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BCHL Next Generation: Alberni Valley Bulldogs

All summer we’ll be going team-by-team to profile new players coming in for the 2020-21 season with recaps of offseason commits and acquisitions. We will also have interviews and scouting reports from the coaches.

Next up is the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

Joe Martin was coming off an eighth season with the Merritt Centennials and a BCHL Coach of the Year award when he made the move to take over as head coach and general manager of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

Just over a year later, he’s now gotten used to his new surroundings and could not be more impressed by the Bulldogs organization as well as the community of Port Alberni.

“The city is very supportive of the team,” said Martin. “At restaurants, when you go out, players are recognized and acknowledged. This is a very tight-knit community that’s very proud of the Port Alberni kids that have moved on and they’re proud of the Bulldogs while they’re here. It’s a very nice feeling to be the coach of this team.”

After taking over in April of 2019, Martin saw the Bulldogs improve their point total by 11 compared to the 2018-19 season. With a solid group of returning players, he’s looking for his team to take that next step toward being a contender in the BCHL playoffs.

One of the keys to them accomplishing this will be between the pipes, as Alberni is returning both of their goalies from last year. Jackson Glassford put together a solid rookie season in the BCHL and has gotten some buzz as a potential 2020 NHL draft pick, while Luke Pearson is coming off an impressive performance in the first round of the playoffs, despite the team losing their series to the Nanaimo Clippers.

“We’re very fortunate to be returning two hungry goalies,” said Martin. “Neither of these guys want to watch the other one play, even though they cheer each other on and are good friends. They’re a very good tandem, but at the same time, they both want the net and we all know there’s only one. It’s going to be a juggling act, but both guys are up to the task.”

“You see in the NHL playoffs right now, and what we’ve seen numerous times in our league, is that you need to have two quality goaltenders. You never now what’s going to happen. We’re very fortunate to have those guys.”

New recruits:

Brandon Buhr (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: West Van Academy Prep (CSSHL)

Buhr was West Van’s second-leading scorer last year and finished fifth overall in the CSSHL with 71 points in 34 games. He played three games as an affiliate with the West Kelowna Warriors in 2019-20 and earned one assist.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s on the radar of a lot of schools already. I think part of his game that’s going to continue to develop is the physical part. He’s a hard kid to play against. He’s competitive. He reminds me of Michael Regush, a kid I had in Merritt a few years back and who is now at Cornell and having success. Buhr has that type of body frame. He can play in any position up front, but he’s really good with the puck. He’s someone that’s going to help right away.”

Kobe Assam (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Kelowna, B.C.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Hockey Academy Red Prep (CSSHL)

Assam tied for third in scoring for Okanagan Red last year as a 16-year-old with 35 points in 33 games. He also played two BCHL games as an affiliate with Alberni Valley.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s strong and has a physical presence. Kobe played in a couple of our last games of the season last year, but due to everyone being off the ice, I hadn’t seen him until our camp here in the middle of August. When I did get a chance to watch him, I saw lots of progression in his game, which led to us asking him to come in. I think he’s got a big physical presence. He definitely works hard away from the rink and has put in a lot of time.”

Chase Klassen (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Colwood, B.C.
  • Previous team: Westshore Wolves (VIJHL)

Klassen led Westshore in scoring as a rookie last year and finished top-10 in the VIJHL with 53 points in 42 games, good enough to earn him the VIJHL Rookie of the Year award. He played six games with the Bulldogs as an affiliate and scored one goal.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He came in and played a few games for us last year and did his job. We asked him to do a very simple job and he did it exceptionally. He’s a guy that we already trust. He’s going to finish his checks and help on the penalty kill. He’s another player that we’ll allow to grow his game underneath our older player. He plays honestly and is very driven.”

Ethan Bono (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Port McNeil, B.C.
  • Previous team: Pacific Coast Academy Elite 15s (CSSHL E15)

Bono was the leading scorer for Pacific Coast’s Elite 15s team, putting up 59 points in 36 games. He also led the team in goals with 33.

Martin’s scouting report:

“I’ve known about him for about three years now. To be honest, I’ve kind of laid in the weeds a little bit and watched his progression. He’s a big kid. He’s tall. He still has room to grow on his body, but he’s not lean. He looks a bit more like a man than most 16-year-olds. He’s got a great shot and great skills. I think the kid is going to have a good transition to our league and, in time, will be somebody that we’re going to lean on.”

Adam Jeffrey (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Leamington, Ont.
  • Previous team: Leamington Flyers (GOJHL)

The 19-year-old put up solid numbers in both his seasons with Leamington. He ammassed 92 points in 97 games in his GOJHL career.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He has a very good work ethic and a high compete level. He’s a big kid. I think he’s 6-foot-5 and well over 200 pounds. He’s a player that’s shown this summer that his fitness level is very impressive. He’s somebody that’s going to help on the penalty kill and the forecheck. We’ll allow his game to grow. The thing I really like about him is how hard he works and his attention to detail. He’s been extremely well-coached the last couple years and he’s a very driven kid.”

Acquired via trade:

Quintin Loon-Stewardson (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Sioux Lookout, Ont.
  • Previous team: Battlefords North Stars (SJHL)

The 20-year-old is coming off a strong season with Battlefords in 2019-20 where he put up 30 goals and 55 points in 53 games. He also tied for the team lead in playoff points in 2018-19 with 10 goals and 19 points in 16 games as Battelfords skated to an SJHL championship.

Martin’s scouting report:

“Quintin is a very offensively-gifted player. He’s going to help us out a lot and be a big part of our power play. He’s a player that’s in his 20-year-old year, so he’s looking to make a jump and play in a tough league. He wants to win. He’s fighting fires all summer long, so he obviously has a high work ethic and is very disciplined. We’re looking forward to having a 20-year-old with that type of experience.”

Darren Beattie (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Lambeth, Ont.
  • Previous team: Cobourg Cougars (OJHL)

Beattie played his first Junior A season with Cobourg last year and contributed offensively right away, finishing the year with four goals and 15 assists in 46 games.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a puck-moving defenceman that’s looking to grow his game and wanted to move out west. We moved Jackson Munro on to Brown University, so we have some openings for that type of defenceman. Not to say that he’s there yet, but the idea is to get him there. He can skate. He’s good defensively and likes to mix it up physically. It’s a good combination for what we’re looking for.”

Josh Van Unen (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Kamloops, B.C.
  • Previous team: Merritt Centennials

Van Unen had one goal and 12 assists in 40 games with Merritt in his rookie season.

Martin’s scouting report:

“I know Josh well from Kamloops. I coached his two older brothers as well. I’m looking forward to coaching this kid. I know there’s more there offensively than what he’s shown and he had an injury toward the end of last year as well. He’s similar to his brothers. He has very good skill. He’s a good skater. He’s good at faceoffs. I think Josh is the complete package of a player. We’re looking forward to what he can do in his 19-year-old year. I know he’s hungry to show he can do more.”

Photo credits: Kaicee Trott/K*Photography (Klassen), Garrett James Photography (Van Unen)