Kelowna Rockets season preview – Kelowna Capital News
It’s a group of Kelowna Rockets veterans hitting the ice in black, white, red and teal this season.
After an outstanding 42-20-1-5 record, he finished second in the BC Division and fifth in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, the team suffered a first-round exit against the Seattle Thunderbirds, who ended up losing to Edmonton in the WHL Finals.
Many of the same faces make it into this year’s squad as they look to improve on last season.
The dynamic attacking group is led by Andrew Cristall and Colton Dach. Cristall is having an incredible rookie season for the Rockets, finishing with 69 points (28 goals, 41 assists) in 61 games. He was one of six 16-year-olds in the league to finish with over 60 points. Cristall, along with defenseman Caden Price and head coach Kris Mallette won gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Team Canada in early August, recording six points (one goal, five assists) in five games . The now 17-year-old is eligible for the NHL Draft and many hockey writers are projecting Cristall as a late first-round pick.
Dach, who led the Rockets in points last season (29 goals, 50 assists, 79 points in 61 games) will not start the season with the team as he is currently in training camp with the Chicago Blackhawks. . He was drafted in the second round (62nd overall) by Chicago in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Adam Kydd is also aiming for another big season after scoring 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 69 games last season. 33 of his 52 points came in 39 games with the Rockets, who got him in a trade with Calgary.
Unfortunately, the team will be without forward Pavel Novak, who is away from hockey for the time being after being diagnosed with cancer in late June.
The team is looking for its new strikers to replace and produce throughout the season. Four new forwards have joined the team: Grady Lenton, Will Munro, Ethan Neutens and Logan Peskett.
Of the seven defenders from last season, five are back and the team welcomes three new members at the back.
Led by Price, the returning d-men also include John Babcock, Jackson DeSouza, Elias Carmichael and Noah Dorey. Of the returning five, Babcock led them with 23 points in 57 games last season and led the team with a +28 differential. He continued where he left off in the preseason, registering one goal, three assists and a +5 rating in five preseason games.
The three new members are looking to solidify the blue line and pack an offensive punch at the back. Ismail Abougouche, a native of Lac La Biche, Alta., had 23 points in 34 games for the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers U16 team last year and was drafted by the Rockets in the 2021 WHL Draft.
Logan Dochuk and Jackson Romeril, of Edmonton and Calgary respectively, finish the defenseman.
In the fold
Last season’s starter, Tayln Boyko, will not start the season with the team as he is in New York Rangers training camp. It is not known when he will be back with the team. The Rockets acquired Boyko in an early-season trade from Tri-City Americans last year. Between the two teams, he played 54 games, finishing with a 29-18-5 record and a 3.03 goals-against-average (GAA).
Jari Kykkanen, last season’s substitute goalkeeper, is back with the team. He went 8-3 in 13 appearances with an average of 2.75.
The team also brought back Nicholas Cristano, who played for the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds last season. He was the Rockets’ third goalie in the 2020-21 pandemic season.
The Rockets kick off the regular season at Prospera Place on Saturday night (Sept. 24) when they host the Portland Winterhawks in town. The puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. and tickets are available here.