BCHL Next Generation: Cranbrook Bucks

In the weeks leading up to the start of the 2021-22 regular season, we will be going team-by-team to profile new players coming in for the upcoming year. This will include recaps of offseason commitments and acquisitions, as well as scouting reports from the coaches.

Next up is the Cranbrook Bucks.

Last year’s debut campaign for the Cranbrook Bucks took place in the Penticton Pod with the team playing all their games away from home, so needless to say, it was not the inaugural regular season they had in mind when the team was announced.

With a full 54-game schedule and a regular-season home debut against their rival Trail Smoke Eaters on opening night, 2021-22 is setting up to be the debut season the team missed out on last year.

Although last season was their first in the BCHL, like any junior hockey team, there is still plenty of turnover from year to year. We spoke with Bucks head coach Ryan Donald about the new faces in the locker room in 2021-22.

New recruits

Walker Gelbard (2005, F)

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

Gelbard was an affiliate with the Bucks last year and played the entirety of the pod season with the team until he was injured after 12 games. Despite missing nearly half of his team’s games, he still managed to tie for the team lead in scoring with nine points.

Donald’s scouting report:

“He certainly got a good taste of the BCHL last year during our pod season. He’s somebody that we think can have a pretty high ceiling and come in and contribute right away. We’re hoping to see him grow and learn how to compete night in and night out at the Junior A level. He’s someone we think can be a pretty good player in our league.”

Liam Hansson (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Ramsey, N.J.
  • Previous team: Chippewa Steel (NAHL)
  • College commitment: Air Force Academy (2022-23)

A dual Swedish and American citizen, Hansson spent a large portion of his youth and junior hockey career in Sweden up until 2019-20 when he came to North American and skated for the Jamestown Rebels of the North American Hockey League. That year he put up 31 points in 47 games and, after being acquired by Chippewa, he notched 30 points in 34 games to lead the team in scoring last season.

Donald’s scouting report:

“He’s a pretty versatile player. He’s played a couple of years of junior hockey already, so we expect him to come in and provide some experience and some leadership. He’s a guy that can play in all situations. He can play in the middle. He can play on the wing. We want to help him in his last year of junior to really prepare himself to go to Air Force.”

Bauer Morrissey (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Leesburg, Va.
  • Previous team: Millbrook School (USHS-Prep)

Morrisey committed to the Bucks last season, but did not end up joining the team for camp and instead returned for his second year of prep school at Millbrook. He led all Milbrook defencemen with 12 points in six games last year, after putting up 29 in 32 games the year before.

Donald’s scouting report:

“He can play all three zones as a defenceman. He defends well. He uses his body as well as his stick. He’s a guy we think can contribute offensively in time. Some of that will take an adjustment which is needed to play at this level, but we’re confident he can play all situations. He’s a really good skater and somebody who we look forward to working with.”

John Johnson (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Naperville, Ill.
  • Previous team: New Jersey Rockets (NCDC)

Johnson played the past two years with the Rockets and put up a combined 53 points in 86 career games with the team. Prior to that, he spent parts of two years in the North American Hockey League with St. Cloud Blizzard franchise.

Donald’s scouting report:

“He’s a veteran guy who has played a handful of years of junior already. We think he can give us some leadership and play in all situations – penalty kill, powerplay. He can play centre. He’s a guy that can play a pretty significant role for us and give us some good minutes in all facets of the game.”

Kellan Hjartarson (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
  • Previous team: Calgary Buffaloes U18 AAA (AEHL U18)

Hjartarson spent the past two years in the Buffaloes program. In 2020-21, he had five goals, six assists and 11 points in six games to lead the team in all offensive categories.

Donald’s scouting report:

“He can play with speed and he can produce some offence. He’s going to have to learn the rigors of Junior A and what that will take in terms of physicality and things like that, but we think he can play within the way that we want to play.”

Andrew King (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Dubuque, Iowa
  • Previous team: Neponset Valley River Rats U18 AAA (18U AAA)

King led the River Rats in assists last year with 16 and finished fourth in points with 20 in 18 games.

Donald’s scouting report:

“He’s a slippery little player. In time, I think he’s going to be an offensive producer in this league, once he adjusts to the size, speed, pace, physicality and all of those things that come with making the jump from prep school to junior hockey. He sees the ice very well. He’s got a good offensive skill set. We’re looking forward to having him.”

Acquired via trade

Michael Harroch (2001, G)

  • Hometown: North Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Humboldt Broncos (SJHL)

The B.C. boy returns to his home province after two years spent in Saskatchewan. In 2019-20, Harroch posted a 7-7-5 record in 21 appearances with the Broncos and finished his season with a .906 save percentage and one shutout.

Donald’s scouting report:

“We felt like bringing Michael in would improve our goaltending this season. He’s someone we think can take advantage of the opportunity. He had some injury problems last year. Working in tandem with Nathan Airey who is returning, we think he can provide us with a good goaltending option.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Morrissey, Johnson, King)