THUNDERBIRDS

T-Birds WHL finals preview: A look at the Brandon Wheat Kings

May 5, 2016, 1:35 PM | Updated: 2:48 pm
Scott Eansor will have has hands full against a loaded Brandon team. (T-Birds photo)...
Scott Eansor will have has hands full against a loaded Brandon team. (T-Birds photo)
(T-Birds photo)

Unless you’re a scout, general manager, or among the WHL’s most devoted fans, you probably haven’t seen a ton of both the Seattle Thunderbirds and Brandon Wheat Kings. In the WHL Championship, which begins Friday night, you have one of the league’s western-most teams in Seattle facing off in a best-of-seven series against the team furthest east, Brandon. Here’s a look at Wheat Kings, courtesy of Perry Bergson, who covers the Eastern Conference champion Wheaties for The Brandon Sun newspaper.

Logan Thompson, G
(Age 19; from Calgary, Alta.)

The tall left-handed goaltender played in four games last season before earning the backup job this season. In 23 appearances, he compiled an impressive 17-1-0-0 record. He has appeared in one playoff game.

Mitch Wheaton, D
(Age 21; from Sherwood Park, Alta.)

The big overage defender was acquired from Saskatoon at the trade deadline. The lanky defensive defenseman immediately firmed up penalty kill and boosted the play of his partner, Kale Clague, on the second pairing. The former Kelowna Rocket, now in his fourth year, has a good shot from the blue-line.

Schael Higson, D
(Age 17; from Grande Prairie, Alta.)

The rugged second-year defenseman arrived in January with Wheaton as part of a four-player swap. He has a hard shot and is a big hitter but has been a healthy scratch for all but one playoff game.

Jayce Hawryluk, RW
(Age 20; from Roblin, Man.)

The Florida Panthers draft pick led the Wheat Kings in scoring in his fourth season while playing mainly with Nolan Patrick and Tyler Coulter on the top line. The Eastern Conference second-team all-star forward is relentless in pursuit of the puck and finished fourth in the league in scoring and second in plus-minus.

9. Ivan Provorov, D
(Age 19; from Yaroslavl, Russia)

Provorov is in his second year in the WHL after being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round last spring. A dynamic and effortless skater who is quick to join the rush, he led WHL defensemen in scoring with 73 points. The two-time Eastern Conference defenseman of the year, who is paired with Macoy Erkamps, is also a smart defender who plays big minutes in all situations.

Kale Clague, D
(Age 17; from Lloydminster, Alta.)

The NHL draft-eligible defenseman is expected to be a high pick next month. The second-year player is an elite skater and quick to join the rush. Clague, who plays on the second pairing with Wheaton, has six goals and eight assists in 16 playoff games.

Caiden Daley, F
(Age 16; from Winnipeg, Man.)

Brandon’s top pick in the 2015 bantam draft joined the team after his midget season ended. In a five-game call-up mid-season, the young forward had three assists. He hasn’t suited up in the playoffs.

Stelio Mattheos, RW
(Age 16; from Winnipeg, Man.)

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Mattheos showed steady improvement as the season went on and he gained confidence. The rookie forward has a heavy shot, good hockey sense and is defensively aware. He plays on the third line with Tanner Kaspick and Duncan Campbell.

Ty Lewis, LW
(Age 18; from Brandon, Man.)

An offensively gifted player, Lewis has struggled with upper-body injuries that cost the rookie one-third of the season. He plays a physical game on the team’s fourth line with fellow rookies Connor Gutenberg and Linden McCorrister.

Tanner Kaspick, C
(Age 17; from Brandon, Man.)

The draft-eligible forward, who is in his second season, is defined by his unmatched work ethic all over the ice. He plays on the third line with Duncan Campbell and Stelio Mattheos, and is a key penalty killer.

John Quenneville, LW
(Age 20; from Edmonton, Alta.)

The New Jersey Devils first rounder leads Brandon in goals in the playoffs with 13 in 16 games. The member of Team Canada at the world junior championship is a strong skater with a heavy shot and quick release. The fourth-year forward plays on Brandon’s second line with Tim McGauley and Reid Duke.

Garrett Armour, LW
(Age 18; from Winnipeg, Man.)

The hard-hitting forward, in his second season in the league, was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades in October. He has one goal in the two games he’s suited up for in the playoffs.

Nolan Patrick, C
(Age 17; from Winnipeg, Man.)

Touted by some as a potential first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, the second-year forward has 24 points in 16 playoff games after posting 102 in 72 regular season games. The 2014-15 WHL rookie of the year has terrific vision, incredible hockey sense and an ability to create time and space for himself and linemates Jayce Hawryluk and Tyler Coulter with the puck. He had five points in Game 5 as Brandon ended Red Deer’s playoff run with a 5-2 win.

Macoy Erkamps, D
(Age 21; from Delta, B.C.)

The fifth-year defenseman, who serves as Brandon’s captain, more than doubled his previous season-high point total with 71 points, good for second in the WHL in scoring by a defenseman. Paired with Provorov, the strong two-way defenseman recently signed with the Ottawa Senators.

Tyler Coulter, LW
(Age 19; from Brandon, Man.)

Coulter, who nearly doubled his previous season high in points despite a slow start to the season, proved to be the perfect addition to a line with Nolan Patrick and Jayce Hawryluk. The third-year forward has a heavy game, a talent for cycling the puck and a willingness to take abuse in front of the net to make a play.

Jaeger White, C
(Age 18; from Medicine Hat, Alta.)

White, who spent time with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Everett Silvertips this season, was acquired at the trade deadline. The second-year forward sustained a season-ending upper-body injury in early March.

Tim McGauley, C
(Age 20; from Wilcox, Sask.)

The overage forward, who finished third in league scoring and was the Eastern Conference MVP last season, missed nearly a third of the season after suffering an injury in the season opener. The Washington Capitals prospect is a gifted two-way player with a knack for finding the net. He plays on the second line with Quenneville and Reid Duke.

Connor Gutenberg, C
(Age 16; from Brandon, Man.)

The hometown rookie, one of six Brandon players on the team, has terrific hockey sense and has returned to form after missing a third of the season with a lower-body injury. He’s part of the fourth line with Linden McCorrister and former midget teammate Ty Lewis.

Duncan Campbell, LW
(Age 19; from Brandon, Man.)

The former Manitoba midget hockey league scoring leader has reinvented himself as a strong defensive force in his second season in the WHL. The big forward has a good shot and is an excellent penalty killer. He plays on the third line with Tanner Kaspick and Stelio Mattheos.

Linden McCorrister, RW
(Age 18; from Peguis, Man.)

The rookie brings a strong defensive conscience to his game on the fourth line with Connor Gutenberg and Ty Lewis. He’s a good skater and hard hitter on the team’s energy line.

Reid Duke, RW
(Age 20; from Calgary, Alta.)

The fourth-year forward, a Minnesota Wild sixth rounder, plays a heavy game. He hits hard, shoots hard and carries the puck to the net with strength. Duke, who has 20 points in the playoffs, plays on the second line with John Quenneville and Tim McGauley.

Mark Matsuba, D
(Age 19; from St, Albert, Alta.)

The versatile second-year defenseman played a lot at forward during the season as the team dealt with a series of injuries up front. He’s a good skater and defensively sound but has only played twice in the playoffs.

James Shearer, D
(Age 18; from Brandon, Man.)

Five-foot-nine but stocky, the WHL rookie plays a physical game and has a knack for getting his good shot through to the net. He plays on Brandon’s third pairing with Jordan Thomson.

Jordan Papirny, G
(Age 20; from Edmonton, Alta.)

Brandon’s No. 1 goalie, who holds the franchise record for career playoff starts, is in his third year in the league. The right-hander has 13 career shutouts in the playoffs and regular season and was a second-team all-star in the Eastern Conference last season.

Jordan Thomson, D
(Age 20; from Wawanesa, Man.)

The former Kamloops Blazers defenseman was dealt home — Wawanesa is 23 miles south of Brandon — in November by the Swift Current Broncos. The offensive defenseman, a four-year veteran, plays on Brandon’s third pairing with James Shearer.

Head coach: Kelly McCrimmon

A former Wheat King forward in the 1970s, McCrimmon now owns the team and serves as head coach and general manager. He is fifth on the WHL’s all-time playoff coaching victories list with 76, and has won 465 regular season games.

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