WHL asks players to opt out of lawsuit. . . . Yes, Matvichuk wants to keep coaching. . . . Blades sign three 2019 draft picks

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D Nick Ross (Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, 2004-09) has signed a one-year contract with Jegesmedvék Miskolc (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). This season, with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had nine goals and 31 assists in 52 games. He was second on the team in assists. . . .

F Dalibor Bortňák (Kamloops, 2008-11) has signed a one-year contract with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, with Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 10 goals and 21 assists in 54 games. . . .

F Parker Bowles (Tri-City, 2011-16) has signed a one-year contract with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Lillehammer (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he had 20 goals and 25 assists in 48 games. . . .

F Gilbert Brulé (Vancouver, 2002-06) has signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). This season, with Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia, KHL), he had seven goals and 15 assists in 30 games. . . .

D Clint Filbrandt (Tri-City, Kootenay, 2012-14) has signed a one-year contract with DEAC Debrecen (Hungary, Erste Liga). This season, with U of Lethbridge (USports, Canada West), he had two goals and five assists in 25 games. . . .

F Calder Brooks (Calgary, Prince Albert, Spokane, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with Lyon (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with St. Mary’s U (USports, Atlantic University Sport), he had six goals and 15 assists in 29 games. He also had three goals and one assist in three games with the Wichita Thunder (ECHL). . . .

F Danis Zaripov (Swift Current, 1998-99) has signed a one-year contract extension with Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL). This season, he had nine goals and 23 assists in 48 games. He was third on his team in points. . . .

F Milan Jurík (Prince Albert, 2006-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Mulhouse (France, Ligue Magnus). An alternate captain, he had six goals and 17 assists in 42 games this season. . . .

F Brendan Shinnimin (Tri-City, 2007-12) has signed a two-year contract extension with Växjö Lakers (Sweden, SHL). This season, he had 17 goals and 16 assists in 47 games. He tied for the team lead in goals and points. . . .

F Marek Kalus (Spokane, Brandon, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. He led the team in goals and points.


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Rick Westhead, TSN’s senior correspondent, reported Tuesday that the WHL “is asking current and former players to opt out of a class-action minimum-wage lawsuit against the league, suggesting that the future of amateur sports in Canada is at risk. The WHL shared its message in an e-bulletin that was sent Tuesday by email to a distribution list that includes current and former players. The group email was obtained by TSN.” . . . Westhead’s complete story is right here.


It began with a report in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that had Richard Matvichuk, the former head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, as a candidate for the head-coaching position with the ECHL’s Komets.

Matvichuk wasn’t the favourite, reported Justin A. Cohn, but he was believed to be in the chase.

Then came a rumour that, no, Matvichuk didn’t want to coach, and that he would stay in Prince George and get involved with minor hockey.

Well, it turns out that Matvichuk, a 46-year-old native of Edmonton, isn’t through with coaching. At least, he hopes he isn’t.

As he told Taking Note: “Yes, I want to coach.”

And why shouldn’t he?

A defenceman, Matvichuk played three seasons (1989-92) with the Saskatoon Blades before going on to a professional career that included 796 regular-season NHL games and another 123 in the playoffs. His name is on the Stanley Cup (Dallas Stars, 1998-99).

His coaching career includes two seasons as assistant GM/assistant coach with the Texas-based Allen Americans, who then were in the CHL. He then spent two seasons (2014-16) as director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. He was the ECHL’s coach of the year in the second of those seasons.

Matvichuk brought that track record to the Cougars, and he guided them to first place in the B.C. Division with a franchise-record 45 victories in his first season. That marked the first time the franchise had won a WHL banner.

But the Cougars went all-in that season, then were upset in six games by the Portland Winterhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The Cougars spent the past two seasons trying to get back on track, as often happens to teams that try to seize the moment by going all-in.

General manager Mark Lamb, who was nearing the end of his first season with the Cougars, fired Matvichuk with 16 games remaining this season. Matvichuk’s three-year contract was to have expired following the season.

At the time, the Cougars were 16-30-6 and on an 11-game losing skid. Lamb stepped in as head coach and the slump reached a franchise-record 17 games before it finally ended. The Cougars went 3-11-2 under Lamb to finish at 19-41-8 and out of the playoffs.

During the season, the Cougars’ ownership, having surveyed the damage, reached the conclusion that it would never again go all-in, that the price to be paid just isn’t worth it because, as they found out, there aren’t any guarantees.

It also has to be pointed out that the Cougars’ 2018-19 season, at least in terms of grabbing a playoff spot, was done in by perhaps the worst stretch of scheduling in WHL history.

The Cougars were 11-14-3 in December when they headed into an absolutely bizarre 11-game road trip that was broken up by the Christmas break and included three separate treks into the U.S. Division.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote in February:
“If you’re wondering why things went south in Prince George this season, it may have had something to do with the schedule. As bad as 16-30-6 may sound now, the Cougars were 11-14-3 as they began an insane 11-game road trip that was interrupted by the Christmas break and included three separate jaunts into the U.S. Division. They went 3-8-0 on that trip, came home and beat Kelowna twice, and are 0-8-3 since those victories.

“Team management has since gone on the record as saying it will never again accept such goofy scheduling.”

The Cougars split with the visiting Victoria Royals on Dec. 1 and 2, then didn’t play at home again until Jan. 11 and 12 when they swept Kelowna.

It’s no wonder that Matvichuk doesn’t feel that he is done with coaching.


The WHL will have three of its coaches working benches during the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in November. . . . Michael Dyck, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants, has been named by Hockey Canada as head coach of Team Canada White. . . . Ryan Marsh, the associate coach with the Saskatoon Blades, will be an assistant coach alongside Dyck. . . . Steve O’Rourke, an assistant coach with the Prince George Cougars, is to be an assistant coach on Team Canada Red. . . . The tournament is to be held in Medicine Hat and Swift Current, Nov. 2-9.


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The Saskatoon Blades have signed three 2019 bantam draft selections to WHL contracts. . . . F Brandon Lisowsky, from Coquitlam, B.C., was taken in the first round, ninth overall. He is the eighth of the 22 first-round selections to sign a WHL contract. This season, Lisowsky had 61 goals and 48 assists in 53 games with the Burnaby Winter Club’s bantam prep team. . . . F Hayden Smith, from Kamloops, was selected in the second round. He had 24 goals and 23 assists in 30 games with the Yale Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . G Ethan Chadwick, from Saskatoon, was a third-round pick. He had a 2.83 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 22 games with the bantam AA Saskatoon Stallions.

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The Regina Pats have signed D Layton Feist to a WHL contract. Feist, from Coldstream, B.C., was selected in the first round, 17th overall, of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. This season, he had eight goals and 14 assists in 20 games with the OMAHA (Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association) North Zone Kings. . . . His older brother, Tyson, is a defenceman with the Pats.

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The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed F Brayden Boehm to a WHL contract.  He was a second-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . From Nanaimo, he had 16 goals and 24 in 30 games with the Delta Hockey Academy’s prep green team this season.

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The Swift Current Broncos have signed F Caleb Wyrostok to a WHL contract. From Medicine Hat, he was a ninth-round selection by the Broncos in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . Wyrostok, 16, played this season for the Northern Alberta X-Treme elite 15 team, putting up 20 goals and 15 assists in 30 games.


The MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders have signed Geoff Grimwood as their new general manager and head coach. Grimwood, from Victoria, spent 2018-19 as the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. Prior to that, he was the GM and head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for three seasons.


Bob Beatty, a veteran junior A coach, has signed on with the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons as an associate coach. For the past two seasons, Beatty has been the head coach of the bantam prep team at the Shawnigan Lake, B.C., School. In Fort McMurray, Beatty will be working alongside Dave Dupas, who is preparing for his first season as general manager and head coach.


Pierre-Paul Lamoureux is the new head coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force. A native of Grand Forks, N.D., he played three seasons (2004-07) with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and worked as their associate coach in 2016-17. Lamoureux was the Force’s associate head coach for the past two seasons. . . . Lamoureux, 31, will be the youngest head coach in the league. He takes over from Cary Eades, who stays on as general manager and president of hockey operations.


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Royals get goalie from Portland. . . . More bantam draft odds and ends. . . . McCrimmon an NHL GM and a Hall of Famer


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Part II: More trades and odds and ends from the WHL’s bantam draft. . . .

The Portland Winterhawks appeared to clear up a logjam at the goaltender position, Portlandwhile the Victoria Royals have begun life after Griffen Outhouse. . . . The Winterhawks dealt G Shane Farkas, who is to turn 20 on Dec. 1, and a 2019 fifth-round bantam draft pick to the Royals for a fourth-round pick in 2019 and a conditional selection that could end up being in the fourth round in 2020. . . . The 2019 fourth-rounder that the Winterhawks acquired actually originated with them; it went to Victoria in a deal for D Jared Freadrich last summer. . . . The deal leaves Portland with five 20-year-olds on its roster, with F Lane Gilliss, F Jake Gricius, F Josh Paterson and D Matthew Quigley the others. . . .

Farkas, from Penticton, B.C., appeared in 84 games over three seasons with Portland. VictoriaRoyalsThis season, he finished 30-12-6, 2.71, .906 in 50 regular-season appearances. . . . His departure leaves the Winterhawks’ depth chart with Joel Hofer, who will be 19 on July 30, and Dante Giannuzzi, who is to turn 17 on Sept. 3, at the top of the goaltending section. . . .

Outhouse, who was so outstanding in goal for the Royals, has completed his junior eligibility. Farkas and sophomore Brock Gould, 18, are one-two on the Royals’ depth chart, at least for now. . . . The Royals now have six 20-year-olds on their roster — Farkas, F D-Jay Jerome, Belarusian F Igor Martynov, F Tanner Sidaway, D Jameson Murray and D Jake Kustra.


The Swift Current Broncos have acquired D Wyatt Wilson from the Lethbridge SCBroncosHurricanes for F Alex Thacker. . . . Wilson, from Swift Current, will turn 16 on Oct. 11. He was a sixth-round pick by Lethbridge in the 2018 bantam draft. This season, he had six goals and 17 assists in 36 games with the elite 15s at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C. . . . Thacker, 17, is from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. This season, he had 10 goals and 27 assists in 34 games as he captained the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan Rangers. He also had one assist in four games with the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines, and was pointless in two games with Swift Current. The Broncos had selected him in the sixth round of the 2017 bantam draft.


Lethbridge also made a deal with the Prince George Cougars, landing D Tyson Phare in LethbridgePrinceGeorgeexchange for F Fischer O’Brien. . . . Phare, 17, was the 18th-overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft. From Maple Ridge, B.C., he was pointless in 14 games with the Cougars this season. He also had a goal and nine assists in eight games with the prep team at the Delta Hockey Academy, and was pointless in two games with the junior B Ridge Meadow Flames. . . . O’Brien, 16, is from Prince George. Lethbridge picked him in the fifth round of the 2018 bantam draft. Fischer had two goals and five assists in 40 games with the Cariboo Cougars, who won the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League title. His brother, Brogan, played three seasons (2015-18) with the WHL’s Cougars and now is at Carleton U in Ottawa.


JUST NOTES: The Portland Winterhawks selected F Marek Hejduk in the ninth round. He played this season with the bantam AAA Colorado Thunderbirds, scoring seven goals and adding nine assists in 13 games. . . . Six picks later, the Everett Silvertips grabbed D David Hejduk, Marek’s twin brother. David had one goal and one assists in 13 games with the Thunderbirds. . . . They are the sons of former NHL F Milan Hejduk. . . .

In the 10th round, the Edmonton Oil Kings landed F Cade Littler of East Wenatchee, Wash. He played this season with the bantam AAA San Jose Jr. Sharks. His father, Bliss, is a long-time junior coach. He has been with the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild for seven seasons, the last six as general manager and head coach. . . .

In the fourth round, the Seattle Thunderbirds took F Connor Gourley of Calgary. He had 36 goals and 39 assists in 33 games with the bantam AAA Calgary Bisons. His brother Jarrod, who will turn 20 on June 29, was a third-round pick by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2014 bantam draft. A defenceman, he chose to go to Arizona State U where he just completed his first season with the Sun Devils. . . .

The Medicine Hat Tigers, picking 12th overall, took F Oasis Wiesblatt of Calgary. He had 19 goals and 36 assists in 28 games with the bantam AAA Calgary Bisons. . . . His brother Orca, who will turn 19 on June 2, got into 12 games with the Calgary Hitmen this season, after playing 49 with them last season. He now is with the MJHL-champion Portage Terriers. . . . Another brother, 20-year-old Ocean, also is with the Terriers, while Ozzy, 17, is in his first season with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. . . . Google is your friend, so search out a story on the boys and their mother, who is deaf and a really wonderful story. . . .

The Hitmen selected F Mason Finley of Kelowna in the fifth round. His brother, Jack, just finished his freshman season with the Spokane Chiefs. Their father, Jeff, played three seasons (1984-87) with the Portland Winterhawks and now is in his 10th season as a scout with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, the last six as the team’s chief amateur scout. . . .

The Victoria Royals landed twin brothers who just happen to be from, yes, Victoria. . . . They took D Jason Spizawka with the 19th-overall selection then added his twin, Ryan, in the seventh round. . . . Both boys played at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., this season. . . .

The Regina Pats picked D Layton Feist with the draft’s 17th-overall selection. From Dawson Creek, B.C., he is the younger brother of Pats D Tyson Feist. . . .

In the second round, the Prince Albert Raiders took D Graydon Gotaas, who is from Camrose, Alta., and played this season with the bantam AAA Sherwood Park, Alta., Flyers. . . . His uncle, Steve Gotaas, played four seasons (1983-87) with the Raiders. . . .

If you know of any other hockey bloodlines from the draft or have any tidbits you would like to share, email Taking Note at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.


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Kelly McCrimmon, who owns the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, will take over as general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on Sept. 1. That means that McCrimmon, who has been the Golden Knights’ assistant GM, won’t be going to Edmonton, where the Oilers had an interest in him, or to the expansion franchise in Seattle, which also is believed to have bene interested in his services.

Meanwhile, McCrimmon also found out on Thursday that he will be part of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2019. . . . McCrimmon has served the Wheat Kings as a player, coach, general manager, owner and governor. . . . Going into the hall this year as players will be Bob Fitchner, Trevor Kidd, Marty Murray and Terry Yake, all of whom played for the Wheat Kings, along with Larry Bolonchuk and Susanna Yuen. . . . Builders to be inducted are McCrimmon and Barry Shenkarow. . . . Rob Haithwaite will go into the officials section, while the media wing will welcome Bob Holliday. . . . The 1957-58 St. Boniface Canadians, 1965-66 Flin Flon Warriors and 1972-73 St. Boniface Mohawks will be inducted in the team category. . . . Going into the veterans’ category will be Johnny Sheppard as a player and the 1929 Elmwood Millionaires. . . . The inductions will take place at Canad Inns Polo Park in Winnipeg on Oct. 5. . . . Bios of the inductees are available right here.


The BCHL’s Merritt Centennials made it official Thursday — they have signed Barry Wolff as their new general manager and head coach. Wolff, who spent this season as GM/head coach with the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders, will replace Joe Martin, who now is the GM/head coach of the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs. . . . With Wolff behind the bench, the Stampeders lost the MJHL final to the Portage Terriers, dropping Game 7 in OT.


Eric Ditto has been the head coach of the junior B Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey League for four seasons. Now he also is the general manager. The Chiefs won 38 games this season as they set a PJHL single-season record with 77 points in a 40-game schedule. Ditto takes over as GM from Ryan Marushak, who had been in that position for four seasons.


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