Thursday, 18 December 2014

Wheat Kings' Notebook

Ivan Provorov (left) and Ryan Pilon are headed to the CHL Top Prospects Game
  The 40 players that'll participate in the Canadian Hockey League's Top Prospects Game were announced on Wednesday, with two members of the Brandon Wheat Kings making the grade.

  Ivan Provorov and Ryan Pilon will be headed to St. Catherines, Ontario for the January 22nd contest.

  Whether by design or not, the duo will both play for Team Orr, which will give the coaching staff the clear opportunity to play them together as a defence pair, just as they've been throughout the season with the Wheat Kings.

  As I expected, Provorov has been sky-rocketing up a lot of rankings for the 2015 NHL Draft after an impressive first half that sees him be second in defencemen scoring and tops in rookie scoring in the WHL with 10 goals and 37 points.

  The 6-foot-0, 200 pound Provorov is now seen by most as a potential Top-10 pick after being ranked in the 20's initially this season.

  Pilon is seen as a Top-50 pick, something that could change with a strong second half.

  The 6-foot-2, 212 pound Pilon has six goals and 27 points in 31 games this season and seemed to finish the first half strongly after initially taking what looked to be a step back after returning from an injury that caused him to miss four games in late October and early November.

  Provorov is also with the Russian team at their training camp in advance of the World Junior Hockey Championship and is a candidate to play at the 2015 tournament when it opens on Boxing Day.

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Jarrod Gourley is one of seven Wheat Kings' prospects
that'll play at the 2015 Canada Winter Games

  The Brandon Wheat Kings will have seven prospects play at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George in February.

  Hockey Manitoba finally finalized their roster on Thursday, with first overall pick Stelio Mattheos, fifth round pick Connor Gutenberg and sixth round pick James McIsaac all making the grade.

  Mattheos is currently sidelined with an apparent hip injury and didn't participate in the Shattuck-St. Mary's Jamboree Tournament with Team Manitoba this past weekend.

  He's currently got 12 goals and 21 points in 22 games with the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League's Winnipeg Wild this season.

  Gutenberg has 14 goals and 26 points in 23 games with his hometown Brandon AAA Midget Wheat Kings while McIsaac has six goals and 12 points in 22 games with the Winnipeg AAA Midget Thrashers.

  Fifth round pick, goaltender Hunter Arps, will play for Team Saskatchewan at the Games while defencemen Ian Mitchell and Jarrod Gourley and forward Jeremy Klessens will play for Team Alberta.

  Mitchell, Gourley and Klessens were Brandon's second, third and fourth round picks respectively in the 2014 Bantam Draft.
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  A fantastic first half for Wheat Kings' centre Tim McGauley, who enters the WHL's Christmas break as one of only six players in the league with 20 or more goals this season.

  McGauley's 22 goals have him tied for 4th in the WHL

  "I think I'm playing the same way I have the last couple of years, just maybe driving the net a little more, shooting the puck a little more here and there," said McGauley in an interview that aired during our Wheat Kings' broadcast on Tuesday, "I've been playing the right way and the bounces have been going my way, really.  I've been playing defence first and focusing on that, and it's been leading to offence for me.  It's been working for me, obviously."

  McGauley is in the Top-10 in several offensive categories including points (44, tied for 7th), game-winning goals (6, 2nd), shorthanded goals (3, tied for 3rd), first goals (4, tied for 8th) and overtime goals (2, tied for 1st).

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  The Wheat Kings finished the first half of the season with a 24-7-3-1 record for 52 points, two points ahead of second-place Medicine Hat in the Eastern Conference standings and ten points ahead of second-place Regina in the East Division standings.

  Overall, the club has to be happy with where they sit at the Christmas break but, as I've talked about a few times on our broadcasts, there are still some intangibles the team needs to become better at to become an elite team.

  Tuesday's game against Regina was a perfect example, as the club came off back-to-back great efforts against Swift Current and Red Deer and then threw out an absolute dud against the Pats.

  With Brandon's success, it's easy to forget they are still the third-youngest team in the WHL and a lot of their players are still developing.

  There are some things championship-calibre teams do to become championship-calibre teams, and it's some of those things, the intangibles, the Wheat Kings are still trying to work out.

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  The countdown is on to the Western Hockey League trade deadline on January 10th, but I'll be surprised if the Wheat Kings make a major move.

  Something in terms of a smaller move, perhaps to fill their open 20-year old spot, would be something I would expect.

  Scanning the other teams in the WHL, here are three players that I might target at the deadline.

  Saskatoon's Brett Stovin, Prince George's Chance Braid and Seattle's Justin Hickman are all players I believe would add an element or grit and toughness to the squad for the second half and the playoffs.

  Time will tell if there's a match for the Wheat Kings with those three teams, or anyone else for that matter.

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