The 2018 pre-season is in the books for the Saskatoon Blades and while it means nothing in the standings, winning still feels better than losing so a 6-1 record is a good start.
Michael Farren lead the offense with 3 goals and 9 points in 6 outings. A great sign for the third-year winger from Surrey, B.C. Close behind was sophomore centre Kirby Dach with 6 points in as many games; veteran overager Brad Goethals had 3 goals and 5 points in 5 appearances.
As for the newcomers, 17-year-old d-man Zach Ashton put up 2 goals and 2 helpers in 5 games. Ashton was a 3rd round pick of the Blades in 2016 and is vying for a spot on the Blades blue-line as a rookie this season. He appeared in 2 regular season games last year down the stretch and will look for his first point this upcoming weekend.
Another rookie defender still on the Blades roster heading into opening weekend is fellow 17-year-old, Majid Kaddoura. Undrafted, Kaddoura was added to the Blades list in 2016 and signed a standard player agreement out of his first WHL camp last year in 2017. A product of Chestermere, Alberta, Kaddoura got into 5 games for Saskatoon during the pre-season, collecting 3 assists and 10 penalty minutes all while keeping a steady +5 rating.
Another new addition to the Blades defensive core is 17-year-old Swedish import, Emil Malysjev. While ‘Malysjev’ may not sound like your typical Swedish last name, it’s because it’s not. Emil’s family is from Russia but his parents moved to Sweden prior to his birth. Combine that with an english teaching mother, and you have worldly young man fluent in three languages; Swedish, English, and Russian.
Emil is quite easy to pick out when he’s on the ice standing at nearly 6’4″ and 188lbs. A quick look at his stats from back in Sweden made it seem the Blades were likely getting a steady, shutdown, stay-at-home defensemen. However, through 5 pre-season games Malysjev has displayed his offensive instinct and keen vision from the blue-line scoring twice and assisting on another power play goal.
And last but certainly not least is 2017 1st round draft pick Aidan De La Gorgendiere. The Langley, BC, native arrived for his second training camp with the Blades no longer looking like the fresh faced rookie he was last season. “Della” sprouted up to 6’0″ and 180lbs and has looked like a regular WHLer throughout the pre-season. Despite tallying just one point– a highlight reel top corner snipe off the rush against Prince Albert on Saturday– Aidan has displayed his poise and versatility through his 5 appearances in the pre-season. There’s no doubt this new crop of defenders will be pushing the veterans on the daily.
Moving on to the forwards. If you attended any pre-season games, tuned in on the radio, or even took a peek at training camp, you already know who Tristen Robins is. Still just 16-years-old, Robins was acquired from the Regina Pats at last year’s trade deadline in the Libor Hájek deal.
Robins spent last season with the Rink Academy Midget Prep team of the CSSHL in his home province of Manitoba. He put up 54 points in 31 games there, and even joined the Blades for a three game road trip where he registered his 1st WHL point. At that time, he was maybe 5’8″. Now Robins is close to 5’11” and is probably pound-for-pound one of, if not the sturdiest player in Saskatoon. He put up four points while playing in all 7 of the Blades’ pre-season games, kept a +3 rating, and looked like a true Western Hockey League player along the way. And yes, he is the son of beloved Blades alumnus, Trevor Robins, so there’s a little extra pride for #11 when he pulls on that blue & gold sweater.
Another new addition to the forward group is Riley McKay. You’ve likely heard of him already and if you haven’t, you will. McKay was acquired in the off-season from the Spokane Chiefs where’s spent the past two seasons. A product of Swan River, Manitoba, McKay is happy to be closer to home and back on the prairies, and has also seemed to fall right into place with the Blades. Last year’s most penalized player in the WHL, McKay has already introduced himself to the rivals up the road in Prince Albert suiting up for all four pre-season bouts against the Raiders. Riley brings a ton of energy to the ice and usually does so with a big grin on his face. You’ll enjoy watching him this season!
Of course there’s import winger Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen from Norway. We only got to see a brief snippet of Kristian’s scoring prowess before he departed with fellow Blade Eric Florchuk to Washington Capitals camp. Kristian is a 1999 born player who has plenty of experience at the junior level after playing the last three seasons in Sweden. He’s also familiar with the North American game having attended Washington’s main and summer camps for the past two years. Marthinsen was a goal-per-game guy in Sweden’s top junior league, so there’s no question he’ll look to continue lighting the lamp on this side of the pond playing alongside some of the Blades top centres in either Chase Wouters or Kirby Dach.
Roykas-Marthinsen, Florchuk, and Chase Wouters (Tampa Bay) are all still away at NHL camps as of Monday.
Then there’s Kyle Crnkovic. The 16-year-old former 10th overall pick in 2017 dazzled his peers in Blades training camp before going down with an upper body injury. Crnkovic lead all players in scoring at the 2017 WHL Cup last season, and lead his Northern Alberta Xtreme to the CSSHL Midget Prep Championship. He scored 64 points in 30 regular season games last season and another 12 in just 5 playoff games. During Blades training camp he scored a whopping 6 goals in just two camp scrimmages before his injury. A timetable for his return won’t be available until the season officially starts, but when he does return you can bet he’ll be hungry to contribute.
And finally between the pipes, the Blades will start the season with the duo of 17-year-old Nolan Maier and 19-year-old Dorrin Luding. Maier is coming off a breakout rookie season where he turned heads earning 23 wins as a 16-year-old. He was also Canada’s #1 netminder at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in August where he won a gold medal. His partner Dorrin Luding was reacquired by the Blades in the off-season from the Seattle Thunderbirds. Luding was originally drafted by Saskatoon in 2014 and has made stops in Everett and Seattle before his return. Since arriving in Saskatoon for camp, Luding has been all smiles off the ice and a fierce competitor on it. He won both his pre-season starts stopping a combined 40/45 shots faced.
In case you missed it: Earlier today Bob McKenzie revealed his pre-season NHL draft rankings which features Kirby Dach sitting at #5 on the list. Click the tweet above to watch the full episode.
It is opening week in the WHL and after a day off on Sunday the Blades were back to work on Monday. They’re preparing to face the reigning league champs for a home & home series this weekend which begins with a trip to Swift Current.
Saturday night is the Blades home opener and it’s shaping up to be quite the party. It’s also the first chance the Blades have to honour the Humboldt Broncos. Saskatoon will be wearing Humboldt tribute jerseys, Nolan Maier–an SJHL alumni– will be wearing a Humboldt Strong mask for the game, along with several other fundraising initiatives. Click the tweet below for all the details.
We're thrilled to unveil our plans for next Saturday's home opener presented by @merlinyxe
On Saturday the Blades teamed up with the Humboldt Broncos for a visit to the Canadian Blood Services Centre in Saskatoon. It’s all in support of a new program called Hockey Gives Blood, founded by Stu Middleton. Middleton put the wheels in motion following the April 6th tragedy and has since gained traction from NHL players and several junior teams.
It’s a terrific idea. Junior hockey players are typically all physically fit and healthy young men, meaning if teams across the country jump on board to support the cause, raise awareness, and donate blood, the hockey community could put a huge dent in the need for blood.
The Blades also trimmed their roster by two on Monday. 2002 born forward Braden Plaschewsky (Calgary Buffaloes – AMHL) and 2002 born goaltender Koen MacInnes (BWC Midget Prep – CSSHL) were both returned to their respective midget clubs.
Both Plaschewsky and MacInnes were 2nd round picks of the Blades in 2017 and both had strong showings through the pre-season. MacInnes won all three of his pre-season start and post a stat line of 2.27GAA, 9.29SV%. Plaschewsky scored two goals in 6 exhibition games.