Here’s a look back at highlights of Canadian Hockey League graduates in the news and on social media throughout the month of July as the NHL returned to action.
368 former stars from across the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League were listed on NHL rosters for Phase 4 of the league’s Return to Play plan which features Stanley Cup Qualifiers. This figure represents nearly 50% of all players across the 24 competing teams.
All players travelled to hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton where Eastern and Western Conference games would take place. Among the masked men getting used to life in the bubble are Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John Sea Dogs), Jakub Voracek (Halifax Mooseheads), Seth Jones (Portland Winterhawks), Ryan Reaves (Brandon Wheat Kings), Connor McMichael (London Knights), and Ryan Hartman (Plymouth Whalers).
Before the puck officially dropped, the Edmonton Oilers used their final practice to pay tribute to the late Colby Cave (Swift Current Broncos) by wearing number 12 sweaters that would be auctioned off to help raise money for a Memorial Fund.
Staying in Edmonton, defenceman Ethan Bear (Seattle Thunderbirds) honoured his Indigenous heritage during the club’s exhibition game by displaying his jersey name bar in Cree syllabics.
The recently formed Hockey Diversity Alliance, lead by co-heads Evander Kane (Vancouver Giants) and Akim Aliu (Sudbury Wolves), released a powerful video with faces from all over sport who share their mission to eradicate racism and intolerance.
The great work by recent CHL graduates Akil Thomas (Peterborough Petes) and Elijah Roberts (Niagara IceDogs) who started sharing their unique perspectives of the game to fans over the airwaves has been recognized by the NHL. Their podcast, Soul On Ice, has been added to the NHL’s digital lineup and will now reach a much wider audience on a weekly basis.
Some of the biggest hockey news in July was the unveiling of Seattle’s new NHL team identity. The Kraken, who will become the league’s 32nd team for the 2021-22 season, was met with rave reviews by Thunderbirds alumni like Brenden Dillon, Brooks Laich, and Nate Thompson who shared their love for their time playing in the Pacific Northwest.
Kitchener Rangers alumni Ben Fanelli and Jordan DeKort will also be sharing experiences from their time in the CHL but as part of a new Mentorship Program recently introduced by the OHL club.
It was a relatively quiet month for transactions however a trio of former players inked entry-level deals including 2019-20 overage goaltender Jiri Patera (Brandon Wheat Kings) who signed with the Vegas Golden Knights after being a sixth round pick in 2016. Another former Wheatie Logan Thompson is also Vegas bound following a pair of minor pro seasons, while Pius Suter (Guelph Storm) joins the Chicago Blackhawks after five pro seasons in Europe.
Outgoing Prince George Cougars captain Josh Maser will be playing in the AHL next season after signing a pro deal with the Iowa Wild. The announcement also included deals for recent graduates Kameron Kielly (Charlottetown Islanders) and Jesse Mychan (Tri-City Americans).
Another 2019-20 captain, Luke Boka, will turn pro next season opting to join the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL where the former Memorial Cup champion and Windsor Spitfires all-time games played leader will skate alongside his brother Nick.
A list of 12 former CHL players have also made commitments to U SPORTS programs where they will use their league scholarship packages to continue their hockey and academic goals. Joining the University of Calgary Dinos are 2020 grads Connor Gutenberg who captained the Brandon Wheat Kings last season, Dakota Krebs (Calgary Hitmen), Max Patterson (Seattle Thunderbirds), Matthew Quigley (Portland Winterhawks), Ryan Schoettler (Prince George Cougars), and Zach Wytinck (Regina Pats), plus former players Arjun Atwal (Saskatoon Blades) and Luke Coleman (Calgary Hitmen). Oliver Castleman (Niagara IceDogs) will play for the Carleton Ravens, while the trio of Lane Gilliss (Portland Winterhawks), Kyle Olson (Calgary Hitmen), and Riley Sawchuk (Edmonton Oil Kings) will compete for the Mount Royal Cougars.
The thoughts and prayers of the entire CHL family are with two-time Memorial Cup champion Dale Hawerchuk (Cornwall Royals) as he continues his courageous battle with cancer. The Barrie Colts coach took a leave of absence prior to the start of the 2019-20 season to undergo treatment and in April had gone through what was believed to be his final round of chemotherapy before the latest resurgence.
NHL fan favourite Eddie Shack sadly passed away at the age of 83. Before winning four Stanley Cups as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, ‘The Entertainer’ was a member of the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters where he played five seasons from 1952-57 producing 219 points.
Several CHL alumni have been named finalists for NHL awards including Leon Draisaitl (Kelowna Rockets) and Nathan MacKinnon (Halifax Mooseheads) who are in the running for MVP honours as chosen by the media and players with Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award considerations.
Selke Trophy finalists for best defensive forward include Patrice Bergeron (Acadie-Bathurst Titan), Sean Couturier (Drummondville Voltigeurs), and Ryan O’Reilly (Erie Otters).
John Carlson (London Knights) is a finalist for the Norris Trophy awarded to the league’s top defenceman.
Bobby Ryan (Owen Sound Attack) is a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for exemplifying qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and a dedication to hockey.
MacKinnon and O’Reilly are both finalists for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy awarded to the league’s most gentlemanly player.
Dominik Kubalik (Kitchener Rangers) is a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year.
Jack Adams Award finalists for coach of the year include Bruce Cassidy (Ottawa 67’s) and Alain Vigneault (Trois-Rivieres Draveurs).
And finally, 18 CHL grads were named among the 31 team nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership qualities and humanitarian contributions to the community. That list includes Bergeron, Draisaitl, O’Reilly, Cam Fowler (Windsor Spitfires), Travis Hamonic (Brandon Wheat Kings), Jordan Staal (Peterborough Petes), Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener Rangers), Tyler Seguin (Plymouth Whalers), Trevor Lewis (Owen Sound Attack), Matt Dumba (Portland Winterhawks), Carey Price (Tri-City Americans), P.K Subban (Belleville Bulls), Matt Martin (Sarnia Sting), Sidney Crosby (Rimouski Oceanic), Evander Kane (Vancouver Giants), Mitchell Marner (London Knights), Alexander Edler (Kelowna Rockets), and Marc-Andre Fleury (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles).