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BCHL Next Generation: Nanaimo Clippers

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 Nanaimo Clippers

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The Nanaimo Clippers had a strong regular season last year, finishing as the number-three seed in the Coastal Conference with a 33-17-3-1 record, but caught absolute fire in the postseason. They won their first 12 playoff games in the spring to coast through the first three rounds of the playoffs, largely due to the outstanding play of goaltender Cooper Black.

In the Fred Page Cup Final, Nanaimo ran into an equally hot Penticton Vees team who were riding their own 12-game winning streak and the Clippers ended up bowing out in four games.

Offensively, the Clippers were led by MVP finalist Sean Donaldson, as well as Max Itagaki and Tristan Fraser, but all three of those players are moving on to college this year, as is Black, who was their backbone in net.

Head coach and general manager Colin Birkas will have a chance to put his stamp on the roster after his first offseason and training camp since taking over lead duties in the middle of last season. He gives us the rundown on the new players he has brought in.

New recruits

Mike Murtagh (2004, F)

  • Hometown: East Greenbush, N.Y.
  • Previous team: The Frederick Gunn School (USHS-Prep)
  • College commitment: University of Connecticut

Murtagh put up 12 goals, 14 assists and 26 points in 32 games for The Frederick Gunn School in Connecticut last year. He also suited up for the Buffalo Regals 18U program where he piled up 32 points in 28 contests.

Birkas’ scouting report:

“He came highly recommended. He’s a kid that the NHL Draft was monitoring for a while there during the season. He had options to play a year in the USHL, but he believes in what our league does and he likes the way we play in Nanaimo. He’s going to make this his stop before he goes to school. He’s a skilled guy who plays well at both ends of the ice. I think, as he gets adjusted, the offensive numbers will climb.”

Aidan Campbell (2002, G)

  • Hometown: Cranberry Township, Penn.
  • Previous team: Erie Otters (OHL)

Campbell spent the past three years with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, but missed an entire season due to COVID shutdowns and most of another due to injury. He compiled an 11-11-5 record and one shutout in 31 appearances.

Birkas’ scouting report:

“We lost [last year’s goaltender] Cooper Black, which leaves a huge hole, so we took our time to find the right fit. Aidan a kid who really wants something out of his last year of junior. We knew we were going to go with an older goalie. Campbell is a big kid, almost as big as Cooper. He spent time with the U.S. National Development Team. He had a great rookie season in the OHL and was destined for big things like potentially being an NHL pick, but COVID really affected his trajectory, through no fault of his own. His pedigree is very high. He wants to turn pro at the end of the season and we’re pretty excited that he wants to take that step in Nanaimo.”

Coleman Jenkins (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Mansfield, Mass.
  • Previous team: Tabor Academy (USHS-Prep)
  • College Commitment: College of the Holy Cross

Jenkins was team captain at Tabor Academy in Massachusetts in 2021-22 for his third season at the school. He led the team with 14 goals on the year and finished with 25 points in 21 games.

Birkas’ scouting report:

“Stylistically, he plays a similar game to Brody Waters, who has become a fan favourite here. He has touch. He was the captain at his prep school and you can never have too much good character and leadership in your room. We’re expecting him to come in and score some goals, but also play the Clipper way.”

Luke Lisko (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Marine City, Mich.
  • Previous team: Selects Academy 18U (18U AAA)

Likso was Selects Academy’s third-leading scorer in 2021-22 with 40 points in 59 games on 17 goals and 23 assists. His father Craig is a former college hockey goaltender with Ferris State University.

Birkas’ scouting report:

“He’s a really high-end baseball player, but made the decision that he wants to be a hockey player. We think there’s some untapped potential there. He took a good step with a good program last year at Selects Academy and was one of their best players. His dad has some connection to the BCHL from the past, so they were always excited to come play in this league. I expect him to come here and be a good player for us for a couple years.”

Lukas Klemm (2004, D)

  • Hometown: Ridgefield, Conn.
  • Previous team: Jamestown Rebels (NAHL)

Klemm had 18 points in 56 games during his rookie season in the North American Hockey League last year. He led all Jamestown defencemen with eight goals on the season.

Birkas’ scouting report:

“He’s a big, strong right-shot defenceman. He had options to play elsewhere, but he really likes the style of play in the BCHL. He was able to play a strong shutdown game against older players in the NAHL already, but he just wants to round out his game. He thinks the BCHL is a good opportunity to touch the puck and show the other side of his game before he commits to school.”

Matthew Lahey (2006, D)

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

Lahey had three goals and five assists for eight points in 32 games as a 15-year-old for Pacific Coast’s U18 squad last year and was a point-per-game player in the playoffs with three assists in three contests. He played in two BCHL games as an affiliate with the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Birkas’ scouting report:

“One of the things we’re doing here is focusing on how rosters spill over from one year to the next with a progression plan and he fits that. He’s 6-foot-5 and a really smart player. He’s especially smart with the puck. I think he’ll develop really well in our league over the next couple years. We’re hoping he could one day be a draft pick.”

Photo credits: Jeep DiCioccio (Campbell), Dan Hickling (Murtagh, Jenkins, Lisko)