2023-24 Season Preview – Lethbridge Hurricanes
After a second-place finish in the Central Division a season ago, the Lethbridge Hurricanes return with a new head coach and a continued focus on a fast-paced style of play. Lethbridge has been a consistent performer in the Eastern Conference for the better part of a decade since general manager Peter Anholt arrived in town. This season, the Hurricanes bring balance in the crease and on the blueline as well as energy from an up and coming forward group looking to make their mark on the WHL landscape.
Lethbridge returns nearly its entire defence corps from a season ago including captain Joe Arntsen and Toronto Maple Leafs draftee Noah Chadwick; alongside returning netminder Harrison Meneghin, the Hurricanes are looking to build on a 2022-23 campaign that saw them surrender the sixth-fewest goals in the WHL. Forward Logan Wormald tied for the team lead in goals with 22 in 2022-23, while Tyson Zimmer (who also potted 22 goals during the regular season) proved to be a valuable acquisition from the Brandon Wheat Kings last fall; the 19-year-old is Lethbridge’s top returning scorer. Forward Blake Swetlikoff, a trade deadline acquisition from Spokane last January, scored 10 of his 15 regular season goals as a Hurricane.
Who’s In And Out
Lethbridge was active in the trade market over the summer and for the second time in 2023, added a forward from the Spokane Chiefs in Kooper Gizowski. The Edmonton product scored 11 goals for the Chiefs a season ago. Swedish forward Elias Knoester arrives in the Windy City after being selected in the first round of the 2023 CHL Import Draft in July, while defenceman Will Sharpe, the Hurricanes’ first-round selection in the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft, enters his 16-year-old season on a deep Lethbridge blue line. The Hurricanes’ top three scorers from 2022-23 are gone either via graduation (Cole Shepard, Jett Jones) or trade (Tyson Laventure), while goaltender Bryan Thomson graduated this past spring and signed a contract with the AHL’s Texas Stars.
NHL Draft Prospects
The Hurricanes had a pair of first-round picks in the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft and both forward Miguel Marques and defenceman Tristen Doyle enter their first season of NHL Draft eligiblity this winter. Marques led all Lethbridge rookies with 20 points a season ago, while Doyle earned an ever-more-prominent role on the Hurricanes blue line over the course of the 2022-23 campaign. Forward Trae Wilke joined Lethbridge full-time midway through the season last year and is poised to make an impact in his first full WHL campaign this winter.
HURRICANES BY THE NUMBERS (2022-23):
Team Record: 36-26-3-3 (78 points)
Division Ranking: 2nd, Central
2023 WHL Playoffs: lost First Round (Moose Jaw)
Goals For: 204 (17th)
Goals Against: 207 (6th)
PP (Overall): 19.3% (17th)
PK (Overall): 80.2% (8th)
Leading Scorers: Shepard (20-35-55), Jones (21-29-50), Laventure (22-26-48)
Leading Rookie: Marques (8-12-20)
NHL Draft: Chadwick (TOR – 2023)