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BCHL Next Generation: Coquitlam Express

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 Coquitlam Express.

In April, the Coquitlam Express hired Dani Cioffi as the team’s next head coach and general manager. Although this will be the first time he’s a head coach in the league, Cioffi brings plenty of BCHL experience. He’s held several different roles in the league with multiple organizations, including associate coach and director of player development with the Express from 2007 to 2010 when the team was playing out of Burnaby. His other stops include time with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Langley Rivermen and his most recent BCHL gig with the Trail Smoke Eaters from 2014 to 2016.

According to Cioffi, although things have changed since he first started working the league, that experience has helped him transition into his new role.

“There are still a lot of familiar faces around,” he said. “Knowing how things operate and having those connections and relationships has definitely helped eased things coming back into the league. I think my experience away from the league is going to help as well. Scouting and just being in the Lower Mainland the last 13 or 14 years has really helped.”

The Express won the Ron Boileau Memorial trophy last year as the BCHL’s top regular-season team, finishing with a 47-9-1-1 record. They also swept their first-round playoff series against the Langley Rivermen before the league had to shut down in March.

Cioffi is expecting 11 players to return from last year’s roster and knows he’ll need to lean on their veteran experience if they want to reach those same heights in 2020-21.

“My first conversations when I first stepped into the role were with the returning players,” he said. “They’re going to be relied upon heavily as the group to lead the new guys coming in and to get them to where they were last year. They’ve been there and done that. Obviously, they had a good recipe for success and a good foundation of culture, which is attributed to the last regime that was here. We want to build off of that, but [assistant coach] Ryan [Hollweg] and I have our own philosophies and experience that we want to use to help these guys continue to grow and develop.”

New recruits:

Dante Berrettoni (2002. F)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BC U18)

Berretoni’s 28 goals led all of major midget in 2019-20 and his 52 points in 40 games tied him for third overall in the league. The 17-year-old also played one game for the Surrey Eagles as an affiliate.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“We’re getting a player who has a good nose for the net, a very high work ethic and is also a great person. When we were recruiting, we were looking for certain things, and character was a big one. We’re looking for someone who is driven, self-motivated and has goals and Dante fits that bill really well.”

Matthew Campbell (2003, D)

  • Hometown: North Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NW Hawks (BC U18)

Playing the majority of the season as a 16-year-old, Campbell led the Hawks in assists last year with 32 and finished as the team’s highest-scoring defenceman with 39 points, good enough for second among all blueliners in the league. He also made four appearances for the Express in 2019-20 as an affiliate.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“Matthew is a player that I coached in Bantam and know quite well. He’s a great skater who is highly skilled and has a high compete level. He is going to be a dominant defenceman as he grows in the BCHL. He’s only a 17-year-old, but by the time he’s 19, he’s going to be one of the top defencemen in the league.”

Cole Crusberg-Roseen (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Stratham, N.H.
  • Previous team: Mount St. Charles Academy U18 (U18 AAA)
  • College commitment: University of Massachusetts (2021-22)

The 18-year-old put up 11 goals and 26 assists for 37 points at Mount St. Charles in 2019-20.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“He’s a highly-skilled offensive defenceman. He’s a guy we’re going to look to jump in and be able to control the power play. He’s an ’02 who is going to grow and be a very dominant defenceman in this league as he develops on both sides of the puck.”

Thomas Stift (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Previous team: Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18U (18U AAA)

The 17-year-old was the Jr. Ducks leading scorer last year, putting up 55 points in 58 regular-season games.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“He’s super motivated and has high energy with tons of skill. He’s a very mature individual who fits our character profile. We’re looking forward to him stepping into our top nine as well. It will be interesting to see how he develops. From talking to his coach [August Aiken], who actually played in our league, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if he scored 20 goals this year.”

Daniel Juca (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BC U18)

Juca led the Chiefs in assists last year and his 42 points in 34 games put him second in team scoring. He also played in two BCHL games as an affiliate with the Vernon Vipers.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“He’s a big forward with great hands and vision. He’s a good two-way player. He’s going to bring a lot of versatility to our lineup. He can play on the power play and be a great penalty killer as well.”

Austin Fraser (2003, F)

  • Hometown: West Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NW Hawks (BC U18)

Fraser had 34 points in 40 games with the Hawks last season. He also played a long stretch of games with the Express as an affiliate, appearing in eight contests and scoring his first BCHL goal.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“He’s a very good player who plays two ways. He’s got a big body and he’s fast with a rocket of a shot. Austin could play anywhere in our top nine to start the season. He’s going to grow into an elite player when he gets to his 19-year-old season.”

Sam Marit (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Toronto, Ont.
  • Previous team: Brampton Admirals (OJHL)

A three-year OJHL veteran, Marit started the 2019-20 season with the Markham Royals before being acquired by Brampton. He had 23 points in 42 games split between the two teams.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“He’s battled injuries in a couple years, but he’s recently come into his own. He’s a player with speed and skill who can put up numbers. He’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but he’s a very mature individual who has a lot of Division I interest”

Jackson Hughes (2001, F)

  • Hometown: South Lyon, Mich.
  • Previous team: Victory Honda 18U (18U AAA)

Hughes totaled 38 points over 66 games with Victory Honda in 2019-20.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“Jackson is a big-bodied forward with tons of speed. We’re going to look to him to be a good power forward on the forecheck and to crash the net and wreak havoc for goalies. He’ll be part of our attack and strategy when it comes to being fast and playing hard.”

Luke Busby (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minn.
  • Previous team: Eden Prairie High (USHS-Prep)

Busby had a goal and six assists last season with Eden Prairie High.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“Luke is a very good two-way defenceman and is also a strong skater. He has a lot of Division I interest, coming from a strong program in Eden Prairie. He was my first recruit when I took over through a connection back east. He’s mature enough to want to take on the defensive side, but I think he’s got an offensive side that we’ll see when he gets here.”

Acquired via trade:

Rajvir Sangha (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
  • Previous team: Red Lake Miners (SIJHL)

Sangha played with Red Lake in Ontario last year and put up 26 points in 40 games, second most among defencemen on his team. The year prior, the 18-year-old played Junior B in the Kootenay Interior Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), splitting time between the Revelstoke Grizzlies and the North Okanagan Knights. That same year, he also played one game with the Vernon Vipers as an affiliate.

Cioffi’s scouting report:

“Right now, we have a relatively young defence core. We wanted to get someone with a little more experience and I think Raj is going to help in that regard. He’s got good size and skating. He’s a good right-handed puck-moving defenceman. Adding him just adds some needed depth to our defence core.”

Photo credits: Rylee Smolarchuk (Berretoni), Katrina Wray (Juca), Dan Hickling/Hickling Images (Marit)