BCHL Next Generation: Penticton Vees

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 Penticton Vees.

The Vees finished with the best overall record in the BCHL pod season last year at 18-1-0-1 and finished atop the Penticton Pod standings.

They allowed a league-low 23 goals against, thanks in large part to goaltender Kaeden Lane, but also had a potent offence that scored 90 goals, second most in the BCHL.

The team has several high-profile returning players this year, including Lane, team captain Fin Williams and Minnesota State University commit Luc Wilson, but also boasts a list of impactful new recruits and acquisitions.

We connected with longtime Vees head coach Fred Harbinson who broke down the team’s new additions for 2021-22.

New recruits

Ethan Mann (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Fox Point, Wis.
  • Previous team: University School (USHS-WI)
  • College commitment: University of Wisconsin (2022-23)

A Wisconsin product through and through, Mann is from Wisconsin, played his prep school hockey there and is committed to the University of Wisconsin. He played the last four years at University School in Milwaukee and totaled 110 points in 76 career games.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He has a right-handed shot with a really quick release. Speed is a big thing that he possesses. He’s a player that can play in a lot of different situations for us. His shot and his speed really stick out.”

Ryan Hopkins (2004, D)

  • Hometown: Lunenburg, N.S.
  • Previous team: Stanstead College (CAHS)
  • College commitment: University of Maine (2023-24)

Hopkins spent the last two years at Stanstead and was named captain in 2020-21. His most recent on-ice action came in 2019-20 where he registered 31 points in 58 games to finish one point shy of the team lead in scoring among defencemen.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“Ryan is a very gifted skater. He’s going to be a guy that we’re going to lean on to play in all situations, but he’s probably going to be a big part of one of our power-play units. He has really good leadership qualities for a 17-year-old. Last year was difficult on him. His school didn’t get to play a lot of games. They did a lot of 3-on-3, so you could see a lot of the skill from that. We are excited to see his growth.”

Thomas Pichette (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Maskinongé, Que.
  • Previous team: Kimball Union Academy (USHS-Prep)
  • College commitment: University of Maine (2022-23)

Pichette had a goal and eight assists in just six games for Kimball last year.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“Thomas is going to be a gritty player for us. He’s got a very competitive streak in him. He skates well. That’s been our trend in recruiting this year. We want to be able to play with a lot of pace. It’s funny because I haven’t had anybody committed to Maine since I’ve been here, even though we had [former Maine product] Paul Kariya here back in the day and he’s one of our best alumni ever. Now we’ve got three current Maine kids.”

Luke Vardy (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Hammonds Plains, N.S.
  • Previous team: St. Andrew’s College (CISAA)

Vardy had 30 points in 59 games in 2019-20 with St. Andrew’s.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He’s a physical, throwback defenceman. He’s another one of the Maritime kids we have coming in. We’re looking for him to add physicality to our back-end.”

Casey McDonald (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Kindersley, Sask.
  • Previous team: Fargo Force (USHL)

McDonald played the last two years in Fargo, totaling 26 points over 83 regular-season games.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“Casey is experienced. He grew up on a farm, so he’s used to hard work. He’s a very physical forward and great on the forecheck. He has some schools that are looking at him and we’re looking forward to helping him achieve that goal to get to NCAA Division I. He’s going to provide a lot of leadership, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well.”

Trevor O’Brien (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Hingham, Mass.
  • Previous team: Cape Cod Whalers 18U AAA (18U AAA)

The brother of former Vees forward and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Jay O’Brien, Trevor comes from the Cape Cod Whalers program in Massachusetts where he tied for second in team scoring last year with 38 points in 35 games.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“Trevor skates well. He can be physical. He’s really worked on his body this year and trained extremely hard. He’s a really competitive kid, just like his brother. We’ve had some great brother combinations over the years and we’re hoping this is another one.”

Beanie Richter (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Greenwich, Conn.
  • Previous team: Brunswick School (USHS-Prep)
  • College commitment: Yale University (2023-24)

Richter actually spent last season with Penticton, but only played in one game during the exhibition schedule and none in the pod. In 2019-20, he notched 19 points in 31 games with Brunswick. He is the son of former NHL goaltender Mike Richter and the brother of former Vees player Thomas Richter.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He didn’t play in the pod because he was too young. His parents will be living in town. He’s a fearless player that plays with a ton of grit.”

Spencer Smith (2002, F)

  • Hometown: St. Catharines, Ont.
  • Previous team: Lincoln Stars (USHL)
  • College commitment: University of Massachusetts (2022-23)

Smith had 13 points over two seasons with Lincoln. He also brings Canadian Junior A experience, having played the 2018-19 season with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“Smith is great on the penalty kill. He has offence to his game too. He was injured last year and missed some games, but he’s healthy now.”

Jackson Nieuwendyk (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Dallas, Tex.
  • Previous team: Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

The son of Hockey Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk, Jackson played the last two seasons for Sioux City of the USHL and contributed 12 points in 89 games.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“Jackson is a left-handed centreman. He’s very responsible. He’s already played a few years of junior, but our goal is to try to help him layer a bit more offence into his game. We think we can definitely help him with that. On the other side of the puck, he’s extremely responsible. When you watch him play, he looks a lot like his father when you see him skate. He’s a good sized kid that will really bolster the middle of our lineup.”

Colin Purcell (2002, G)

  • Hometown: Shaker Heights, Ohio
  • Previous team: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
  • College commitment: University of Massachusetts (2022-23)

Purcell played the last two seasons with Youngstown of the USHL and made 32 appearances for the team.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He’s a 6-foot-6 goaltender who played on a weak team last year in Youngstown, so he saw a lot of rubber. His numbers will fool you because he didn’t play on a good team, but our goalie coach really likes what he’s seen in him. We think there’s a ton of upside there.”

Acquired via trade

Brett Moravec (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Airdrie, Alta.
  • Previous team: Calgary Canucks (AJHL)
  • College Commitment: University of Wisconsin (2022-23)

Moravec is a two-year veteran of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, playing as a rookie with the Okotoks Oilers in 2019-20 and then with Calgary last year. During a shortened 2020-21 season, he put up 12 points in 15 games.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He skates extremely well. He played for my alma mater last year, the Calgary Canucks and he did well in their short season. Brett had been at our camps when he was younger. He’s a kid that thinks the game pretty well and plays with a lot of pace.”

Josh Nadeau (2003, F)

  • Hometown: St-François-de-Madawaska, N.B.
  • Previous team: Edmunston Blizzard (MHL)
  • College commitment: University of Maine (2022-23)

Nadeau had over two points per game last year with Edmunston after finishing his campaign with 31 points in 15 games to lead his team in scoring.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He has elite playmaking ability. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s more of a Johnny Gaudreau style player. He’s another right-handed player who has great vision and playmaking.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Mann, Pichette, Vardy, McDonald, O’Brien, Smith, Nieuwendyk), USHL (Purcell), Dave Watling Photography (Moravec), Edmunston Blizzard (Nadeau)