A strong second half to the 2019-20 campaign has helped the Spokane Chiefs climb to tenth in the latest Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings.
Winners of 10 straight, their phenomenal stretch began with a February 15th victory over the Tri-City Americans, continued with a 6-3 road win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes the following week to secure a postseason berth for the third year running and the 13th time in the past 14 seasons, and reached double digits on Tuesday with a 3-0 shutout over the B.C. Division leading Kamloops Blazers.
The Chiefs now sit in third place in the super competitive U.S. Division with a 41-18-4-1 showing and 87 points that trail fellow nationally ranked clubs in the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks.
Headlined by Minnesota Wild third-round draft pick Adam Beckman, a sophomore left-wing who after finishing second among rookie scorers a year ago has continued to flash his offensive magic in putting together a 107-point season counting 48 goals and 59 assists through 63 appearances as he leads the pack for the Bob Clarke Trophy, presented annually to the WHL’s leading point producer. This season, Beckman has closed out a contest with two or more points on 32 occasions, including three times when he has matched a season high of five points, one of which featured one of this three hat-tricks.
Joining Beckman up front are veterans like Eli Zummack and Luke Toporowski whose respective 86 and 60 point campaigns already represent career highs. Other intriguing talents include 17-year-old centre Jack Finley, who is scoring just shy of a point-per-game pace with 19 goals and 38 assists in 61 contests and ranks 46th among North American skaters by Central Scouting ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are also seeing an impressive first season from rookie centre Bear Hughes, who after signing with the club last January sits seventh among freshmen scorers this season with 16 goals and 31 assists for 47 points in 61 outings. A fellow 2020 NHL Draft hopeful, Hughes clocks in at No. 80 among his North American counterparts.
On the back end, the Chiefs are led by New Jersey Devils first-round pick Ty Smith, the reigning CHL Defenceman of the Year whose season has included a gold-medal win with Canada at the 2020 World Juniors. His strong play with Spokane includes a recent record-setting performance in which he finished with a hat-trick plus five assists for eight points in a 9-2 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds to beat his previous franchise high-water mark for the top single-game performance by a rearguard. In all, through 46 appearances this season, Smith stands at 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points to slot fourth in scoring among WHL defencemen.
Also joining the Chiefs’ blue line brigade is another NHL drafted prospect in Czech-born rearguard Filip Kral, a 2018 fifth-round selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs who is one of four players on Spokane who have heard their name called on draft day alongside Beckman, Smith, and netminder Lukas Parik.
The club’s top selection in the 2019 CHL Import Draft, Parik was drafted just days after becoming the 87th overall pick by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2019 NHL Draft. Playing his first season in the North American environment, Parik has shined in putting together a 22-7-2-0 showing through 32 appearances alongside a dazzling .917 save percentage that sits second among first-year netminders to have made at least 10 appearances. Against the Blazers, Parik came up with his most memorable performance of the season turning aside 36 shots to record his first career shutout before topping it off with an empty-net goal to seal the 3-0 victory and etch his name in the WHL records.
“I was thinking about it with two minutes left,” Parik said postgame per Kevin Dudley of the Spokesman-Review. “We were up two goals and I knew if they were going to shoot it at me, I’ll try. It didn’t bounce to me, so I tried it. I was scared because (the shot) was kind of low and I was afraid they might catch it. They didn’t catch it and it was unbelievable.”
Parik and his Spokane teammates will now look to continuing their winning ways as he they close out the regular season and ready for the playoffs with upcoming dates against U.S. Division rivals in Portland, Seattle, and a pair versus Tri-City.