Playing in the Penticton Pod was not the inaugural season the Buck’s were expecting, but now they get set for their first full 54-game schedule and a regular-season home debut against their rival Trail Smoke Eaters.
“We’re all optimistic that we’ll finally get a chance to play some home games in front of a pretty passionate fan base. Obviously, last year was challenging in a lot of different fronts with hockey,” said Buck’s Head Coach Ryan Donald.
“We’re excited to slowly begin to get back to what I guess is a new normal and hopefully have a good product on the ice with our hockey club.”
The Cranbrook Bucks have made quite a few offseason moves, signing and trading for five forwards, one defenseman and one goaltender.
Gelbard played 12 games for the Buck’s affiliate last year until an injury kept him out for nearly half the season.
Despite that, Gelbard tied the team lead for scoring with nine points.
“He certainly got a good taste of the BCHL last year during our pod season. He’s somebody that we think can have a pretty high ceiling and come in and contribute right away,” said Donald.
“We’re hoping to see him grow and learn how to compete night in and night out at the Junior A level. He’s someone we think can be a pretty good player in our league.”
The dual Swedish-American citizen spent his last season playing for the Chippewa Steel and the Jamestown Rebels in the North American Hockey League, where he scored 61 points in 81 games.
“He’s a pretty versatile player. He’s played a couple of years of junior hockey already, so we expect him to come in and provide some experience and some leadership. He’s a guy that can play in all situations,” Donald told BCHL officials.
“He can play in the middle. He can play on the wing. We want to help him in his last year of junior to really prepare himself to go to Air Force.”
King put up 20 points in 18 games for the Neponset Valley River Rats U18 AAA team.
“He’s a slippery little player. In time, I think he’s going to be an offensive producer in this league, once he adjusts to the size, speed, pace, physicality and all of those things that come with making the jump from prep school to junior hockey,” said Donald.
“He sees the ice very well. He’s got a good offensive skill set. We’re looking forward to having him.”
Johnson spent his last two years playing for the New Jersey Rockets, where he put up 53 points in 86 games.
“He’s a veteran guy who has played a handful of years of junior already. We think he can give us some leadership and play in all situations – penalty kill, powerplay.”
“He can play centre. He’s a guy that can play a pretty significant role for us and give us some good minutes in all facets of the game.”
Hjartarson played two years for his hometown Calgary Buffaloes U18 AAA team and put up five goals, six assists and 11 points in six games to lead the team in all offensive categories.
“He can play with speed and he can produce some offence. He’s going to have to learn the rigours of Junior A and what that will take in terms of physicality and things like that, but we think he can play within the way that we want to play.”
Morrisey committed to the Bucks last season, but returned for his second year of prep school at Millbrook. During his time with Milbrook, Morrisey led all defensemen with 12 points in six games.
“He can play all three zones as a defenceman. He defends well. He uses his body as well as his stick. He’s a guy we think can contribute offensively in time,” said Donald”
“Some of that will take an adjustment which is needed to play at this level, but we’re confident he can play all situations. He’s a really good skater and somebody who we look forward to working with.”
A B.C. boy is returning home after spending two years with the Humboldt Broncos in Saskatchewan.
In the 2019-20 season, Harroch posted a 7-7-5 record in 21 appearances with the Broncos and finished his season with a .906 save percentage and one shutout.
“We felt like bringing Michael in would improve our goaltending this season. He’s someone we think can take advantage of the opportunity,” added Donald.
“He had some injury problems last year. Working in tandem with Nathan Airey who is returning, we think he can provide us with a good goaltending option.”
Coach Donald said the organization is happy with the moves they have made and last season allowed them to evaluate some of their pre-existing players more in-depth.
“I think we made a few moves to address a few areas we’d like to approve upon. One of the things about our pod season was we got an opportunity to really see what we had here with guys and giving them an opportunity to play, sometimes playing in bigger roles than maybe they ever expected to as a player in our organization.”
“Just Like every team in our league, recruiting is an element of what we do and trying to build and improve our programs over the summer so we have a better team come the fall.”
The Bucks rookie camp will take place over the next week and Donald said some extra spots may get filled.
“We’re going to be running our rookie development camp this coming week and bringing in a lot of players from across the province and giving them an opportunity to showcase themselves for our organization,” added Donald.
“We’re seeking to add probably one or two players from our camp, both the rookie camp and then as we move into our training camp”
The Cranbrook Bucks are scheduled to play their first home game to open the regular season against the Trail Smoke Eaters on October 8th.