2023-24 Season Preview – Wenatchee Wild
WHL hockey arrives in the Wenatchee Valley this fall as the Wild begin their inaugural season in the U.S. Division. The franchise enters a new phase in its history after relocating from Winnipeg this past June and promises to deliver an exciting brand of hockey to its new fanbase this winter. Armed with NHL prospects including Sabres first-rounder Zach Benson, the Wild will try to hit the ground running after last season’s core came within three wins of a WHL Championship.
Wenatchee’s roster could feature as many as three first-round NHL draft picks with Benson, Conor Geekie and Matthew Savoie all eligible to return from their NHL Clubs. Benson and Savoie combined for over 190 points last season as linemates in Winnipeg while Geekie has averaged more than a point per game over his WHL career. The trio is accompanied by a solid supporting cast that includes the likes of forward Evan Friesen, along with veteran defenders Graham Sward and Karter Prosofsky. Goaltender Daniel Hauser won 37 games a season ago and carried the mail through his second lengthy WHL post-season run last spring.
Who’s In And Out
Wild general manager Bliss Littler had a quick introduction to his new role in the WHL, but early returns seem positive, especially during the 2023 CHL Import Draft in July. Japanese forward Kenta Isogai joins from Youngstown of the USHL, while fellow forward Rodzers Bukarts has a family history in the WHL (his older brother, Rihards, played for both Brandon and Portland). Wenatchee added veteran forwards Dawson Seitz and Gabe Ludwig from Edmonton and Prince Albert, respectively; the pair were opponents during the 2022 WHL Championship Series, when Seitz’s Oil Kings got the better of Ludwig’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
NHL Draft Prospects
Winnipeg iced a veteran squad a season ago, and along with the passage of time and the changing from postal to zip code comes the opportunity for a new generation of players to make their mark. Forward Miles Cooper and defenceman Landon Young were call-ups a season ago, while forward Luka Shcherbyna arrives from Spokane after a pre-training camp trade. Defenceman Jonas Woo is the most experienced of Wenatchee’s 2006-born players, leading the ICE in rookie scoring last winter, but his late birthday means his NHL Draft eligiblity does not take effect until 2025.
WILD BY THE NUMBERS (2022-23 – as Winnipeg ICE):
Team Record: 57-10-1-0 (115 points)
Division Ranking: 1st, East
2023 WHL Playoffs: lost WHL Championship (Seattle)
Goals For: 325 (1st)
Goals Against: 177 (3rd)
PP (Overall): 23.8% (8th)
PK (Overall): 80.5% (6th)
Leading Scorers: Benson (36-62-98), Savoie (38-57-95), McClennon (46-46-92)
Leading Rookie: Woo (2-19-21)
NHL Draft: Beaupit (SJ – 2022), Benson (BUF – 2023), Geekie (ARZ – 2022), Savoie (BUF – 2022), Sward (NSH – 2022)