Recruiting Preview: British Columbia Hockey League

(This is the first in a series of articles about the 2001 recruiting outlook)

The regular season has started in the British Columbia Hockey League, and doubtlessly dozens of NCAA recruiters are busy scouring the practices and games to get a first view this year’s top recruits.

Many of the players are already known to the scouts from their performances last season, while newcomers are getting their first chance to strut their stuff for the recruiters. For college teams, the next few weeks before the November early signing period will allow the coaches to evaluate the progress of veteran BCHLers compared to the development of BCHL rookies.

The returning veterans

Among the players already known to the scouts are a quintet of top returning forwards, David Van der Gulik, Jeff Tambellini, Gabe Gauthier, Alex Nikiforuk and Kyle Greentree, each of whom has already shown the ability to play at a top level, and has attracted quite a bit of attention.

Three members of this group hail from Chilliwack, suggesting that the Chiefs should be an offensive powerhouse this year. This includes Van der Gulik, who potted 42 goals on the way to becoming the BCHL’s rookie of the year last season, and who committed to Boston University in July. A solid winger, he has been touted by some as perhaps the BCHL’s top prospect.

Another Chief forward, Gauthier has been heralded as a star since the age of 14, and the native of Los Angeles is now in this third season in the junior loop. His vision and puck skills allow him to slow up the game in the offensive zone, and he finished as the youngest player in the BCHL’s top-10 scoring chart.

Tambellini, is a pure finesse centerman, and earned a spot on Canada’s Under-18 team, a rarity for a Junior A player. Greentree from last year’s BCHL champion, the Victoria Salsa, is a tremendous skater for his 6-foot-2 size, and has scored regularly since arriving in Victoria in the middle of the 1999-00 season. On the other end of the spectrum, Nikiforuk, from Burnaby, is an offensive waterbug at 5-8, who will miss the first part of the season recovering from a torn ACL suffered during a playoff practice. His academics have also drawn attention of a variety of Ivy League schools.

Like Van der Gulik, a number of the BCHL’s returning stars are already spoken for. Dartmouth received early commitments from a trio of BCHL forwards, Jarrett Sampson, Mike Ouellette and Darcy Marr. Nebraska-Omaha has made large inroads in the BCHL, and has already secured commitments from four youngsters: Vernon’s David Morelli, Chilliwack’s Kaleb Betts, Cowichan Valley’s Matt Ellison, and Victoria finesse defenseman Craig Zubersky.

Others headed to the CCHA are Penticton’s Matt Amado, headed toward Notre Dame, and Surrey’s Nathan Oystrick who has already committed to Northern Michigan. Vernon’s Chad Clower recently committed to Minnesota State-Mankato after coming off a promising season interrupted by a shoulder injury.

This still leaves a number of returning players available, and the next tier of prospects includes Quesnel’s Mike Kaluzny, Cowichan Valley’s Ben Nelson and Prince George’s Rod Pelley. Kaluzny earned all-rookie and second team all-star honors last season, and is a ferocious forechecker, who still averaged close to a point a game.

Nelson, from south of the border in Spokane, Wash., netted 25 goals as a freshman, while Pelley is the youngest of the group. Although his rookie scoring totals were modest, he participated with Team Pacific in the Under-17 tournament last winter, and will be called upon to fill the offensive losses in the Prince George lineup.

Two other members of the Team Pacific, Ben Walter and Brian Harris, look to make some noise. Walter, son of former NHLer Ryan Walter (who, as a side-note, earned 1978 WHL Player-of-the-Year honors over Jeff Tambellini’s dad, Steve) brings his dad’s character to the game. Harris was relegated to a supporting role behind a potent Surrey attack, and now becomes a top dog at Trail.

Another player to watch is Surrey’s slight playmaking center Dustin Hughes, who set Manitoba Midget league records for assists and points in 1999-00, and debuted with a modest 35 point season with Surrey. Left wing Brent Shepheard of Nanaimo nearly eclipsed the 30-goal plateau as an 18-year old, and should easily break that barrier this year. Chilliwack’s center Matt Gibbons tends to get overlooked in the powerful Chilliwack offense, but always finds a way to contribute.

The run-and-gun BCHL is generally not known for its defense, but a couple of defenders stand out. Second-year defender Oystrick turned down overtures to play major junior hockey for his hometown Regina Pats, and should be among the BCHL’s top rearguards. For those looking for offensive jump, there is Penticton defenseman Kyle Hood, who has drawn the most interest. He should begin to showcase his offense skill he previewed last year playing in Duncan Keith’s shadow.

Also pushing for consideration are Vernon’s Brad Farynuk, already committed to RPI, and Zubersky, already headed to Nebraska-Omaha. Other youngsters hoping to crack the BCHL list are Langley’s Brandon Gawryletz, traded during the offseason from Trail to Langley, and has good natural ability, Ross Goff, who is bouncing back from a knee injury, and Trail’s Tyler Gow.

The league newcomers

The BCHL is traditionally a favorite recruiting front for most NCAA schools, and that reputation means the league usually draws several players who earn scholarships in their first year. This year is no exception, as a group of touted midget stars dot the rosters of several BCHL teams, and training camp allows the recruiters their first glimpse of these players and to gauge and their ability to make the jump.

This year’s crop of Saskatchewan Midget League stars migrating to the BCHL includes Penticton’s Tanner Glass (6th in SMHL scoring), Kurtis Peterson (10th in SMHL scoring), and Derek Gallagher; Salmon Arm’s Josh Cudmore (7th in SMHL scoring); Burnaby’s Jamie Jeanotte (9th in SMHL Scoring); Trail’s Brent Gardipy (SMHL top scoring defenseman), and Surrey’s leftwingers Grant Selinger and Chad Richardson, each of whom hopes to follow the path of last year’s Saskatchewan imports Brendan Bernakevich (Harvard), Tyson Teplitsky (UNH), Ryan MacMurchy (Wisconsin), Sampson (Dartmouth) and Oystrick (Northern Michigan) who earned NCAA scholarships.

From the Alberta Midget League come scorers Jordan Courtepatte (9th in AMHL scoring, now at Burnaby) and Josh Weeks (now at Powell River), both of whom should garner NCAA scrutiny. From eastern Canada, the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia midget team that participated in the Canadian National Midget finals last season sent Nick Binder, a right winger to Vernon and Mark Carberry, Binder’s small darting center, to Quesnel.

From within British Columbia, the expansion Coquitlam Express added 17-year old Brett Hemingway, who showed his offensive touch by notching three assists in his first game, while Trail features Mick Lawrence, a tough right winger with good scoring touch. Other newcomers on defense that bear watching are Salmon Arm’s Cody Bostock, a steady performer who joined Harris, Tambellini, Pelley and Walter on 2001 Team Pacific and Vernon’s Matt Waddell, a taller, physical defenseman.

Each of the above listed newcomers have strong credentials from their respective leagues, suggesting that they may attract a significant amount of NCAA scholarship attention over the next few years.

Finally, a different type of newcomer — one taking a year off from college — is Myles Kuharski who is poised to put up big numbers with Nanaimo after a freshman year at Lake Superior.

In goal, Trail’s Isaac Reichsmuth is the early leader among the BCHL veterans, while Penticton’s rookie Matt Zaba (SMHL 1st team all-star) steps into the number one role.


(Chris Heisenberg runs the most authoritative recruiting page on the Web.)