Deciding which three 20-year-olds to carry is among the toughest decisions for any Western Hockey League team because it could mean the end of the junior careers of those 20s not selected.
The WHL deadline to get down to the three allowable 20-year-olds was Thursday and the Victoria Royals will go with goaltender Braden Holt and forwards Dawson Pasternak and Matthew Hodson. Set adrift was the fourth 20-year-old the team had been carrying — forward Grady Lane, who had no points in eight games this season after being acquired over the off-season from the Spokane Chiefs. Lane signed with his hometown Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League on Thursday.
As a reliable and veteran WHL goaltender, Holt was pretty much untouchable, especially since his backup is 16-year-old rookie Jayden Kraus. Pasternak has been a revelation with three goals and 10 points in six games for Victoria since being acquired in a trade this month with the Brandon Wheat Kings for a conditional draft pick in a deal that looks right now to be a downright swindle for the Royals. Hodson was the Royals’ third-round selection in the 2018 WHL prospects draft, the 33rd overall player taken off the board that year, and is a player the club has invested a lot of time into and who has two goals and four points in 10 games in his third season in Victoria.
“It’s sad to see Grady [Lane] go. He was a great teammate and a very good player,” said Royals head coach Dan Price.
“It’s the reality of this rule and the numbers game. Unfortunately, we can only keep three. All are very capable players and great teammates and we would have been happy with any combination of them.”
The choices pretty much spelled themselves out.
“This gives us a good balance with an important player in the goaltending position [Holt], a player like Dawson [Pasternak] who can literally play all five positions on the ice and a player like Matthew [Hodson] who can play all three forward positions and plays in every situation and has tenure with our team,” said Price.
The Royals (6-6) have won six of their last eight games but had their four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night in a 6-3 loss to the Rockets in Kelowna.
The Royals are at the Langley Events Centre to meet the Vancouver Giants (3-5-1) tonight before the second leg of the cross-strait derby on Saturday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
“The keys for this weekend versus Vancouver are consistency in our competition level and fundamentals,” said Price, stressing the points that have enabled the Royals to right their season over the past eight games.
“For example, winning possession of the puck on face-offs, winning space and pucks at both net fronts, passing the puck with pace and accuracy, and checking consistently and relentlessly.”
ICE CHIPS: The Giants’ six-foot-four impact forward Samuel Honzek, the first-round NHL draft pick of the Calgary Flames who has twice represented his native Slovakia at the world junior hockey championships, is out six-to-eight weeks with an injury incurred in a Flames preseason game, according to Steve Ewen of the Province newspaper.