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BCHL Next Generation: Chilliwack Chiefs

All summer we’ll be going team-by-team to profile new players coming in for the 2019-20 season with recaps of offseason commits and acquisitions. We will also have interviews and scouting reports from the coaches.

Next up is the Chilliwack Chiefs.

The Chiefs have been one of the busiest teams of the offseason. The regular-season champs from a year ago got to work on the recruiting trail and it has resulted in a large quantity and a high quality of recruits for next year, including a pair of players who were drafted in last month’s NHL Draft.

After starting as an assistant in 2017-18, Chilliwack’s head coach Brian Maloney has been at the helm for over two years now. Since taking over behind the bench, he’s continually worked to get his roster just how he wants it.

“Anytime you’re taking over a team, you want to put your own stamp and identity to it,” said Maloney. “That takes some time. I think we still have a few years to get to exactly how we want to run it here in Chilliwack. We have an idea of what that is internally, but it does take some time in getting the right kids in place.

“We’re looking for young, high-end talent we can bring in and develop, whether they’re here for a year or two or three years. We believe recruiting isn’t a two-month gig, but a two or three-year gig and we’re heavily invested in that aspect.”

With so many new players coming next season, you would think Maloney would be preaching to the players right from training camp about how he wants the team to play. According to him, he’s taking the opposite approach.

“We have a phenomenal group of kids returning,” he said. “To create some sort of culture, you really need to rely heavily on your internal locker room. It’s important that, the kids that have gone through it and know our message, that they’re sharing the identity and the direction from the Chiefs internally. In general, kids respond more to their peers than their coaching staff.”

2019-20 commits

Cooper Moore (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Cos Cob, Conn.
  • Previous team: Brunswick School (USHS-Prep)
  • Commitment: University of North Dakota (2020-21)
  • Drafted: 5th Round (128th overall) by the Detroit Red Wings in 2019

Moore was over a point per game last year with Brunswick where he totaled 31 points in 28 games from the backend. The Chiefs weren’t the only ones who took notice as he was selected in the fifth round by the Detroit Red Wings in June’s draft.

Maloney’s scouting report:

“We’re pretty fortunate to be able to land him. He’s a dynamic, smooth-skating, electric defenceman that we feel like is going to help us get to pucks quickly, move pucks and be able to jump up in the play. Not only is he a darn good player, but we’ve been talking to this player for over a year now and we’ve got a really good sense of who he is as a person.

We can’t forget that Cooper went fourth overall in the USHL draft. I think that’s really phenomenal for our league. I think these kids are really doing their homework now. This is an American kid as well. We should be pretty proud of our league and where it’s heading. It’s always been a darn good league and we’ve known that, but I think it’s starting to really spread throughout North America.”

Nikita Nesterenko (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Previous team: Lawrenceville School (USHS-Prep)
  • Commitment: Brown University (2020-21)
  • Drafted: 6th Round (172nd overall) by the Minnesota Wild in 2019

The 17-year-old scored 30 goals in 31 games for his high-school team and added 29 assists to lead Lawrenceville in scoring with 59 points. He was the second Chiefs commit chosen in the NHL Draft as he was taken in the sixth round by the Minnesota Wild.

Chiefs assistant coach Brad Rihela’s scouting report:

“He had a lot of options in a couple different leagues, so we’re really fortunate. When we watched him play, he was just dominant at Lawrenceville this year with his speed, his poise with the puck and his offensive ability. He’s a guy we’re definitely going to lean on offensively. He checked off all the boxes on our end as far as recruiting is concerned.”

Peter Reynolds (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Fredericton, N.B.
  • Previous team: Shattuck St. Mary’s U16 (Midget)
  • Committed: Boston College (2022-23)

Reynolds comes from the much-heralded Shattuck’s St. Mary’s programs that has produced elite talent like Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Toews. Last year, he led his U16 team with 71 points in 51 games.

Maloney’s scouting report:

“We believe he’s one of the highest-end 2003-born players out there. He’s probably the kid that we’ve been talking to the longest. He’s a smart guy. At his age, he plays beyond his years as far as hockey IQ and where he needs to be on the ice. He’s one of those players that can draw a lot players to him and dump the puck off to open areas for his teammates. He’s definitely got the ability to be something special, so we’re looking forward to furthering his development.”

Jack Agnew (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Oakville, Ont.
  • Previous team: St. Andrew’s College (CAHS)
  • Commitment: Boston College (2020-21)

An assistant captain with St. Andrew’s last year, Agnew was an offensive force, leading all defencemen on his team in scoring with 42 points.

Maloney’s scouting report:

“He’s a very calm player with the puck and great positionally. He’s a kid that is very smooth on his skates. He’s one of those players that, when you put your head down, within a second he’s closing the gap on you. He just takes away the time and space very quickly. He’s going to be a huge part of our team.”

Hudson Thornton (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Winnipeg, Man.
  • Previous team: Rink Hockey Academy Prep (CSSHL)

Another high-end prospect, Thornton doesn’t turn 16 until November. Last year, he scored 17 goals and added 47 points in 31 games to lead his team in scoring as a defenceman.

Rihela’s scouting report:

“He’s a player that we identified as one of the more underrated 2003-born players in Western Canada, so we’re really excited. He definitely adds a bit of offensive flair to our backend. Having said that, it’s going to be a great opportunity for him to learn on both sides of the puck this year.”

Xavier Henry (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Scarborough, Ont.
  • Previous team: St. Andrew’s College (CAHS)
  • Commitment: University of Maine (2020-21)

A teammate of Agnew last season and an assistant captain as well, Henry also brings offence from the blueline as he finished right behind Agnew in defencemen scoring with 38 points in 55 games and is his 14 goals were tops on the team from the backend.

Arlo Merritt (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Halifax, N.S.
  • Previous team: Kimball Union Academy (USHS-Prep)
  • Commitment: Ohio State University

The 18-year-old had 30 points in 36 games for his high-school team last year and also played four games in the USHL for the Lincoln Stars.

Kyle Penney (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Cole Harbour, N.S.
  • Previous team: Kimball Union Academy (USHS-Prep)
  • Commitment: Cornell University (2020-21)

A teammate of Merritt at Kimball Academy, Penney was the captain of the team. He put up 27 points in 37 high-school games last season.

Dawson Good (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Abbotsford, B.C.
  • Previous team: Fraser Valley Thunderbirds (BCMML)

The B.C. boy will have plenty of friends and family at home games this year as his hometown is the neighbouring city of Abbotsford. Good had 51 points in 39 games playing major midget last year and also played in a pair of games for the Chiefs as an affiliate, collecting one assist.

Joey Larson (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Brighton, Mich.
  • Previous team: Hartland High (USHS-MI)

Larson averaged a goal per game for his high-school team last year with 25 in 25 games. He also led the team with 45 points.

Garrett Valk (2002, D)

  • Hometown: North Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NW Hawks (BCMML)

The son of former NHLer Garry Valk, Garrett played three games for Chilliwack as an affiliate last year. He led his major midget team in defencemen scoring with 19 points in 37 games.

Jake Veri (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Northville, Mich.
  • Previous team: Compuware U18 (HPL U18)

Veri had nearly a point per game last season with his U18 team with 13 points in 14 games and also played in a pair of USHL games for the Lonestar Brahmas.