The 2018-19 CHL season is upon us, so once again it is time for previews. As always, I have surveyed a number of journalists who cover each of the three leagues in order to get a sense of who the contenders and pretenders will be this season. Consider the following to be power rankings: divisional formats or seedings are not factored in, so if one division happened to have the best two franchises in the league, they would be ranked first and second.
I have also included a couple of NHL prospects to keep an eye on for each team. Given that NHL training camps have just begun, there will be some wild cards, but I’ve done my best to list kids most likely to return.
After a down year in the draft, most of the CHL’s top talents reside in the ‘Dub’ for 2018-19. That will make for some exciting matchups, while the league tries to break a Memorial Cup skid that stretches back to 2014. Who’s got the best chance?
1. Lethbridge Hurricanes: Stacked team has Calen Addison (PIT) on the blueline, big Akira Schmid (NJ) in net and perhaps most importantly, a potential lottery pick in potent center Dylan Cozens (2019).
2. Prince Albert Raiders: Ian Scott (TOR) needs to have a big year in net for the Raiders, as does Cole Fonstad (MTL) up front. The first true look at defenseman Kaiden Guhle (2020) will be fun.
3. Spokane Chiefs: Look for Jaret Anderson-Dolan (LA) to be one of the top players in the league. In fact, you could say the same about Ty Smith (NJ) on the blueline.
4. Saskatoon Blades: Powerhouse Kirby Dach (2019) will be a top prospect this year and the addition of scorer Kristian Roykas Marthinsen (WSH) boosts the offensive attack even further.
5. Vancouver Giants: It’ll be a key year for David Tendeck (ARI) in net, while Bowen Byram (2019) may be the best Canadian defenseman in the draft. Milos Roman (CGY) returns to his tricks up front.
6. Brandon Wheat Kings: Stelio Mattheos (CAR) has turned into an all-around force, while Jiri Patera (VEG) comes in to give the Wheaties a battle-tested netminder.
7. Calgary Hitmen: Riley Stotts (TOR) brings back an all-around game with nice vision. On the back end, Vladislav Yeryomenko (NSH) is a smooth operator.
8. Edmonton Oil Kings: Trey Fix-Wolansky (CBJ) is tiny terror with the puck, while D-man Matthew Robertson (2019) and import Vladimir Alistrov (2019) have high draft aspirations.
9. Medicine Hat Tigers: Right winger Josh Williams (2019) has the sniper’s touch, while an interesting goalie situation sees Jordan Hollett (OTT) and import Mads Sogaard (2019) vying for starts.
10. Tri-City Americans: Odds are 2-to-1 that Michael Rasmussen (DET) ain’t coming back, so Kyle Olson (ANA) and Sasha Mutala (2019) will be key to the offensive attack.
11. Everett Silvertips: Riley Sutter (WSH) is the big man up front, while hard-working Connor Dewar (MIN) just nabbed the captaincy. Dustin Wolf (2019) has a big crease to fill with Carter Hart gone.
12. Moose Jaw Warriors: A nice back end is highlighted by two-way producer Josh Brook (MTL) and the thunderous threat of Jett Woo (VAN).
13. Portland Winterhawks: Look for Cody Glass (VEG) to dominate in his final year of junior, while towering Brendan De Jong (CAR) returns to patrol the blueline.
14. Kamloops Blazers: Dylan Ferguson (VEG) brings a ton of experience in net, while Jermaine Loewen (DAL) is a power forward with lots of potential.
15. Kelowna Rockets: Nolan Foote (2019) brings size and pedigree up front, while Lassi Thomson (2019) comes in from Finland to bring mobility to the defense corps.
16. Seattle Thunderbirds: Defenseman Jarret Tyszka (MTL) had a rough start to his fall, but he brings size and experience back to the blueline, where Jake Lee (2019) will continue to grow.
17. Victoria Royals: Scott Walford (MTL) is a two-way vet on the blueline and Griffen Outhouse (undrafted) may be the most important goalie in the league this year.
18. Regina Pats: Defenseman Cale Fleury (MTL) really improved in Regina. Up front, Jake Leschyshyn (VEG) plays a solid all-around game.
19. Kootenay Ice: Peyton Krebs (2019) is the engine that drives this offense, though Brett Davis (DAL) is starting to put up some solid numbers, too.
20. Red Deer Rebels: Big, offensively-gifted defenseman Alexander Alexeyev (WSH) can help teach new import center Oleg Zaytsev (2019) the ropes in Red Deer.
21. Prince George Cougars: The Cougars grabbed left winger Matej Toman (2019) with the fifth overall pick in the Import Draft. Meanwhile. Goalie Taylor Gauthier (2019) has a chance to make a case for himself.
22. Swift Current Broncos: Big Joel Hofer (STL) looks to improve on a solid rookie season in the crease and he’ll have to be good, since the Broncos are rebuilding now.