BCHL Next Generation: Coquitlam Express

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 Coquitlam Express.

The Express have 11 new players committed for next season, but their biggest offseason moves came through trades, highlighted by acquiring former Penticton Vees captain and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Massimo Rizzo.

Last year, Coquitlam had 13 players committed to Division I NCAA programs and seven of those came in-season while they were playing for the Express. The team’s head coach Jason Fortier believes that the right mix of players with and without college commitments can go a long way to creating a winning atmosphere.

“To play in the BCHL is a privilege,” he said. “We want to surround ourselves with the right ingredients and the right type of players. We want players that are going to appreciate the fact that we’ve given them an outstanding opportunity to put themselves in a position to grow, to be in a position to promote themselves and chase down a championship. I feel that you have a better opportunity to find that appreciation when you have a group of players that are not committed already. I think you need a mix and you want to have the right balance.”

A lot of the new faces Fortier has brought in do not have commitments and that includes a large contingency of B.C.-born players. The coach said it wasn’t a conscious effort to recruit local talent, but he’s identified the importance of bringing in players from within the province.

“We want to make sure we’re building our reputation amongst our local contingency” said Fortier. “We want to make sure we’re competitive and find the best players that will represent the organization. We’re looking for like-minded individuals that have the right mindset and that want to play within a structure and have enough accountability and desire to become successful, not just next year, but the years moving forward.”

Acquired via trade

Massimo Rizzo (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Penticton Vees
  • Commitment: University of North Dakota (2020-21)
  • Drafted: 7th Round (216th overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes

Not a player new to the BCHL, but new to the Express, Rizzo brings two years of league experience and plenty of offence to Coquitlam. After a late start to the season last year due to injury, he finished at over a point per game with 40 in 37 contests and in June he was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Fortier’s scouting report:

“I think anytime your organization can acquire an asset as talented as Massimo it’s a huge thing. Coming off an injury, we’re very fortunate that Penticton was willing to work with us and work with the Rizzo family so he can get the treatment and stay local for the year so he can be around his therapist. He expressed interest that he was happy with the direction of our organization and we were all in once we knew we were a place he would be willing to come and play.”

Adam Trotman (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Concord, Ont.
  • Previous team: Newmarket Hurricanes (OJHL)

Trotman played parts of three seasons in Newmarket before being acquired by the Express this offseason. He had his best offensive output last year when he had 51 points in 50 games.

Fortier’s scouting report:

“He’s a big guy who plays a very honest game and is an extremely good character kid who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing before. I think he’s going to have a big impact in our lineup.”

Tyler Schleppe (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Prince George Spruce Kings

Another player coming to the Express from within the BCHL, Schleppe comes with a championship pedigree having won a Fred Page Cup title with Prince George last year. He had nine points in 51 regular-season games with the Spruce Kings and added one assist in nine playoff contests.

Fortier’s scouting report:

“He’s got a big body and a lot of upside. We’re hoping that this year is going to be a big year for him. He’s coming from a Prince George team that was extremely well-coached and played with a lot of structure. When we were able to acquire Tyler, it was a big addition to get a guy with that experience. I’m sure he has a burning desire to play a little bit more of a role.”

Jack Watson (2000, G)

  • Hometown: Toronto, Ont.
  • Previous team: St. Michael’s Buzzards (OJHL)

Watson played the last two seasons with the Buzzards and posted impressive numbers, finishing with a .919 and a .921 save percentage in consecutive years. He will compete with returning Express goalie Clay Stevenson for time in the crease.

2019-20 commits

Christian MacDougall (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Toronto, Ont.
  • Previous team: St. Andrew’s College (CAHA)
  • Commitment: Canisius College

MacDougall had 66 points in 52 games for St. Andrew’s last year and was named the team’s playoff MVP.

Fortier’s scouting report:

“He’s a kid I coached when he was younger in Toronto. He’s a sparkplug with a lot of energy. He plays very physical, smart, two-way hockey and brings the puck into the dirty areas. He’s the type of guy that helps you win championships. He does so many little things and has so much intensity, courage and compete.”

Nicholas Carabin (2000, D)

  • Hometown: Mahwah, N.J.
  • Previous team: North Jersey Avalanche (T1EHL U18)
  • Commitment: Princeton University

Fortier’s scouting report:

“He comes from a well-run organization. Their coach does a great job of instilling structure, work ethic, commitment and accountability – some of the things we preach. There are some similarities in the way we play. We’re expecting a guy that can play both ways and contribute.”

Dante Ballarin (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BCMML)

He captained his major midget team last season and finished second in scoring with 46 points in 39 games. He also scored one goal in three games with the Express as an affiliate in 2018-19.

James Bohn (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Coquitlam, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BCMML)

Another member of the Chiefs major midget squad, Bohn led all defencemen on his team with 40 points in 40 games. He also played three games with Coquitlam last season.

Joe Borthwick (2000, D)

  • Hometown: Northville, Mich.
  • Previous team: Detroit Catholic Central (USHS-MI)

Last year with his high-school team, Borthwick tied for the lead in goals by a defenceman with six and points from the blueline with 27.

Luke Burke (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Dexter, Mich.
  • Previous team: Belle Tire U18 (TIEHL U18)

Burke had 28 points in 28 games last season for Belle Tire U18.

Noah de la Durantaye (2000, D)

  • Hometown: Beaconsfield, Que.
  • Previous team: Deerfield Academy (USHS-Prep)

The Quebec native moved to Massachusetts in 2017 to play for Deerfield Academy where he played for two seasons. He had 28 points in 52 games from the backend over his two years there.

Logan Kurki (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Maple Ridge, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BCMML)

Kurki played the last two years for the Chiefs, most recently finishing fourth in team scoring with 42 points in 36 games. He skated in a pair of games for the Express as an affiliate last year and had a goal and an assist.

Ryan Tattle (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Port Moody, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BCMML)

The fourth and final player on our list to come from the Vancouver NE Chiefs major midget team, Tattle led them in points with 48 and goals with 24. He also played two games for Coquitlam last year.

Thomas Wardle (2002, G)

  • Hometown: West Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Notre Dame Hounds Midget AAA (SMHL)

Wardle had a 2.41 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in 27 games for Notre Dame last year. He will compete for playing time with Express goalie Clay Stevenson and newly acquired Jack Watson.

Casey Whintors (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Langley, B.C.
  • Previous team: Langley Trappers (PIJHL)

The sixth player on our list of newly-committed players to come from B.C., Whintors has spent the last three seasons playing at the Junior B level. Last season he led Langley in scoring with 51 points in 36 games.