There were four new faces at Moose Jaw Warriors practice Monday.
While seeing new players for the B.C. road trip was expected, seeing a new assistant coach was a bit of a surprise.
Mike Vandenberghe comes to the Warriors after spending the first half of the season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He filled in when regular Brandon assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk broke his back in the summer.
Vandenberghe will coach the defence. He patrolled the blue line in the WHL — primarily with Brandon, though he finished his career in Medicine Hat and started it by playing three games for the Warriors in his rookie season.
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The Warriors will be adding their two 2010 second round picks — defenceman Spencer Morse and left winger Brandon Potomak — for their B.C. road trip. They have also called up 17-year-old defenceman Matthew Franczyk for the rest of the season. If you’re thinking to yourself: “didn’t the Warriors trade Franczyk?” you’re absolutely correct.
Former director of hockey operations Jeff Truitt dealt Franczyk to the Swift Current Broncos for Preston Amundson during the off-season. The Warriors had a glut of young defencemen and were in need of young forwards. As it turned out Franczyk played a single game with the Broncos before being dropped from their 50-man protected list and sent back to the MJHL’s Winnipeg South Blues. Players like Sam Fioretti, Jordan Wyton and Matt Grant out-performed Amundson in camp and he ended up being re-assigned by the Warriors as well.
When the Warriors dealt Connor Cox to Saskatoon, they needed a seventh defenceman and felt Franczyk would fit the bill.
We’ll have a full story on Franczyk in Tuesday’s Times-Herald, but he’s had a tough start to the season and is absolutely jacked to be back with the Warriors and back in the WHL.
With Morgan Rielly at the World Under-17 Challenge, Franczyk will get an opportunity to show what he can do. Franczyk showed he was a steady, puck moving defenceman who at 6-2 and 210 lbs. has a bit of size.
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The Warriors are without Rielly, Brayden Cuthbert, Quinton Howden and Antonin Honejsek to start their road trip, but they should get all of them back before the end of the trip.
Rielly and Cuthbert will meet the Warriors in Kelowna on Jan. 5 after the World Under-17 Challenge is complete. Howden and Honejsek will tentatively rejoin the Warriors on Jan. 6 in Kelowna after the World Juniors are over. That is, of course, contingent on how well the Canadians and Czechs do in Buffalo, but with placement games it won’t be much earlier than that.
The Warriors play in Kelowna on Jan. 6 and conclude their trip the following night in Kootenay.
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Those factors will likely determine how much ice time Potomak and Morse receive on the trip. The 15-year-olds can only play five games per WHL rules.
Potomak is with the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna and has been selected for the B.C. under-16 team for the Jeux du Canada Winter Games in Halifax in February.
Potomak is 5-11 and has 20 goals and 37 points in 31 games with the PoE.
Morse is playing Minor Midget AAA in Calgary. His area’s Major Midget AAA team — the Calgary Buffaloes — don’t have any 95 born defencemen on their roster. That isn’t that unusual in Calgary. Former Warrior Travis Ehrhardt never played Major Midget AAA in Calgary, he went straight from Minor Midget AAA to the WHL.
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For what it’s worth, Michal Hlinka was on a line with Dylan Hood and Spencer Edwards at Sunday’s practice. Hunchak is known for juggling his lines, but it could be a sign that the Slovak is going to be given the opportunity to fill a more offensive role on the trip.
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The WHL web site is offering free webcasts of games from Dec. 28-30 meaning local fans can watch the Warriors’ games in Calgary and Vancouver online.
Visit http://whl.neulion.com/whl and click on the holiday promotion ad on the site. Fans will need to enter the promotional code ‘whllive’ to gain access.
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The Calgary Hitmen have changed the start time for Tuesday’s game. The puck will drop at 6 p.m. Moose Jaw time.