BCHL Next Generation: Salmon Arm Silverbacks

All summer we’ll be going team-by-team to profile new players coming in for the 2019-20 season with recaps of offseason commits and acquisitions. We will also have interviews and scouting reports from the coaches.

Next up is the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

The Silverbacks are coming off a year where they finished a game over .500 and ended up fifth in the ultra-competitive Interior Division. They ran into the eventual league-finalist Vernon Vipers in the first round of the BCHL Playoffs and were dispatched in five games.

Despite the short length of the series, it was much closer than it seemed as four of the five games were decided by one goal and three of them in overtime, including the deciding Game 5 that the Vipers won in triple overtime.

After two years on the job with the Silverbacks, head coach Scott Atkinson is starting to see his roster take shape in the mold that he envisioned. Most coaches will tell you it takes two to three years for them to really put their stamp on the makeup of a team’s roster and his situation is no different.

They’ve implemented changes in how they recruit players and they are now starting to see the results.

“The first year, you kind of inherit what you inherit and then you take a look at trying to make it better” said Atkinson. “We had an approach and we didn’t think it worked well enough, so we changed the approach when it came to scouting and recruitment. We took a look at that and we think we made it better.

“We think we have a good roster, but not much experience at the junior level. We definitely think that the basics are there to compete at a higher level. We’re bigger, we’re stronger, we’re faster, we’re more skilled. We’re going to find out how well that translates into BCHL wins, but there’s no question that from a purely athletic and skill part of it, we’re much better.”

2019-20 commits

Kieran Ruscheinski (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
  • Previous team: Calgary Northstars Midget AAA (AMHL)
  • Drafted: 7th Round (206th overall) by the Montreal Canadiens in 2019

After a solid midget season in Calgary where he put up seven goals and four assists in 33 games, Ruscheinski was selected by Montreal in the seventh round of June’s NHL Entry Draft.

Atkinson’s scouting report:

“He’s a kid that we watched at the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary. I know him and a few other Calgary kids because that’s where I’m from. We just thought that he’s a player with immense potential and that’s been backed up by the fact that the Canadiens drafted him. He’s very tall and long and skates extremely well, but most importantly he’s a super high-end character kid. He’s going to be a good hockey player but he’s an even better person.”

Antonio Andreozzi (2000, D)

  • Hometown: Winchester, Mass.
  • Previous team: The Rivers School (USHS-Prep)
  • Commitment: Brown University (2020-21)

The 19-year-old spent the last four seasons at The Rivers School, totaling 86 points in 122 career games. His best year came in 2017-18 when he led his team in points by defencemen with 28.

Atkinson’s scouting report:

“One of the things that I’ve noticed in the two years I’ve been here is that some sources of players seem to be able to consistently make the jump into our league and Rivers School has had a lot of success with players on other franchises in the BCHL. He’s a very mobile, offensively talented defenceman who also plays hard. We’re looking forward to having him here.”

Dom Garozzo (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Sewell, N.J.
  • Previous team: Gloucester Catholic High (USHS-NJ)
  • Commitment: St. Lawrence University

Garozzo was the captain of his high-school team last year and registered over two points a game, leading the way with 31 goals and 40 points in just 17 games.

Atkinson’s scouting report:

“At Gloucester High he broke Johnny Gaudreau’s goal-scoring record at that prep school. He’s extremely fast, extremely skilled and he can score goals, so it was an easy choice to add him.”

Daniel Rybarik (1999, F)

  • Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
  • Previous team: Calgary Mustangs (AJHL)

Rybarik led the Mustangs in goals with 29 last season and finished fifth in team scoring with 52 points in 57 games. Over his two-year AJHL career, the 20-year-old totaled 103 points in 114 games.

Atkinson’s scouting report:

“With the Mustangs on a hiatus and all their players available, we thought that he was the best of their team. In the last two years, he’s scored 29 and 27 goals, but more importantly, he’s scored 25 even-strength goals in both of those seasons. In the last two years, he actually leads the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) in even-strength goal scoring. That’s why we think he’s going to be able to do those things in our league.”

Coalson Wolford (2001, F)

  • Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
  • Previous team: Notre Dame Hounds Midget AAA (SMHL)

The 18-year-old was his midget team’s second-leading scorer last year with 59 points in 41 games. He was also second in goals with 24.

Atkinson’s scouting report:

“He’s another guy that we saw at the Mac’s Tournament. He’s got a long body and he’s a high-scorer. He’s extremely fast and has good skill. He also produced well when he was in major midget in Saskatchewan.”

Acquired via trade

Noah Lugli (1999, D)

  • Hometown: Toronto, Ont.
  • Previous team: Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL)

Lugli is joining his fourth different league since the start of the 2017-18 season, having spent time in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) and the AJHL prior to being acquired by Salmon Arm. He had 17 points in 57 games for Bonnyville last season.

Atkinson’s scouting report:

“He’s a right-handed defenceman and we needed one of those. He played in the AJHL and also played for St. Andrew’s College prep school in Toronto. He’s big, 6-foot-4, and he moves extremely well.”

Zach Russell (1999, F)

  • Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
  • Previous team: Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Russell had six points in 29 games for the Oil Kings last year, but put up 36 points in 43 games the year prior with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks.

Atkinson’s scouting report:

“He’s another player that I know well from Calgary. He’s a big body that skates well, moves well and can score. He had significant experience in Edmonton last year when they went on that playoff run. He’s a guy with Western League experience, so he’s someone we expect to come in here and provide leadership on and off the ice.”

Photo credits: Calgary Sun (Ruscheinski), The Rivers School (Andreozzi), South Jersey Weekly (Garozzo), Chad Goddard Photography (Rybarik), Sicamous Eagle Valley News (Wolford), Game Ready Photography (Lugli) and Edmonton Sun (Russell).