BCHL Next Generation: Langley Rivermen

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 Langley Rivermen.

Over the past decade, the Langley Rivermen have created a development model that puts a premium on identifying local talent and bringing them through their system. Many players that have ended up on the Rivermen’s Junior A roster have come through the Junior Rivermen spring program, as well as the Langley Trappers Junior B team, who the Rivermen have a working relationship with.

Last year alone, the Rivermen had 17 B.C.-born players play at least 30 games for them. 15 of those players were from the Lower Mainland and four of them were from Langley playing from their hometown team.

The team’s head coach and general manager Bobby Henderson explains that this is no coincidence.

“We want to see these kids get opportunities,” he said. “There are plenty of quality hockey players in the Lower Mainland. At times, we can be a little bit guilty of thinking the grass is greener on the other side. I think that fans and sponsors want to see that. It helps when our players are going into the community and there’s a connection there and some of the kids can recognize them because they’ve seen them around the rink for years. It’s something that we’ve really tried to focus on as an organization.”

The Rivermen are very much a family-run business with brothers Roy and John Henderson co-owning the team, Roy’s son Taylor acting as the director of operations, Roy’s other son Bobby as head coach and general manager, Bobby’s wife Amanda as the team’s business manager and Taylor’s wife Alana as the special events coordinator.

With the family mostly hailing from Langley, it’s been special for them to be able to work together to build the Rivermen program into what it is today.

“For myself, it’s kind of a dream come true,” said Bobby. “Growing up, when I was four or five years old, I was always around the rinks in New West with the Royals and the Richmond Sockeyes because my dad was involved with both teams. After I got done playing, it seemed like a natural progression to get involved with the league. The fact that we were able to turn it into a family business and get everyone involved, it’s definitely been a blessing to be able to spend that time together and work together on something that we all love. We love the game and we love the league.”

New recruits:

Brandon Milberg (2001, G)

  • Hometown: Thornhill, Ont.
  • Previous team: Lawrence Academy (USHS-Prep)
  • College commitment: Sacred Heart University (2021-22)

Milberg was solid with Lawrence Academy last year, finishing his final year there with an impressive .954 save percentage, a 1.13 goals-against average and three shutouts in just eight games.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Brandon was one of the top goaltenders in prep hockey out east last year. He’s very good technically and is a good athlete. He also has an extremely high compete level. [Last year’s starter Braedon] Fleming is graduated now and he played a lot of minutes for us the last few years, so we’re looking for a similar situation for Brandon.”

Cameron Johnson (2004, D)

  • Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: St. George’s School Elite 15s (CSSHL E15)

The 15-year-old led the entire CSSHL Elite 15 league in scoring last season with 78 points in 33 games. He also played five games with the St. George’s prep team and contributed a goal and three assists.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“We’re really excited about Cam. He’s got high-end skill and is a very dynamic player. He’s a little bit undersized, but he’s had a big summer and has grown a couple inches since I saw him last. He looks like he’s probably put on about seven or eight pounds as well. That was kind of the biggest thing for him, just getting bigger and stronger and he’s making steps in that area. As he gets older, he’ll be a premiere offensive player in this league.”

Keaton Oakley (2002, F)

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

Oakley was the Trappers fourth-leading scorer in 2019-20 with 48 points in 42 games. He also played four regular-season games and two postseason contests with the Rivermen last year.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Keaton was very close to making our team last year. We felt, for his development, it would help to play another year in Junior B and be a go-to guy and score a lot of goals and he relished that role. He’s a big power forward that has nice offensive ability and is going to be hard to play against. We’re excited to have another local boy come in.”

Ashton Taylor (2003, F)

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

The 17-year-old was a consistent offensive threat for Okanagan Academy last season. He finished his year at a point-per-game with 35 in 35 contests. He also got in some BCHL experience, suiting up for a pair of games with the Rivermen.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“He’s one of our guys that came through our Junior Rivermen program. He had an unfortunate injury in training camp, or else he would have been in the mix last year. He’s a real high-energy player and is a great skater. He has a good skill-set and is good defensively. He’s just a well-rounded and honest player that we’re looking to really develop over the next couple years and be a key part of things down the road.”

Joseph Messina (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Woodbridge, Ont.
  • Previous team: Selects Academy 18U AAA (18U AAA)

Messina chipped in with 18 points from the blueline last season with Selects Academy.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Joseph is an undersized puck mover and he’s a great skater. He’s got a dynamic that we felt we were missing on the back end. We wanted to add a little bit more pop speed-wise and he certainly brings that to the lineup. Coming in as a bit of an older guy, we’ll look to him to eat some minutes right out of the gate.”

Samuel Marburg (2002, F)

  • Hometown: North Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: North Van Wolf Pack (PJHL)

Marburg was an assist captain for the Wolfpack last year in his second season with the team. He put up 10 goals, 25 assists and 35 points in 2019-20.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“We’ve been tracking Sam for a couple years. Number one, he’s a great athlete. He’s also a great teammate. He’s got some experience in North Van when he played on some older teams and won a couple league championships and a provincial championship there. As a rookie, he really had to pay his dues and worked with limited opportunity. Last year, he saw his game really mature and in the second half he took it to another level and started playing with confidence. He skates extremely well. He has a high IQ and good vision.”

Ajeetpal Gundarah (2003, G)

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

Gundarah played 28 games for the Trappers last year and had a 15-7-1 record. He finished with a .928 save percentage, a 2.62 goals-against average and one shutout.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“He was the goalie for the Trappers last year as a 16-year-old and was really impressive. He’s another Junior Rivermen player that we’re excited to have join us.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images (Milberg), Garrett James Photography (Johnson, Taylor), Jody Harris (Oakley), Justin Sulpico (Marburg, Gundarah)