F Josh Holden (Regina, 1994-98) has retired from playing and signed a one-year contract as assistant coach with Zug (Switzerland, NL A). He will also be development coach for Zug Academy (NL B) and Zug U20 (Elite Junior A). This season, he had two goals and three assists in 19 games with Zug, and had nine goals and 19 assists in 31 games with Zug Academy, where he was team captain. . . . According to the Zug news release, Holden “has been living with his family in the canton of Zug for 10 years and is likely to receive the Swiss passport soon.” . . .
F Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current, 2016-18) signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Swift Current, he had 28 goals and a WHL-leading 90 assists in 57 games.
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The Edmonton Oil Kings will have at least three new faces in their hockey operations department when another season rolls around.
The Oil Kings will have a new general manager after revealing on Monday that Randy Hansch is joining an as-yet-unnamed NHL team as an amateur scout.
At the same time, the Oil Kings announced that they have fired head coach Steve Hamilton, who had been in the organization for eight seasons, while assistant coach Ryan Marsh’s contract won’t be renewed. Marsh had been in that position through four seasons.
The decisions were announced by Peter Chiarelli, the president of hockey operations and general manager of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, who own the WHL franchise.
Hamilton, 44, spent four seasons as an assistant coach under head coach Derek Laxdal, then was head coach for four seasons. Hamilton took over from Hamilton when the latter joined the AHL’s Texas Stars as head coach.
Under Laxdal, the Oil Kings won two WHL titles and a Memorial Cup championship. Under Hamilton, the Oil Kings went 108-152-28, missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
This season, the Oil Kings had the WHL’s poorest record — 22-42-8.
Hansch, 52, had been with the Oil Kings since 2007-08, working the past five seasons as general manager. Prior to that, he was the director of player personnel and assistant general manager.
There has been speculation since the WHL bantam draft on May 3 that Kirt Hill, a former WHL player who spent this season as an amateur scout with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, will be joining the Oil Kings as director of hockey operations.
Hill played in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and Regina Pats (2004-08). He joined the WHL office as manager of player development during the 2013-14 season, then left to work for the Blackhawks prior to this season.
Derek Van Diest of Postmedia has more on the Oil Kings right here in a piece that includes some good quotes from Hansch.
There now are four WHL teams in need of a head coach.
The Oil Kings, of course, need one, having fired Steve Hamilton on Monday after he spent four seasons in that role.
Also needing a head coach are the Kamloops Blazers, Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos.
The Blazers are looking for a replacement for Don Hay, who has moved into an advisory role after four seasons as head coach. However, Hay, 64, has said he wants to continue coaching and you would think he would at least get some consideration in Edmonton. Hay has more regular-season and playoff victories than anyone in WHL history.
Saskatoon needs a head coach after firing Dean Brockman following the end of its season.
Swift Current, which won the WHL championship, has to replace Manny Viveiros, who left the Broncos on Friday and now is an assistant coach with the Oilers.
When it comes to general managers, there are three teams looking to hire.
The Oil Kings are looking for a replacement for Randy Hansch after Monday’s announcement.
Also in the market are the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars. The Blazers announced earlier this month that Stu MacGregor had been reassigned to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars — Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi is the majority owner of the Blazers — while the Cougars parted company with Todd Harkins after their season ended.
The general manager in Prince George will inherit a head coach, Richard Matvichuk, who is going into the final season of his contract.
The Vancouver Giants already have a new general manager, having hired Barclay Parneta earlier this month. He replaces Glen Hanlon, who left the team after two seasons in that role.
If you aren’t already, you really should be paying attention to TSN where, led by Rick Westhead’s reporting, it is putting a spotlight on the NHL and head injuries. . . . It all has to do with the concussion-related lawsuit filed by a number of players against the NHL in 2013. It is mind-numbing to watch NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at his condescending best, and to read about some NHL owners denying having ever heard of CTE. . . . This is important to junior hockey fans, and owner/operators, too, because sooner or later a connection is going to be made, if it hasn’t already, between former professional players who are showing signs of CTE and head injuries they incurred in junior hockey. . . . The first of TSN’s five-part series is right here. There is video and a story by Westhead.
F Aleksi Heponiemi won’t be back for a third season with the WHL-champion Swift Current Broncos. The 19-year-old Finnish sensation has signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu of the top pro league in Finland. . . . This season, Heponiemi had 118 points, including 90 assists, in 57 regular-season games with the Broncos. Last season, as a freshman, he had 28 goals and 58 assists in 72 games. . . . In 2016-17, he was named the WHL’s rookie of the year after leading all freshmen in assists and points. This season, he led the WHL in assists and was named a first-team all-star. He also was named the CHL’s most sportsmanlike player. . . . Heponiemi was selected by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . The Broncos’ other import player is Russian D Artyom Minulin, who is eligible to return for his 20-year-old season.
Back in the day, the Kamloops Blazers were a major junior dynasty, something that was defined by their three Memorial Cup titles in four years (1992, 1994, 1995). The architect of all that was Bob Brown, who was fired as general manager a couple of weeks after the third title as the organization chose to go in a different direction. The Blazers, of course, haven’t come close to that kind of success since then, but what is Brown up to these days? . . . Tom Zillich of the Surrey Now-Leader checks in with Brown right here.
Here’s a thought . . . Zillich reports that Brown’s scouting contract with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers is about to expire. As well, Ken Hitchcock, who had considerable success as the Blazers’ head coach back in the day, doesn’t have a coaching job these days; he has moved into an advisory role with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . So you don’t suppose . . . Nah. Never happen.
The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Colton Dach, who was the sixth overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., he is the younger brother of Blades F Kirby Dach, who was the second overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . This season, Colton had 22 goals and 47 assists in 30 games with the OHA Edmonton bantam prep team.
The Kootenay Ice has signed three of its selections from the 2018 WHL bantam draft — D Carson Lambos, D Karter Prosofsky and F Skyler Bruce. . . . Lambos, from Winnipeg, was taken second overall. He had 15 goals and 25 assists in 30 games with the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy Nationals bantam prep team. He was named the CSSHL bantam league’s top defenceman. . . . Prosofsky and Bruce were second-round selections. . . . Prosofsky, from Saskatoon, had eight goals and 10 assists in 24 games with the Victoria-based Pacific Coast Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . Bruce, from Winnipeg, also played at the Rink Hockey Academy. He had 21 goals and 19 assists in 30 games with the bantam prep team.
The WHL’s 22 teams now have signed nine of the first-round selections from the 2018 bantam draft.
The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed F Dylan Guenther, the first overall selection, while the Ice (Lambos), Prince Albert Raiders (3. D Nolan Allan), Calgary Hitmen (4. F Sean Tschigerl), Saskatoon Blades (6. F Colton Dach), Lethbridge Hurricanes (8. F Zack Stringer), Tri-City Americans (14. D Marc Lajoie), Spokane Chiefs (17. D Graham Sward), and Edmonton (20. D Keegan Slaney),
The teams that have yet to sign their first-round selections are the Kamloops Blazers (5. F Logan Stankoven), Red Deer Rebels (7. F Jayden Grubbe), Prince George Cougars (9. F Craig Armstrong), Seattle Thunderbirds (10. F Kai Uchacz), Medicine Hat Tigers (11. F Cole Sillinger), Vancouver Giants (12. F Zack Ostapchuk), Victoria Royals (13. D Nolan Bentham), Brandon Wheat Kings (15. F Jake Chiasson), Red Deer (16. D Kyle Masters), Kelowna Rockets (18. F Trevor Wong), Portland Winterhawks (19. F Gabe Klassen), Prince George (21. G Tyler Brennan), and Moose Jaw Warriors (22. F Eric Alarie).
A tip of the Taking Note cap to the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves for hiring Mike Commito to fill the newly created position of team historian. . . . This is great news for a part of the hockey world whose history often is shoved into the shadows and forgotten. . . . “In anticipation of the Wolves 50th anniversary in the 2022 season,” the team noted in a news release, “the organization has created a new role to help capture the stories and memories that shape the rich Wolves’ hockey tradition. From players and coaches, to fans and billet families, there are amazing stories that weave throughout the decades and who better to capture those stories than the team’s very first historian.” . . . That news release is right here.