BCHL Next Generation: Merritt Centennials

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 will start with the Interior Conference. Next up is the Merritt Centennials.

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Last year was a tough year for Merritt in many ways. The team finished last in the standings, winning only three of 54 games. The community also dealt with a devastating flood in the Nicola Valley that affected the team both on and off the ice.

The 2022-23 season acts as a fresh start for the team, who brought in new head coach and general manager Curtis Toneff late in the season. With a full offseason under his belt, the 29-year-old has begun to put his stamp on the roster with a league-high 16 new additions so far through recruiting and trades.

That gave Toneff plenty to talk about when discussing his team’s new players this year.

New recruits

Kyle Isenberg (2004, D)

  • Hometown: Anaheim, Calif.
  • Previous team: Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18U AAA (18U AAA)
  • College commitment: Air Force Academy

Isenberg was the captain of his team in Anaheim last year, while putting up 50 points in 58 games. He is currently the Centennials lone NCAA Division I committed player.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“I’ve had success with getting players from that program in the past. It was nice to get a player to Merritt who already has a Division I commitment. I think we’ll have around six or seven by the end of the year. It shows that our program is turning in the right direction.”

Ryder McIntosh (2005, F)

  • Hometown: Langley, B.C.
  • Previous team: Burnaby Winter Club U18 Prep (CSSHL U18)

McIntosh was among BWC’s top offensive producers in 2021-22. He led the team with 24 goals in 34 games and finished as their fourth-highest scorer with 46 points on the campaign.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“Ryder is a kid that has a lot of skill and had a lot of interest from other leagues and teams. We’re excited for him to come to Merritt. Like some of our other guys, once he figures out the junior game, he’s going to be a very nice player in this league for years to come.”

Diego Johnson (2006, F)

  • Hometown: Fort St. James, B.C.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Hockey Academy Black U17 Prep (CSSHL U17)

Johnson was a key offensive player for OHA last year. He put up 42 points in 32 games to finish fourth in team scoring for the U17 team. He also got into a pair of games with the OHA U18 team, as well as two games of BCHL experience as an affiliate with the Centennials.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“He’s not local to Merritt, but his family lives here now. You’re always wary of bringing in a 16-year-old, but he’s not shy out there. He looks like another guy that’s had a great offseason. I think he’s going to be someone who, halfway through the year, is going to figure it out and be a good player for us.”

Carter Patterson (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Burlington, Ont.
  • Previous team: Tabor Academy (USHS-Prep)

Patterson was the captain at Tabor Academy last year where he was the team’s leading scorer among defencemen with 19 points in 20 games on three goals and 16 assists.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“He’s a 6-foot-4 defenceman that skates well. He’s another player that’s a bit older, even though it’s his rookie season, so he makes our defence corps that much older, steadier and longer. He’s a good athlete. He had surgery and it sounds like his recovery has gone great, so we’re excited to see what he can do as a 19-year-old rookie in this league.”

Aleksey Chichkin (2005, D)

  • Hometown: New Westminster, B.C.
  • Previous team: Burnaby Winter Club U18 Prep (CSSHL U18)

Another product of the Burnaby Winter Club, Chichkin had a strong U18 season, posting 17 points in 34 games on three goals and 14 assists to finish as the team’s third highest scoring defender.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“We’re very excited about Aleksey. He’s 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and he skates well. He’s had a terrific summer. He’s a guy that we got on early and we’re very happy we did because he’s going to be turning some heads this year, in my opinion.”

William Moore (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Westfield, Ind.
  • Previous team: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 18U (18U AAA)

Moore comes from the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program that has produced several BCHL players in recent years. With the 18U team last season, he potted 18 goals, 16 assists and 34 points in 46 contests.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“We’re very excited about him. I got a call on him and didn’t have to watch him for too long to pull the trigger and offer him a spot. Once in a while, you just see something you really like and Will is that kind of guy. He scored some really nice goals last year and he plays a heavy game at the same time. It’s a nice combo for us.”

Victor Barakett (2002, F)

  • Hometown: St-Laurent, Que.
  • Previous team: Westminster Prep (USHS-Prep)

Barakett spent the past two seasons at Westminster Prep in Connecticut. He played at over a point-per-game pace in 2021-22, totaling 27 points in 26 contests to end up third in team scoring, while his 17 assists were the second most among teammates.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“He’s a strong young man that’s going to create space out there and play the game the right way. He has a bit of an edge to his game as well. He’s a bit of a Milan Lucic type of player. He comes in knowing our captain Davide Patella who has spoken very highly of him.”

Jake Geraci (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Old Tappan, N.J.
  • Previous team: P.A.L. Islanders (NCDC)

Geraci was a steady presence on the blueline for the P.A.L. Islanders last year and also chipped in with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points to lead his team in points from the blueline.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“Jake is a steady defenceman that plays the game with a team-first mindset. He’s going to be hard to play against. During previous eras, the Centennials always seemed to have one or two guys like Jake. He should play well in our rink.”

Ryan Spinale (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Plymouth, Mass.
  • Previous team: Boston Advantage 18U AAA (18U AAA)

Spinale tied for the team lead in scoring last season with 43 points in 35 games playing for the Boston Advantage 18U team. The 6-foot-5, 209-pound power forward also tied for the most goals with 25.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“He’s a big man. He’s a skilled player who can make good plays in tight. He’s got a good shot on him too. He’s a guy that’s going to really do well in our rink. I’m excited to see his career progress here in Merritt.”

Jacob Smith (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Trail, B.C.
  • Previous team: Revelstoke Grizzlies (KIJHL)

Smith was a standout for his Junior B team last year in Revelstoke during his 17-year-old season, putting up 22 points in 35 games. He also has previous experience in the BCHL with the Cranbrook Bucks during the 2020-21 pod season and one game with the Trail Smoke Eaters last year.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“We really like Jacob’s attention to detail. When you talk to him on the phone, it sounds like you’re talking to another coach or a pro player. He’s going to be a really good add for us.”

Michael Shara (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Laguna Niguel, Calif.
  • Previous team: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 18U (18U AAA)

Another Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 18U product, Shara notched 13 points from the blueline in 74 games across all competition.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“Michael travelled all the way from California for our spring camp and it was nice to see him eye-to-eye. He’s a tremendous young man who takes the game seriously. He’s also in really good shape. I think he’s going to be a leader right away and be a really good presence back there for us.”

Christian Lowe (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Port Moody, B.C.
  • Previous team: Trail Smoke Eaters (BCHL)

Lowe brings two years of BCHL experience having suited up for the Cranbrook Bucks and Trail Smoke Eaters over that stretch, in addition to handful of games as an affiliate with the Coquitlam Express in 2019-20. He has 12 points in 54 career games in the league.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“Christian is a player that myself and Sam Waterfield, our new assistant, have known for years now. With his speed and tenacity, along with some years in the league under his belt, we think he can be a really sneaky find for us and provide some leadership as a player who has been around the block now.”

Liam Lucas (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Pointe-Claire, Que.
  • Previous Team: Vermont Academy (USHS-Prep)

Lucas starred at Vermont Academy the past two years. He was team captain in 2021-22 and led Vermont in scoring with 37 points and a team-best 24 helpers.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“Liam is a good playmaking centreman. A lot of teams seem to have a guy like him. He can distribute the puck and he supports the puck well. He put up numbers the past few years and we hope he can continue to do that at the junior level.”

Acquired via trade:

Brandon Sacchetti (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Montreal, Que.
  • Previous team: Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL)

Sachetti was a rookie in the Alberta Junior Hockey League last year where he put up 33 points on 17 goals and 16 assists with Fort McMurray. The Centennials acquired him in a three-team trade earlier this offseason.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“Brandon is a player that we worked really hard to get through a trade. He is happy and excited to come. He put up nice numbers last year in the AJHL, which is a good league. I think he can come in here and be a good top-six player for us.”

Walker Erickson (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
  • Previous team: Nanaimo Clippers (BCHL)

Erickson won’t take long getting acclimated to his new team. The 20-year-old played for Merritt during the pod season and for the early part of the 2021-22 campaign before being dealt to the Nanaimo Clippers. He also has an additional year of experience as a rookie with the Trail Smoke Eaters in 2019-20. Erickson has 31 points in 94 career BCHL games. Merritt reacquired him in a trade last month.

Toneff’s scouting report:

“Walker is a talented and skilled player that really wanted to come back to Merritt. He’s an older player and knows this is a big year for him, so we’re expecting him to provide us with some good offensive numbers and to be a leader.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Sullivan, Patterson, Moore, Barakett, Shara), Dave Watling (Chichkin), Garrett James Photography (Lowe, Erickson), Chad Goddard Photography (Sacchetti)