Around the BCHL: Coquitlam Express for real and Trail trades Levi Glasman

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s happening in the junior A hockey world.

Welcome to the October 25, 2018 edition of Around the BCHL.

Are the Coquitlam Express legit? Are? Is? Proper grammar? Not sure, but after Wednesday night it’s time to start taking them seriously.

The Express did what few teams do, walking out of the South Okanagan Events Centre with a 3-2 shootout win over the Penticton Vees. Chase Danol scored the shootout winner while Coquitlam keeper Kolby Matthews thwarted attempts by Conner Hutchison, Ryan Sandelin and Eric Linell.

The Express improved to 12-5-1-0, the second best record in the entire league behind the front-running Chilliwack Chiefs (13-5-0-0). Keep in mind that Coquitlam had 15 wins, total, in 2017-18 and the turnaround is mind-blowing.

But is it sustainable?

The underlying numbers suggest it is.

Coquitlam has scored the second most goals in the league (65) behind Merritt’s 74. They have three point-per-game players in Joshua Wildauer (17-7-11-18), Regan Kimens (18-6-12-18) and Dallas Farrell (18-5-13-18). Alex DiPaolo (18-8-9-17), Christian Sanda (18-9-7-16) and Chase Danol (18-11-4-15) give them excellent offensive depth and Jordan Schulting (18-1-11-12) is piling up points on the blueline.

The Express are a solid defensive group as well. Only five BCHL teams have given up fewer goals and the goaltending duo of Matthews (2.31 goals-against average, .923 save percentage) and Clay Stevenson (2.18 GAA and .923 SP) has that position looking good.

The goalies are a big reason why Coquitlam also has the best penalty killing unit in the league, operating at a crisp 86.8 per cent.

There’s nothing in the numbers to suggest that Coquitlam isn’t legit.

If I had to put money on the Express or Merritt to maintain their surprising starts, I’d put all my chips on Coquitlam.

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A rare three-way trade went down in the BCHL Thursday morning as the Chilliwack Chiefs, Trail Smoke Eaters and Powell River Kings made a swap.

Defenceman Powell Connor abruptly departs from the defending RBC Cup champion and BCHL leading Chiefs.

He goes to the Smokies.

Powell Connor in action last season with the Chiefs.

Only 18 years old, Connor is big at six-foot-one and 180 pounds and isn’t shy about throwing his weight around. He’s not a big point producer, although he does have a cannon of a slap-shot when he gets enough time to get it off. He didn’t get a ton of PP time with the Chiefs, but that might change in Trail.

Connor played 118 regular season games with the Chiefs, and head coach/general manager Brian Maloney said it wasn’t easy dealing him away.

“Powell has been a big part of the Chiefs program but sometimes when you’re in the same spot for awhile things can grow stale,” Maloney said. “Both Powell and I have been talking about his development and we both agreed that a change in scenery was best. Powell was a big part of our team but we also understand this is a development league and want to help kids develop whether it’s with us or elsewhere.”

Chilliwack replaces one 18 year D-man with another as Nathan Kelly arrives from Powell River.

Nathan Kelly (in green) versus the Vernon Vipers.

Kelly isn’t as big (five-foot-11), but he has more offensive potential. He hasn’t tapped into it yet at the junior A level (four goals, 16 points in 70 games), but Kelly had a point-per-game season in his final year of major midget, rolling up two goals and 35 points in 35 games with the Greater Vancouver Canadians.

“We watched lots of video on him and remember him from his major midget days,” Maloney said. “I came across some old notes I took on him and it was all positive. He’s a smooth and reliable player and his hockey IQ and character score off the charts. He’s not flashy but coaches love his type of player.”

The most surprising player in the deal is Levi Glasman, going from Trail to Powell River.

The 19 year old is a good get for the Kings, who acquire a proven producer. Glasman has 36 goals and 82 points in 85 regular season and playoff games and provides an immediate and significant boost to the Powell River offence.

The Kings are trying to keep pace with the high-flying Victoria Grizzlies, and this deal will help a lot.

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The hits keep on coming for the struggling Surrey Eagles, who dropped a 4-3 decision to the Langley Rivermen on home ice Wednesday night.

Surrey out-shot the Rivermen 36-31, but Langley keeper Braedon Fleming out-dueled Surrey counterpart Kyle Dumba, who has had a rough go of it since he was acquired by the Eagles in early October.

In seven appearances he’s compiled a 4.45 goals-against average and .883 save percentage, which is not what the team envisioned getting when they sent future considerations to the Nanaimo Clippers for Dumba and forward Brady Lynn.

That’s not to suggest it’s all on the goalie. If defensive breakdowns have him facing tons of high-quality chances every night, Dumba’s numbers are going to show it. The Eagles have given up 82 goals so far this season, almost 20 more than the next leakiest team (Merritt, 65).

That points to a team-wide defensive meltdown.

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It’s fascinating the number of sons of ex-NHLers dotting rosters around the BCHL, and another one’s been added to the mix this week.

Vernon picks up forward Ben Sanderson from the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers in exchange for D-man Tylor Ludwar and futures.

Sanderson is the son of Geoff Sanderson, veteran of 1,159 big-league games with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers.

I didn’t realize he was so well traveled until just now.

I’ve always had a thing for players who can skate really fast, and Geoff was one of those guys. An absolute burner who put up back-to-back 40 goal seasons with Hartford in 1992-93 (46 goals) and 1993-94 (41 goals), he’s still one of my go-to guys when I play early 90’s EA Sports NHL hockey video games.

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And finally, it’s amazing what you can do with Zambonis these days.

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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