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BCHL Next Generation: Langley Rivermen

In the weeks leading up to the start of the 2022-23 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.

We have moved into the Coastal Conference. Next up is the Langley Rivermen.

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The Langley Rivermen caught a lot of people off guard last year when they stormed out of the gates to lead the Coastal Conference standings for most of the first half of the season. Entering the year, they did not have a single NCAA Division I committed player, but had six different players earn scholarships during the season.

The 2021-22 team was led by a group of 20-year-olds who had big offensive years in their final season of junior hockey, including Tyler Schleppe, Ryan Upson, Riley Wallack and Max Bulawka. With all those players moving on, as well as the team’s leading scorer Max Dukovac heading to Miami University, head coach and general manager Burt Henderson had his work cut out for him this offseason to replace that production in the lineup.

We caught up with him to get his thoughts on the team’s new recruits and offseason acquisitions.

New recruits

Camden Bajzer (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
  • Previous team: Gilmour Academy (USHS-Prep)

Bajzer put up massive numbers at Gilmour Academy in Ohio last season. He led his team with 111 points in 79 games across all competition, including a team-best 46 goals.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“He’s a highly skilled forward with great offensive instincts. We’re looking for him to provide some offence this season. He sees the ice tremendously well and is good at finding space to use his quick release. He’s really good in tight, so he scores a lot of goals in front of the net and off his one-timer side.”

Nathan Gossoo (2005, F)

  • Hometown: West Kelowna, B.C.
  • Previous team: Pacific Coast Academy U18 Prep (CSSHL U18)

Gossoo was the leading scorer at Pacific Coast Academy last season, finishing his year with 35 points in 36 games, and his 21 goals were by far the most on the team. Gossoo also got a taste of BCHL action, playing three games with Langley as an affiliate.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Nathan is a young, skilled forward who has a heavy and accurate shot. He’s a pure goal scorer. He just loves to score big goals. We brought him up last season for a few games and he didn’t look out of place. He was up with us during the playoffs and got a good feel for Junior A hockey, so we feel like he’ll be ready to contribute this season. We’re expecting him to score some big goals for us in the future.”

Colton Eisner (2004, F)

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

Eisner was the Hawks’ second-leading scorer in 2021-22 with 30 points in 32 games on 14 goals and 16 assists.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Colton plays a complete, 200-foot game. He’s one of those players who battles for every puck. He’s got great speed and he’ll add that physicality and edge that we’re going to need. He plays heavy on the walls and he’s not scared to get to the dirty areas to score. He comes to play every night. He’ll be a fan favourite.”

Nick Messina (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Woodbridge, Ont.
  • Previous team: Holderness School (USHS-Prep)

Messina was the captain at Holderness last year where he put up 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points in 27 games. He is the younger brother of returning Rivermen defenceman Joseph Messina.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Nick is a great skater. He creates space for himself by using his high hockey IQ. He’s very elusive with the puck and he has great edges that help him skate in tight spots. Although he is on the smaller side, he’s not afraid to be first on the puck. He also has a quick release. We see Nick as being a key piece and a future leader for us.”

Ryan Tong (2004, D)

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

Tong won a Junior B championship last year with the Trappers after being acquired midseason from the Port Moody Panthers. Tong was the second-highest point producer among defencemen in the PJHL last year, piling up 47 points in 41 games. He also contributed eight points in 10 games during the Trappers playoff run. Tong brings some BCHL experience as well, having affiliated with the Coquitlam Express for one regular-season game last year, as well as seven with the Rivermen, including a playoff game.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Ryan is a smooth-skating, highly skilled defenceman with great offensive instincts. He had a great development year last year playing big minutes for the Trappers. He had the opportunity to practice with us throughout last season, so he’s got a good understanding of our systems already. He should be able to contribute right away and put up some big numbers in the next few years.”

John Small (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Orland Park, Ill.
  • Previous team: Chicago Mission 18U AAA (18U AAA)

Small put up 20 points in 30 games last year on 12 goals and eight assists.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“John is an elite skater with great edge work and has that breakaway speed. As soon as he touches the puck, he becomes dangerous because he creates space for himself with his footwork. He’s good at changing speed through the neutral zone and attacking the net hard to create chances. We’re expecting him to be a key player for us in the future.”

Acquired via trade

Luke Munroe (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Kitchener, Ont.
  • Previous team: Truro Bear Cats (MHL)

Munroe led Truro in scoring last season with 46 points in 34 games, good enough for 13th overall in the Maritime Hockey League. His 26 goals were the sixth most in the league.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“We’ll be looking at him to provide us with offence. He sees the ice well. He has a quick, accurate release. He’s not afraid to battle in front for those loose pucks and he can be dangerous coming off the wall. He’s good at finding open space and attacking. He’s a veteran guy that should provide us with leadership and play in all situations.”

Tyler Chan (2005, F)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vernon Vipers (BCHL)

Chan played his rookie BCHL season with the Vipers last year and finished his campaign with three goals, six assists and nine points in 44 games.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Tyler is a player I’ve known for quite a while. He’s a dynamic skater with great edges who can play in all situations. He’s a young player with a high ceiling and huge upside. He plays a complete game. He’s good at using his speed to create offence. We’re expecting him to come in, contribute right away and be a key player for us.”

Matteo Turrin (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Montreal, Que.
  • Previous team: Cowichan Valley Capitals (BCHL)

Turrin is entering his third BCHL campaign. After debuting with the Victoria Grizzlies in the pod season, he split last year between the Nanaimo Clippers and the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Turrin has 14 points in 55 games over his career.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Matteo has a big body. He can play that power forward role that we need. He can really skate for a big man and has a good, heavy shot. He plays heavy on the wall and is a good net-front presence. He uses his body well to create time and space in every zone. He’s a veteran guy, so we can count on him to provide leadership as well.”

Hayden Gelbard (2002, F)

  • Hometown: West Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Cranbrook Bucks (BCHL)

Gelbard played the past two seasons with Cranbrook where he posted seven goals and three assists in a combined 52 games. He will once again be teammates with his younger brother Walker who was acquired by the Rivermen last season and played with the Bucks prior to that.

Henderson’s scouting report:

“Hayden is a smart two-way hockey player who we are expecting to contribute offensively this season. He plays a physical game and makes smart plays on the wall at both ends of the ice. He protects the puck well and is hard to knock off of it. He does all the little things necessary to win games. He’s got an underrated shot that I’d like to see him use a little more this season. He will be counted on to provide leadership to the younger guys.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Bajzer, Messina, Small), Garrett James Photography (Chan, Turrin) Timothy Matway (Gelbard)