BCHL Next Generation: Powell River Kings

All summer we’ll be going team-by-team to profile new players coming in for the 2020-21 season with recaps of offseason commits and acquisitions. We will also have interviews and scouting reports from the coaches.

Next up is the Powell River Kings.

Brock Sawyer may be starting a new role with the Powell River Kings this year, but that doesn’t mean there will be much of a learning curve for the 33-year-old.

The Toronto, Ont. native has been with the Kings as a coach since 2014, including a stint as the team’s interim head coach in 2017-18. He also played for Powell River for parts of two seasons from 2006 to 2008.

This year, he enters the season as the team’s head coach for the first time in his career. Sawyer and a handful of the other Kings staff already had a built in relationship with Powell River before they joined the team and that’s something that they see as an advantage.

“There’s familiarity with the town, the organization and the fans,” said Sawyer. “Being able to relate to the players and what to expect when playing here, I think it goes a long way. Between myself, [assistant coach] Kyle Bodie and [general manager] Chad [Van Diemen], we’re three guys who are alumni of the program. I think the familiarity and the continuity with the Board is good. It opens up lines of communication. We’re all invested in a common goal of providing a safe learning environment for our players.”

Despite the familiarity, it doesn’t mean that the transition to the head coach’s job has been an easy one this year. With travel restrictions and limited access to on and off-ice training facilities, all teams are operating differently than they would in a normal season. The Kings are no different and are doing everything they can to make sure their players are ready to go come training camp.

“There’s just been a lot of phone calls and quite a few Zoom meetings,” said Sawyer. “Each day is different with the information we get. We’re just keeping everybody informed. Guys are taking advantage of rinks opening up and being able to skate in small groups. They’re itching to get back to town and skate. They want to get back into their billet homes and get back to some normalcy.”

New recruits:

Noah Rupprecht (2002, G)

  • Hometown: Thief River Falls, Minn.
  • Previous team: Thief River Falls High (USHS-MN)

Rupprecht had an outstanding two seasons with Thief River Falls. Last year, he posted an astounding seven shutouts in 25 regular-season games. He had a goals-against average under two in both seasons.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“Noah comes out of Minnesota with a lot of Division I interest. He had great numbers in high school for a team where he did field a lot of rubber. We’re looking for him to come in and work with [returning goalie] Thomas Wardle in a one-two combination and push each other to battle for ice time.”

Branden Piku (2002, F)

  • Hometown: St. Clare, Mich.
  • Previous team: Belle Tire U18 AAA (T1EHL U18)
  • College commitment: Lake Superior State (2022-23)

Piku played for Belle Tire in Detroit, Mich. last season and led the team in scoring with 68 points in 67 games.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“He’s a little water bug. He’s not the biggest guy, but has a high skill level and can make plays in traffic because he skates well. We’re expecting him to come in and adjust to the BCHL level and be here for a few years preparing for when he goes off to college.”

Ross Roloson (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Port Dover, Ont.
  • Previous team: Northern Alberta X-Treme Prep (CSSHL)

The 17-year-old is the son of former NHL goaltender Dwayne Roloson and the brother of current Powell River forward Brett Roloson. Ross tied for the lead in scoring among defencemen on his team last year with 34 points in 35 games. He suited up for five contests in 2019-20 as an affiliate with the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“Ross is a smooth-skating defenceman. We expect him to come in and contribute right away. He played some exhibition games last year in our league and some games with Spruce Grove, so he’s got a bit of experience. He’s a good two-way defenceman that can move the puck and defend off the rush. He’ll get the puck moving up the ice quickly in transition for us.”

Jacob Bonkowski (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Richmond, B.C.
  • Previous team: West Van Academy Prep (CSSHL)

Bonkowski had 36 points in 31 games for West Van in 2019-20. He also played in a pair of games for Powell River as an affiliate.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“He’s got some good size and he’ll grow into his frame. He’s a good skater. When he was with us last year as an affiliate, he fit in pretty seamlessly. He’s been around our program for a year now and we’re excited to add him into the lineup and see what he can do.”

Ethan Riesterer (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Richmond, B.C.
  • Previous team: St. George’s School Midget Prep (CSSHL)

Riesterer was the leading scorer at St. George’s last year, finishing his season with 36 points and a team-high 23 goals in 35 games. The 17-year-old also played three games as an affiliate with the Kings.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“He’s a highly-skilled player and can really think the game. He’s not a big body, but he puts himself in situations with his smarts to get pucks back and find a play in the offensive zone. He’s also responsible defensively.”

Jakub Teply (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Stamford, Conn.
  • Previous team: Brunswick School (USHS-Prep)

Teply was over a point-per-game with Brunswick last year, finishing his campaign with 32 in 31 games to tie for third in team scoring.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“Jakub is a big forward that can skate. He has a heavy shot and scored a lot of goals in prep school playing against some of the better competition on the east coast. He’s got a lot of Division I interest as well. He’s a heavy player and he can find the net. We’re expecting him to come in and protect the puck and shoot every chance he gets.”

Ben Raymond (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Newton, Mass.
  • Previous team: Dexter Southfield School (USHS-Prep)
  • College commitment: Colgate University (2021-22)

The 18-year-old notched 20 points in 30 games with Dexter Southfield in 2019-20 and also played another 37 games with the Neponset Valley River Rats where he totaled 21 points in 37 games.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“He’s got speed, much like Jack Brackett who we had last year. Talking with Colgate, they’re pretty high on him and excited for when he goes in. We’re excited to have him and we hope he’ll be able to contribute in our lineup 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill.”

Acquired via trade:

Olivier Lépine (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Montreal, Que.
  • Previous team: Notre Dame Hounds (SJHL)

Lépine led all Hounds defencemen in scoring last year in his first SJHL season after totaling 20 points in 44 games.

Sawyer’s scouting report:

“Olivier is a guy with experience. He played with [Thomas] Wardle at Notre Dame and he grew up with [returning defenceman] Dylan Finlay in Montreal, so there’s some familiarity there. He’s a smooth-skating defenceman who can really move the puck and he’s an elite thinker of the game. When we called him and let him know he was a King, he was ecstatic. We’re happy to add him in and it gives us another veteran presence on the back end.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images (Rupprecht, Teply, Raymond), Two Point Photography (Roloson), Notre Dame Hounds (Lépine)