch and into the playoffs. Nick Schneider is eligible to come back as well between the pipes but his decision will hinder on whether or not the Calgary Flames want him to start his development in professional hockey as a 20 year old rather than junior hockey. On the back end Ty Schultz, Jordan Henderson, Brad Forrest and Kristians Rubins are all eligible to come back as overage players with Rubins occupying a dual spot (Import, overage). Up front the Tigers will have some more difficult decisions as 30+ goal scorers Zach Fischer, Matt Bradley and Mark Rassell are eligible to be overage players along with import John Dahlstrom. There will be some tough decisions for the Tabbies brass come August but all of the players mentioned deserve to play in the Western Hockey League after setting career highs.
Medicine Hat will have a good core group returning for the 2017-18 season at the Canalta Centre. David Quenneville and Mason Shaw lead the way as the duo always seemed to have a voice in the dressing room. Shaw posted a career best 94 points in his draft year and will look to improve his totals to surpass the century mark next year. Quenneville had a great start to the season as the New York Islanders property was leading the WHL in defenseman scoring before being put on the shelf with a broken leg. David still managed to put together a great season with 59 points and 23 goals in just 49 games.
We can’t forget about sniper Max Gerlach who will head into his 3rd season as a Tiger. Gerlach scored 34 goals last season and is the first USA born player to record back to back 30+ goal seasons since Emerson Etem in 2010-11 and 11-12. James Hamblin will be back as he enters his 3rd season with Medicine Hat. Last season the Edmonton native cruised to a breakout season recording 47 points and was very efficient on the penalty kill alongside Mark Rassell. The Tigers ‘kid line’ will be eligible to come back as well with Ryan Jevne, Ryan Chyzowski and Tyler Preziuso all with the potential to set new career highs once again. With more confidence and playing time the trio could be one of the best shut down lines in the WHL.
Finally the three previous rookies will now graduate to veteran status as Dalton Gally, Gary Haden and Dylan MacPherson can come back to soldify the Tigers great core group and the three players brought something different to the table when they were in the lineup.
16 Year Olds
Tigers fans got a glimpse of the future with 15 year old and 2016 1st Round Bantam Draft Pick Josh Williams appearing in 4 games this season. The BC native didn’t seem out of place for the Tigers who dominated the 4 games he played in including scoring his first career goal. Williams has tons of talent and should be one of the 16 year old rookies heading into 2017-18.
Alongside Williams there is a large crop of young players who will have the opportunity to be full-time Tigers next season and follow in the footsteps of Ryan Chyzowski and Duncan McGovern who played last season as 16 year olds.
Medicine Hat completed the 2017 Bantam Draft by selecting 13 players for the first time in franchise history. Their picks included 4 of the top 10 point producers in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League with teammates Brett Meerman and Noah Danielson being selected by the Tabbies. The Tigers went small and skilled in this year’s draft but opted to select a goaltender of the future in Garin Bjorklund. Bjorklund was one of the top 5 goaltenders for the draft and will be in the mix when he is WHL ready.
Another aspect of the Tigers offseason will be the annual CHL Import Draft, which occurs after the NHL Draft in June. The draft sees the best European prospects given the opportunity to play overseas in one of the three leagues (OHL, WHL, QMJHL). The Tigers finished the season with Kristians Rubins and John Dahlstrom, however they still will be able to pick 2 more European players because both Dahlstrom and Rubins are eligible to be overage players and are not guaranteed to be on the roster.
The Tigers offseason is fully underway as the players gear up for another season of Tigers hockey, the next important date will be the Tigers annual Orientation Camp where players just selected in the 2017 Bantam Draft will have the opportunity to experience the Tigers coaching staff and the city itself.
That will conclude the Tigers Year in Review for the 2016-17 season, watch for times and dates for the Orientation Camp at the end of the month!