Valley Wildcats hockey
The Valley Junior A Wildcats appear to be well positioned for at least the next two seasons, according to head coach Nick Greenough.
The Wildcats will lose only three players due to age – Pat MacIsaac, Brad Ryckman and Brandon Weir.
“Everyone else is at least eligible to return,” Greenough said.
At the same time, there is a possibility Valley may lose a player or two to the major junior level. Players in that category might include Colby Tower, who has already been called up to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles with the end of the Wildcats’ season; Jean-Marc Evans-Renaud; Mike Molloy, who has been “up and down with the (Halifax) Mooseheads” the last couple of seasons; and goalie Blade Mann-Dixon, a 16-year-old who has “turned some heads” in his first Junior A season.
In addition, with St. Stephen, N.B. entering the league as an expansion franchise next season, the remaining MHL teams will be expected to provide a pool of players to stock the new team.
Even with the potential of a few additional losses, Greenough said, “the future looks fairly bright for us for next year, and likely, the year after.”
The Wildcats, he pointed out, also have as their property, either as draft picks or territorial choices, a handful of players currently playing major midget. This list includes locally-produced players like Kentville’s Nick Blanchard and Kingston’s Grant Janes, both currently playing for Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL
“There are other players on our 45-man protected list, including some that were drafted by us in the past,” Greenough said.
And then there is the MHL draft, arguably the best way for a relatively new team to add players, which is scheduled for mid-June in Campbellton, N.B. Last year, as the transplanted Metro Shipbuilders franchise, the Wildcats had the first overall pick in the draft, which they used to secure Mann-Dixon, but ended up with very few other choices in the high rounds of the draft.
This year, Valley will have the fourth pick overall in the first round, a second-round pick, two picks in the fourth and fifth rounds, and 11 picks in all, as well as two territorial picks, the same as last year.
Greenough said the MHL is a good proving and developing ground for junior-aged players, and is increasingly being seen as such by coaches in both major junior and university hockey.
“A lot of people underestimate this league,” he said. “It’s definitely a league with some great hockey players.”
The Wildcats have taken great strides over their first season in Kentville to make the team more visible, and available, to local fans. Greenough said that will continue through the summer, during which a number of publicity-generating events are planned, including a float in the annual Apple Blossom Festival parade.