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BCHL Next Generation: Nanaimo Clippers

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 Nanaimo Clippers.

The Clippers finished third in the highly competitive Island Pod last season with a record of 8-11-0-1.

Head coach Darren Naylor is back behind the bench for his fourth season with the club and this year he is bringing a long list of new players into the fold with a combined 18 recruits and trade acquisitions. We sat down with him to get the scoop on each one of the new guys heading into the season.

New recruits

Max Itagaki (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Glenview, Ill.
  • Previous team: Janesville Jets (NAHL)
  • College commit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2022-23)

Itagaki played the last two seasons with Janesville, amassing 43 points in 73 games over that stretch. His most productive season came in 2020-21 when he when he notched 31 points in 39 games, including a team-high 20 assists.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Max is a dynamic, diminutive forward that can make plays. Even though he played limited minutes with Janesville the last couple years, he still managed to produce at a high rate.”

Cooper Black (2001, G)

  • Hometown: Alpena, Mich.
  • Previous team: Odessa Jackalopes (NAHL)
  • College commitment: Dartmouth College (2022-23)

Black had solid numbers with Odessa last year, posting a 2.87 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in 17 appearances. In 2019-20, he played for the North American Hockey League’s Maryland Black Bears and went 9-6-3 with a .916 save percentage, a 2.58 goals-against average and two shutouts in 19 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“At 6-foot-8, he’s a big, athletic kid. We think he is ready to take the next step. He has some tough shoes to fill, but he has the talent and drive to fill in for [previous starter] Jordan [Naylor].”

Cole Hansen (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Ham Lake, Minn.
  • Previous team: Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL)

Hansen split last year between the Wilderness of the NAHL and the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL. In 2019-20, he played prep hockey at Blaine High in Minnesota and led his team in scoring with 58 points in 25 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“This kid was one of the top high-school players in Minnesota and was captain of his team. He’s 6-foot-2 with great offensive skills. Cole had a rough year in the USHL with an abundance of players getting sent to the league and some COVID shutdowns, but he will produce offensively for us right away.”

Joshua Burke (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Land O’ Lakes, Fla.
  • Previous team: Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks (NAHL)

Burke played the last two seasons in the North American Hockey League, first with the Amarillo Bulls and last year with Danbury where he was the team’s second-highest scoring defenceman, putting up 23 points in 45 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“He was actually originally a forward, but eventually transitioned into playing as a defenceman as his game evolved. Even though he switched positions, he still brings that offensive style to his game.”

Jacob Hewitt (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Ashburnham, Mass.
  • Previous team: Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks (NAHL)
  • College commitment: Army West Point (2022-23)

Hewitt produced 12 points in 22 games last year for Danbury. In 2019-20, he totaled 40 points in 34 games for Cushing Academy and finished with the second-most goals on the team with 18.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Jacob is a hard-working, high-character player that can play all three forward positions. On top of that, we are told that his leadership skills are off the charts.”

Brett Merner (2004, D)

  • Hometown: Nanaimo, B.C.
  • Previous team: North Island Silver Tips U18 AAA (BC U18)

Merner did not get any games in last year due to COVID shutdowns, but most recently led the Silver Tips U16 team in defencemen scoring with 13 points in 32 games during the 2019-20 campaign. He also suited up for the Clippers U15 team in 2018-19.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“We feel like Brett was the best local defenceman available to us in recruiting. He definitely has the skill to be a Division I player down the road. He skates extremely well and has great offensive abilities. He should be a Clipper for a long time.”

Andrew Noel (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Maynard, Mass.
  • Previous team: Maine Nordiques (NAHL)

Noel had 15 points in 56 games with the Nordiques last year. Prior to that, he spent three years at Kimball Union Academy where he suited up for 134 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Andrew is a tough, mean defenceman. We got pushed around a bit in the pod last year, but we won’t let that happen again. He plays on the edge all the time and can also play our style. On top of that, he’s also a good skater.”

Charles-Edward Tardif (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Quebec, Que.
  • Previous team: Odessa Jackalopes (NAHL)
  • College commitment: Michigan Tech University (2022-23)

Tardif started last year with the Minnesota Wilderness of the North American Hockey League, but only played one game before joining Odessa. Once with the Jackalopes, he notched 10 points in 32 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“He’s a centreman that is hard to play against and who plays on the edge. He had success last year with Odessa in a league with a lot of older players. We feel he could be a breakout player for us this year.”

Jérémie Payant (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Saint-Lazare, Que.
  • Previous team: Hawkesbury Hawks (CCHL)

Payant most recently played in 2019-20 when he notched 28 points in 62 regular-season games with Hawekesbury of the Central Canada Hockey League.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“This kid can fly. We expect him to come in and contribute right away. We felt we needed to add some team speed and Jérémie helped address that.”

Blake Lewis (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Columbus, Ind.
  • Previous team: Culver Military Academy Prep (USHS-Prep)

Lewis had an impressive four-year career with Culver and finished second and then third in team scoring the past two years. Over his two seasons with the prep team, he managed to produce 90 points in 80 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Blake is a skilled forward who I saw play a couple years ago at a St. Michael’s tournament. He reminds me of Tyler Williams who played two years for us and graduated to Lake Superior State University after the 2020 season.”

Nick Mahar (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Sydney, N.S.
  • Previous team: Sydney Rush U18 (NSU18MHL)

Mahar put up matching back-to-back 41-point seasons with the Rush the last two years, leading the team in scoring on both occasions.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Nick is one of the top players in his age group in Nova Scotia. He will take a while to adapt to our league, but we expect big things from him down the road.”

Acquired via trade

Klim Georgiev (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Toronto, Ont.
  • Previous team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)

Georgiev spent the past four years in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, starting with the Markham Royals, then the Newmarket Hurricanes and most recently with the Canadiens where he had 24 points in 48 games in 2019-20.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“He’s a big boy who plays a strong two-way game. He’s a really physical defenceman who is a veteran of a lot of Junior A games in the OJHL. He also skates well for his size.”

Alex Morozoff (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Saskatoon, Sask.
  • Previous team: Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

Nanaimo acquired Morozoff’s Junior A rights from the Trail Smoke Eaters this offseason, but he has spent the last four years playing in the Western Hockey League, most recently with Saskatoon in 2020-21 where he put up six points in 24 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Alex is a former WHL player who came highly recommended to us. We’ll look to him to fill the void left by some of our older, graduated players with similar experience.”

Austin Spiridakis (2002, F)

  • Hometown: St. Albert, Alta.
  • Previous team: Boston Jr. Bruins (NCDC)
  • College commitment: Quinnipiac University (2022-23)

Spiridakis is a BCHL veteran, but left last year to play with the Jr. Bruins when the BCHL shut down due to COVID restrictions. He played two years with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs from 2018 to 2020 and totaled 30 points in 98 regular-season games. The Clippers acquired his Junior A rights from the Prince George Spruce Kings in June.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Austin is a veteran right winger with some scoring ability. Our fans will likely remember him from his days with Alberni Valley a couple years back.”

Ethan Mistry (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Toronto, Ont.
  • Previous team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)
  • College commitment: Brown University (2022-23)

Mistry did not play any games for the Canadiens last year before the Clippers acquired him in a trade this summer. His most recent game action came in 2019-20 when he put up 28 points in 27 games for Milton Academy prep school in Massachusetts.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Ethan was the captain of his teams growing up, so he will bring some leadership to our room. He’s an excellent two way player. He’s a great skater and he sees the ice really well.”

Skyler Cameron (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Nanaimo, B.C.
  • Previous team: West Kelowna Warriors (BCHL)

Cameron is already a two-year BCHL veteran, having spent the last to seasons with West Kelowna. He has played 69 total regular-season games over his two BCHL campaigns and registered nine points.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“He’s a local player, so we were happy to bring him in. Skyler is a big, strong kid that can move around the ice well for a big man. He has nice hands and can contribute at both ends of the rink.”

Matteo Turrin (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Montréal, Que.
  • Previous team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)

Turrin played his rookie campaign last year with the Grizzlies in the BCHL’s pod season. He had two goals and two assists in 14 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“He’s another player with size. Again, the pod season showed us we were a little on the small side, so when we got chance to add him, we jumped on it. He caused us problems when we played Victoria, so it’s nice to have him on our side now. He skates well and we think, given the opportunity, he can be a really effective player for us.”

Jordan Edwards (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Saskatoon, Sask.
  • Previous team: Drumheller Dragons (AJHL)

Edwards only played seven games last year with Drumheller in a condensed Alberta Junior Hockey League season. In 2019-20, he played for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes 18U program and produced four assists in 20 games.

Naylor’s scouting report:

“Jordan is an old-school defenceman. He’s tough and he defends well. He’s a bit of a late bloomer as well. He’s someone that makes a good first pass and is hard to play against.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Itagaki, Hewitt, Mistry), Garrett James Photography (Spiridakis), Tami Quan (Cameron)