The dreaded “I” word, as in injuries, is bound to crop up at some point in long sports seasons. It is now upon the Victoria Royals like a fog bank rolling over the breakwater.
Veteran forward Dante Hannoun, through whom much of the Victoria offence flows, is out two-to-three weeks with an upper body issue. Royals import forward Phillip Schultz, who will represent Denmark in the 2019 world junior championship this winter in Victoria and Vancouver, and forward Logan Doust are both week-to-week with upper-body injuries.
“A couple of guys are banged up but [GM Cam Hope] has built this team with depth and balance at every position. So we have players who will be given opportunities to step up,” said Royals head coach Dan Price.
“We have the type of guys who thrive in those roles.”
Not that Price is denying the loss of the 20-year-old Hannoun, especially, isn’t significant.
“Dante is a great catalyst for us on offence. But the [Kaid] Oliver, [Igor] Martynov and [D-Jay] Jerome line has been playing strongly as have other players such as Brandon Cutler been good offensively,” Price said.
Hope hasn’t stood pat, however, filling in some of the gaps this week with forward Sean Gulka, acquired from the Spokane Chiefs, and bringing up signed-prospect forward Alex Bolshakov from the North American Prospects Hockey League. Langley-product Gulka is six-foot-three and has two assists in eight games with Spokane. Bolshakov is six-foot-one and from Auburn, Washington, and showed well in Royals training camp.
The Victoria injury news is better on the defensive side of the puck heading into tonight’s game against the Brandon Wheat Kings at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Royals 20-year-olds, defenceman Ralph Jarratt and goaltender Griffen Outhouse, are listed as day-to-day by the league but as “probables” for tonight by Price.
“We have quality 20-year-olds at every position [Hannoun up front, Jarratt on the blue line and Outhouse in goal]. So while Dante is out, it’s good to have Ralph and Griffen because they are steady and calming influences on our back end,” said Price.
Outhouse’s probable return comes after a scheduled rest day in a victory against lowly Swift Current that was followed by him missing two consecutive losses to Kelowna with an undisclosed ailment. Rookie Brock Gould, who does not turn 17 until December, made his first three WHL appearances in Outhouse’s absence the last three games.
The Royals are 8-3 and meet a solid Wheat Kings team tonight that is 6-2-4, but with a record that could be much better, if not for being luckless after regulation with three overtime losses and one shootout defeat.
Brandon’s first line can certainly connect. NHL third-round Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Stelio Mattheos, the first overall selection in the 2014 WHL bantam draft, has 12 goals and 20 points, Cole Reinhardt six points and Surrey-product Luka Burzan eight goals and 15 points.
“We are going to have to use our team speed against Brandon and attack off defence as five-man units,” said Price.
Victoria is ranked seventh, dropping three spots after the Kelowna losses, in this week’s Canadian Hockey League top-10 poll.
ICE CHIPS: The Wheat Kings’ GM is Grant Armstrong, who helped build the Royals roster in his four seasons in Victoria in several roles, including assistant GM and director of player personnel. That familiarity has led to several deals between the clubs over the past two seasons with Royals bantam draft picks Jonny Lambos, Baron Thompson and Ty Thorpe rolling onto Blanshard Street tonight in Wheat Kings jerseys.