There will be plenty of new faces in the Victoria Grizzlies’ lineup next season, but it appears they will still have a Welsh and a Guiney as part of their top 12 forwards.
Nolan Welsh, younger brother of the departing Tyler Welsh, played 68 games between the regular season and playoffs last year and is likely to receive an increased role up front in his age-18 season next year.
West Shore native Jordan Guiney, Nick Guiney’s junior, spent most of his season with the Westshore Wolves but played 10 games with the Grizz, including four in the post-season. The 18-year-old was one of three commitments the Grizzlies made last week following their April 7-9 spring camp.
“I think he’s ready to contribute. He’s a strong player offensively and defensively,” said head coach and general manager Craig Didmon. “He played centre for the Wolves in Junior B this year and I think that was a good development phase for him.”
Forwards Lach Hadley and Tanner Hopps, who each had short stints with the Grizzlies this year, were also given commitments last week.
Hadley, another Victoria product, spent his 2016/17 season with the Shawnigan Lake School prep team. Meanwhile, Hopps played academy-level hockey in Delta.
“These are two young guys that are going to come and learn the ropes as underage players,” Didmon said of the two players born in 2000.
“(Hadley’s) got a huge level of compete in him. A very intelligent player…I expect Lach to be around for a few years and be a very well-known face in the community.”
Hopps is in a similar mold, Didmon noted, and has produced offensively at every level that he’s played.
The trio joins defenceman Jacson Alexander and goaltender Zach Rose as prospect commitments for the club.
Alexander won’t turn 17 until February of 2018 but Didmon expects that the skilled defender will step into the Grizzlies’ lineup immediately.
“I think he’s going to carry a bigger load than most people think. I watched him in spring camp and he was outstanding. He competes extremely hard and has a great skillset,” he said.
Asked to compare the Victoria native to a player he’s coached in the past, he said Alexander reminds him of ex-Juan de Fuca Grizzlies star and current Colorado Avalanche defender Tyson Barrie, who Didmon coached at Spencer Hockey Academy.
“He’s a great skater and just knows how to get the job done…he plays with that kind of energy and that type of speed. He makes plays that are high level,” he said.
Rose figures to compete with Tony Rehm and Shawn Parkinson for the task to replace departing goaltender Matthew Galajda.
“I think they’re all competitive goalies and they’re all Junior A-calibre goalies,” Didmon said.
The Grizzlies will host their next prospects camp from July 21-23 in Whistler.