If last year’s B.C. Hockey League playoffs are any indication, the Victoria Grizzlies’ leadership group is in good hands this season.
And those hands belong to a couple of homegrown talents.
The Grizzlies will be led on and off the ice this season by a pair of players heading into their fourth BCHL seasons as the club on Tuesday named forward Marty Westhaver captain and fellow 20-year-old Island product, defenceman Nico Somerville, as associate captain.
“They’re two very deserving players who have served our club for a long time and have the experience to be great leaders in this league,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon, whose club opens training camp on Monday at Juan de Fuca Arena.
The speedy and skilled Westhaver had an OK regular season last year but when the playoffs rolled around, “Big Game Marty’ came to the forefront. The Spectrum Community School grad’s eight goals in 13 playoff games last spring were second best on the team after Colorado Avalanche first-round draft pick Alex Newhook’s 11. And Westhaver missed the last two games of the Coastal Conference final against Prince George with a shoulder injury.
“I’m super excited about the opportunity to lead this team and I think we have a great group of veterans coming back and some really skilled new guys so I’m really looking forward to the season,” said Westhaver, who has played 168 regular season games in the BCHL and another 30 playoff contests.
“I’ve played three seasons with the Grizzlies now and I think I can pass along alot of knowledge about the team and what it takes to play in the B.C. Hockey League.”
Westhaver has some big shoes to fill with the Grizzlies captaincy as Newhook led the BCHL in scoring before being selected 16th overall by the Avalanche in June’s NHL draft in Vancouver.
But the Saanich Minor Hockey product says he’s more than up for the task.
“You can learn so much from a guy like Alex, just from watching how he performs on the ice, his work ethic and dedication to the game. He’s an amazing player and to be captain at such a young age like 18 takes a lot of character and I learned a lot from him and hope to pass that along to the younger players this season.”
Somerville, who hails from Port Alberni, is coming off his best regular season in the BCHL, scoring six goals and adding 30 assists in 57 games, and he, too, had an impressive showing in the post-season, despite also missing a pair of games in the final series due to injury. The smooth-skating blue-liner had four goals and three assists in 13 playoff games.
And like Westhaver, Somerville has plenty of post-season experience having played 25 playoff games in the past two season.
Both players are also looking to secure NCAA scholarships this season and Westhaver expects a strong season by the team will go along way to helping them achieve their goals.
“We have a talented group this year and now it’s up to us veterans to lead the way, especially early with all the road games at the start of the season,” added Westhaver, whose team will play its first eight games away from The Q Centre.
“I’ve been in this league for a long time now and I know how important a good start is and it’s up to me and the rest of the leadership group to pass that along. We’re going to have a good season.”
AROUND THE BCHL: The Nanaimo Clippers shored up their situation between the pipes Tuesday by acquiring 19-year-old goaltender Zach Bennett from the Selkirk Steelers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Bennett posted a 20-10 record and 2.66 goals-against average for the Steelers last season. Going to Selkirk are the rights to Hunor Torzsok and future considerations. Torzsok split last season between the Clippers and Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.