By Derek Holtom
Here’s part two of our MJHL preview for 2018-19.
Last year – 38-16-3-3 (Third place, lost in first round 4-2 to the Winnipeg Blues)
What to expect – It was an off year for the Portage Terriers – at least by their standards. The Terriers had their championship streak snapped at three with an unexpected first-round upset loss to the Winnipeg Blues. The Terriers saw all-stars such as Jeremy Leipsic and Mackenzie Dwyer graduate to the U of M Bisons, and star forward Chase Brakel move on to the NCAA ranks. But as always, the Terriers are ready to reload. Rookie Kolton Shindle (Pembina Valley AAA) led the team in preseason scoring, while former Waywayseecappo former Darren Gisti
Prediction – With the Terriers being selected as RBC Cup hosts in 2020, the most dominant MJHL team in the past 10 years will be poised to start building a winner for next season. But don’t write them off for this year.
Last year – 25-31-3-1 (Ninth place, missed the playoffs)
What to expect – A year after they got back into the playoffs following a lengthy stretch on the outside looking in, the Natives once again missed the post season. And with their top four scorers gone due to graduation (Jordan Martin, Justin Metcalf, Ashton Anderson and Zach Johnson), it will be time for some new stars to lead this team. California’s Michael Boutoussov was brought in from the AJHL and he led the team in preseason scoring. But suffice it to say, the Natives are going to be a young team.
Prediction – The Natives will have to hope their young players come along quickly if they want to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Last year – 31-22-5-2 (Sixth place, defeated Portage in the first round 4-2, lost to Steinbach in the second round 4-2)
What to expect – The Blues really caught fire last year after some injured players returned, and they got some late-season additions from the WHL. But the drawback is that the Blues had a large number of 20 years olds that have now graduated – players such as all-star Dexter Kuczek, Levi Cudmore, and Devon Skoleski to name but a few. Braeden Binda was brought over from Neepawa, and he’ll be a veteran leader on what looks to be a young team this year.
Prediction – Winnipeg always has plenty of locals to help fill spots on their team. They could be another late-blooming team this year.
Last year – 14-44-1-1 (10th place, missed the playoffs).
What to expect – The Kings had a miserable season, which was their 50th. Now the team has brought back Doug Hedley for a third time with the hope he can right the ship. The Kings went into full rebuild mode last year and so they don’t really lose any notable veterans. Hedley already brought in some familiar faces from OCN, including Riley Shamray. The team also has a dynamic rookie in Nakodan Greyeyes, who played two games with the Kings last year.
Prediction – You can bet the Kings will be a much improved team this year. Hedley knows his stuff, and the Kings will be in the playoff hunt for sure.
Virden Oil Capitals
Last year – 40-17-2-1 (Second place, defeated Selkirk 4-1 in the opening round, swept Winkler 4-0 in the second round, lost the league final to Steinbach 4-2)
What to expect – Virden came oh so close to winning it all last year. Backed by stars such as Tyler Kirkup, Kirklan Lycar and Kyle Salaway, the Oil Capitals gave the Pistons all they could handle in the league final. But those players are gone, leaving the likes of Ben Dalke and Kolten Kanaski to finish what they started last season. Rookie Brett Paddock from Brandon Midget AAA could be a big part of this year’s team.
Prediction – Should be one of the stronger teams in the MJHL this year.
Last year – 31-25-3-1 (Seventh place, lost 4-1 to Virden in the opening round of the playoffs).
What to expect – With so many teams losing so many important veterans, perhaps this is the year the Steelers get back on top. Carter Barley and Nico Labossiere were two of their top scorers last year and they are back. The team’s top scorer, Connor Barley, is trying to stick with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. If he ends up back in Selkirk this year, look out. The Steelers could be for real.
Prediction – There is lots of optimism in Selkirk this season, and rightfully so.