The Valley West Hawks will ice one of the oldest rosters in the BC Hockey Major Midget League (MML), which has head coach Jessie Leung “super excited” about the upcoming season.
The Hawks expect to have eight 17 year-olds in their lineup when their regular season begins Sept. 19 in Prince George, an unusually high number.
“We’re older than we’ve ever been,” said Leung, who coached the Hawks to an 18-14-8 (won-loss-tied) record and a sixth-place finish last season. We have players who understand the league and the demands of playing in it.
“We have lofty goals this season.”
The Hawks are comprised of elite 15-17 year-old players from the Surrey, Semiahmoo, Cloverdale and North Delta Minor Hockey Associations. The Hawks best season was in 2013-14, when they placed third with a 27-11-2 mark.
Valley West could have as many as three of their top five goal scorers from last season returning, along with a pair of defencemen and a goaltender. All are among the group of 17 year-olds which will provide plenty of leadership over the course of the 40-game regular season.
Christian Bosa (23 goals) and Ben Evanish of White Rock (15 goals) will be in the Hawks lineup again this season. Jeff Stewart, who was second in team goal-scoring with 22 a year ago, may also rejoin the team. He is currently in the preseason camp of the BC Hockey League’s Surrey Eagles.
Forward Justin De Vos, who had 10 points in 36 games played, defencemen Brad Stonnell and Ian Ross, and goalie Nic Tallarico are the other returning players.
But as excited as Leung is with the returnees, he’s enthused about his group of 15 year-olds who will be making the jump to major midget from the bantam (13-14) ranks.
Leading the list of rookies is Luka Burzan, selected sixth overall in last spring’s Western Hockey League Bantam Draft.
Burzan played for the North Shore Winter Club (NSWC) last season. A six-foot, 165-pound forward, Burzan ranked second in scoring at the Western Canada Bantam Championship in Winnipeg with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games played. The NSWC Winter Hawks went 3-1-1 (won-lost-tied) to win the championship.
“I’m excited about our 15 year-olds,” said Leung. “They are all impact players.”
Other notable 15 year-olds include defenceman Kabir Gill, a teammate of Burzan’s with North Shore, and forwards Ilijah Colina and Michael Farren. Colina captained the Burnaby Winter Club team last season, while Farren comes to the Hawks from Semiahmoo minor hockey.
“I like the talent we have,” said Leung. “We’ll be pretty deep. A player we’ll have as our number-three centre, we would be comfortable with as our number-one.”
Valley West will begin their season Sept. 18-19 with two games in Prince George against the Cariboo Cougars. Their first home game is Saturday, Oct. 10 at the Langley Events Centre against the Vancouver Canadians.