August 25, 2017
by Ted Clarke, Prince George Citizen
Adam Maglio’s initiation as a B.C. Hockey League head coach is about to begin.
The 31-year-old native of Nelson has had four months to get used to the fact he will be calling the shots behind the Prince George Spruce Kings bench since Chad Van Diemen stepped down in April for family reasons.
Maglio served the previous two years as an assistant coach for the Spruce Kings and he’s inherited a team that was left with some huge holes to fill, especially on the defensive side of the ice.
His only other head coaching experience came three seasons ago when he took over an academy program while playing senior hockey in Hong Kong. Now he’s in charge of a junior A team that has just six returning regulars.
Maglio and his assistant coach, former BCHL goalie Alex Evin (Powell River, Williams Lake, Penticton), got their first real look at the team on Friday when training camp scrimmages began at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
“I like our group so far, we had three days (on the ice) just with our returning and committed guys Monday to Wednesday and I thought the group gelled quickly,” said Maglio, a former CIS assistant coach with the UBC Thunderbirds, where he played two seasons as a defenceman/forward from 2010-13.
“We have some high-character guys and that’s really important to me. The 20-year-olds we’re losing on D (Tyler Anderson, Adam Burnett, Connor Russell) were real contributors and a big piece of our team last year but that just leaves a lot of opportunity for new recruits and guys we acquired (through trades).”
One of the biggest question marks heading into the off-season was goaltending, with Tavin Grant heading back to the WHL Cougars. The Kings feel they’ve addressed that need, acquiring 20-year-old Evan DeBrouwer, a veteran of two junior A seasons as a starter for the Nanaimo Clippers last year and before that with the Smiths Falls Bears in Ontario. The Kings traded F Parker Colley to Nanaimo to acquire him.
Following up on the success they’ve had with forwards Kyle Johnson, Ethan de Jong and Ben Poisson, and defenceman Liam Watson-Brawn, all Burnaby Winter Club alumni, the Kings dipped into the talent pool of the BWC Elite 15s midget team and recruited forwards Ryan Stack (2000-born) and goalie Bradley Cooper (1999), who have both signed with the Spruce Kings.
Johnson struggled to put up points in the first half of the season but found his stride after Christmas and put up some decent numbers (14-22-36). With Brett Mennear moving on to the NCAA at Bentley, Johnson has big shoes to try to fill as the top-line centreman. Mennear was fourth in the BCHL scoring race with 25 goals and 79 points and was one of the team’s best defensive forwards.
Expect Johnson, a Yale University recruit for 2018, to end up playing with returning wingers Jarod Hovde (19-26-45, third in team scoring) and Ben Brar (21-11-32), who exceeded expectations since arriving last November in a trade from Penticton.
Johnson, an assistant captain last year, is a solid bet to wear the ‘C’ this season.
“Kyle epitomizes what it is to be a Spruce King, he works hard on and off the ice every single day,” said Kings general manager Mike Hawes.
“He’s a tremendous student who is going to excel at a high-end school and he’s a great young man who cares about his teammates and the organization.”
Poisson, whose 16-year-old brother Nick is trying out for the team, had shoulder surgery in April and won’t be ready until the start of the regular season. De Jong was diagnosed with mononucleosis and will miss at least the next week to 10 days.
F Dustin Manz, 18, a native of Michigan already committed to Lake Superior State University for 2018, centred a line for the Aston Rebels the North American Hockey League, while New Jersey-born F Patrick Cozzi, 19, is bound for Colorado College, having suited up last year for the North Jersey Avs Under-18 team. Another BCHL newcomer, Shawn Kennedy, 18, played in Ontario for the Carleton Place Canadians.
To get Kennedy, the Kings dealt the rights to Grant and futures to the Canadians. Chong Min Lee, 18, could also be an impact forward, following in the tracks of his brother Chong Hyun, who has aged out of the junior ranks.
On defence, Watson-Brawn, 18, lacks Anderson’s big shot but will be looked upon for his breakout passes and ability to join the rush, while 20-year-olds Chays Ruddy and Nick Sutter (Drayton Valley, AJHL) join the likes of 18-year-old Dylan Anhorn (Calgary Buffaloes midgets) and 16-year-old Layton Ahac (West Vancouver Warriors Elite 15s). Ruddy is still sporting the playoff beard he had with the Trenton (Ont.) Golden Hawks, who won their way to the RBC Cup tournament in May. The six-foot-two, 185-pound Ahac was a second-round pick of the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2016 WHL draft.
“That kid is something special, I can’t remember the last time I had a 16-year-old on defence,” said Hawes.
“He skates like the wind, he’s smart, and it was a real feather in our cap that we were able to recruit him. He visited a bunch of Ivy League schools this summer and I suspect he will commit to a school early on.”
G Jake Sweet, who earned a triple-overtime 1-0 shutout last spring to lift the Coast Inn of the North Cougars to the Tier 1 midget provincial title, is among a handful of local products in the Kings’ camp. The other P.G. boys are: D Brennan Malgunas, F Brandon Dent, F Craig MacDonald, F Braeden Young, F Blake Astorino, and F Rob Raju. Brandon Rowley of Dawson Creek, a Cariboo Cougar last season, is also among the 51 players in camp.
The three training camp teams have two-hour intrasquad games scheduled today at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The Kings’ all-star game (Blue vs. White) is at 10 a.m. Sunday, followed by the first round of cuts which will leave about 30 players.
The exhibition season starts Tuesday in Grande Prairie against the AJHL Storm.
On Thursday the Kings will be in Vernon to play the Vipers, followed by a Saturday game at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena against Grande Prairie.