Interesting summer ahead in the SJHL

Lucas Punkari

As the Chilliwack Chiefs continute to celebrate their unlikely run to the RBC Cup championship earlier this month, every other Junior A franchise is ploting their course to reaching the 2019 event in Brooks, Alta.

For the 12 teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, their off-season moves will kick into high gear Friday as players from the province born in 2003 will be selected in the league’s annual bantam draft.

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While those players are years away from joining the SJHL, and that’s if they don’t make the jump to the Western Hockey League or ply their trade in the British Columbia Hockey League ala Harrison Blaisdell and Luke Reid, moves that have more of an immediate affect will be taking place over the next few weeks.

Naturally, the question on everyone’s mind is what  will happen with the Humboldt Broncos as the franchise rebuilds from the ground up following April’s tragic bus accident.

The team held a spring camp in Saskatoon this past weekend, which saw Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss Mike Babcock lead some of the practices and a few prospects being signed along the way.

The process of hiring a new head coach and general manager is still ongoing, along with adding veteran players to the roster, but the sense of some form of normalcy is starting to begin with the Broncos.

Two of their division rivals are also looking for new bench bosses.

As seems to be a summer tradition the Battlefords North Stars are looking for their fourth head coach and general manager in as many seasons after the team parted ways with Brandon Heck in April.

Meanwhile, the Notre Dame Hounds are looking to replace the hole left by the departure of Clint Mylymok, who is now in charge of the expansion Maryland Black Bears of the North American Hockey League.

As for the Kindersley Klippers, it only took them two days to find a new head coach and general manager after they announced last Wednesday that Geoff Grimwood was leaving the team.

Clayton Jardine, who was an assistant coach with the Klippers during the 2015-16 campaign, will be taking over behind the bench after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the New England College Pilgrims in the NCAA Division III ranks.

At 27 years of age, Jardine will be the youngest bench boss in the SJHL coming into next season, as Devin Windle of the Melville Millionaires and Mat Hehr of the Yorkton Terriers are both three years older than he is. 

Wth all of the coaching changes taking place, along wth player transactions about to resume, I can safely say at this point in time that there’s not real clear favourite for the Canalta Cup.

Firstly, the Broncos are a complete unknown quantity and it’s not fair to put any expectations on them as they go through what will be an emotitional campaign.

Teams like the La Ronge Ice Wolves and the Terriers have pieces, but they are still in a rebuild stage, while the Estevan Bruins and Nipawin Hawks are losing big weapons after their runs to the final.

Offensively, the North Stars have the fire power to contend, but there are holes to fill on the blueline and who exactly will start in goal remains to be seen.

It’s the total opposite for their archrivals in Kindersley. They have a solid defence and a top goaltender in Justen Close, but where are they getting the goals from?

At this point, you can make a legit case for the Flin Flon Bombers, Melfort Mustangs, Melville Millionaires, Weyburn Red Wings and the Hounds as being title threats.

Get ready SJHL fans, it’s going to be a wild ride. 

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