The Wenatchee Wild defeated the Prince George Spruce Kings in 5 games to win the BCHL title, and then the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in 5 games to win the Doyle Cup and booked the first of 4 regional spots in the RBC Cup.
Wenatchee is a community of about 33,000 people in Washington State, and they are only the second team ever from the United States to compete for the Canadian national junior A championship. The first team was the Minnesota Wilderness back in 2013 after winning the Dudley-Hewitt Cup. The Wild were an expansion team back in 2008 into the North American Hockey League, and moved to the BCHL back in 2015.
The Wild are arguably the hottest team headed into this year’s tournament. They have only lost 5 games in total in their playoff run over five series. Wenatchee has fielded 11 NCAA Division I commits on their roster this season, and have They have been led by CJHL MVP finalist and BCHL MVP Jasper Weatherby, who has committed to the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks for next season. Weatherby recorded 38 points in 20 BCHL playoff games, and along with teammate AJ Vanderbeck, he scored a team-high 3 goals during the Doyle Cup against Spruce Grove.
The Wild also have solid complimentary forwards as well. Sam Morton is someone to keep an eye on. The ’99 forward scored 25 points in 20 games in the BCHL playoffs, and netted 2 goals and 2 assists during the Doyle Cup. He is one of the top young forwards in Canadian junior A hockey, as he scored 29 goals and added 25 assists in his second season with the Wild.
Lucas Sowder and Sam Hesler also have had solid playoff runs for the Wild, who have a bright future after this season. And ’97 veterans AJ Vanderbeck and August Von Ungern provide secondary scoring and solid leadership along the way as well.
On the back end, the Wild sport the top scoring defenceman in the BCHL in Cooper Zech, who scored 69 points (11 G, 58 A) during the regular season, had 23 points (4 G, 19 A) in the playoffs, and led all Wild players with 6 points in the Doyle Cup. They have a good mix of veteran and young defenceman that should help them in this tournament. One of their young defenseman is highly-rated prospect Slava Demin (’00), who is ranked #40 on the list of North American skaters during the final NHL Central Scouting draft list. Demin has also committed to the University of Denver, and will be headed there in a couple of years.
In goal, the Wild have a solid netminder in Austin Park, who only played in 25 games during the regular season. But he was the starter the entire way for the Wild during the postseason, and kept improving as the playoffs wore on. Park sported a 2.30 GAA with a .926 SV% and one shutout during the Doyle Cup final.
The Wild boast a lot of fire power on the front end, with a very talented and deep defence corp that compliments their forward group and have a goaltender that seems to keep improving as the season goes on. Wenatchee should be a tough out during the 2018 RBC Cup in Chilliwack.
Leading Playoff Scorers (BCHL)
F Jasper Weatherby (’98) – 20 GP – 38 PTS (15 G, 23 A)
F AJ Vanderbeck (’97) – 20 GP – 28 PTS (13 G, 15 A)
F Sam Morton (’99) – 20 GP – 25 PTS (6 G, 19 A)
Austin Park (’98) – 19 GP – 2.20 GAA, .905 SV%, 2 SO