Victoria Grizzlies' newest addition hopes to make early splash

It’s pronounced Henri as in Henri Richard, a legacy from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, from where Henri Schreifels’ mother Céline hails.

But Schreifels grew up all-American in Agoura Hills, California, as comfortable riding a surfboard in Malibu as on skates with the Anaheim Junior Ducks.

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The Victoria Grizzlies’ newest forward acquisition hopes to springboard from the B.C. Hockey League to the U.S. collegiate NCAA, an organization with which he is well-acquainted. But not through hockey. Dad Barry Schreifels, born in Red Deer, has guided Olympians and all-Americans in a 24-year NCAA Div. 1 career as assistant swim coach with the Arizona State Sun Devils and as head coach at Cal State-Northridge and now Cal Lutheran.

“I used to swim but I was better at hockey and had more fun playing hockey,” said Henri Schreifels, of his decision to follow a sporting route on frozen water instead.

Winning the California Tier 1 Midget League goals and points scoring title last season with the Junior Ducks (26 goals and 56 points in 36 games) caught the eye of the BCHL powerhouse Penticton Vees, who recruited Schreifels for this season. But a trade last month sent him to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and another trade has now brought him down-Island to the Grizzlies in what has been an early-season whirlwind for the six-foot, 195-pound winger.

“It’s been strange but I am going to focus on playing well and helping my new team [Grizzlies],” said Schreifels, who has yet to record a point in six BCHL games, three with Penticton and three with Alberni Valley.

“It’s great to be going to such a strong team in Victoria.”

The Grizzlies, second overall in the BCHL, are about as complete a team as there is in the league this season. The forward corps features two players listed by Central Scouting for the 2019 NHL draft, including projected first-rounder Alex Newhook, along with Alex Campbell. This is a team that doesn’t need major moves at this point, only tweaks. The Grizzlies (8-4) believe they have made a situational tweak with the addition of Schreifels.

“We want to be of solid size up front and [Schreifels] is an offensive player who brings size and skill,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon.

There is also the upcoming depth issue. The Grizzlies roster could be decimated for much of December with a heavy contribution to the World Junior A Challenge tournament in Bonnyville, Alta., that will feature Canada West, Canada East, the U.S., Czech Republic and Russia.

“We could be losing three to five players to the World Junior A Challenge — guys such as Alex Newhook, Riley Hughes, Alex Campbell, Carter Berger or Jeremie Bucheler — so we have to look at ways to get through that portion of the schedule,” said Didmon.

Schreifels appears to fit the bill in terms of roster depth.

“I play a 200-foot game and am a big, strong forward with size who can also finish and also make plays happen,” said the Canadian, American and Swiss citizen.

Even though he wasn’t with Alberni Valley long, it is an unusual situation that Schreifels opens his Grizzlies career against the Bulldogs (4-7), with the Grizzlies playing their Island Division rivals tonight at The Q Centre and Saturday night at Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni.

Schreifels met his new Victoria teammates during his first practice with the club Thursday. Didmon was uncertain whether he would dress Schreifels tonight or wait until Saturday.

Either way, this is an 18-year-old surfer on a skating quest.

“I hope to land an NCAA athletic scholarship, and being on a team as strong as the Grizzlies, will definitely help me,” said Schreifels.

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