BCHL Next Generation: Victoria Grizzlies

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 Victoria Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies came up big in the Alberni Pod last spring, edging out the host Bulldogs for first place in the standings and scoring the second-most goals among all BCHL teams with 93 in 20 games.

They also cleaned up the individual awards as breakout star and newly-named captain Ellis Rickwood took home pod MVP, Top Scorer and Top Rookie, while returning defenceman Isack Bandu was named the pod’s Top Defenceman.

The team has been on the recruiting trail since then and also made several trades to help build on last year’s success. Longtime Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon gives us the goods on the new crop of players coming in.

New recruits

Matthew Wood (2005, F)

  • Hometown: Nanaimo, B.C.
  • Previous team: North Island Silvertips U18 AAA (BCEHL U18)
  • College commitment: University of Connecticut (2023-24)

Wood sped up his development in a major way last year after he joined the Grizzlies for the pod season as a freshly turned 16-year-old. Despite being an underage player, he quickly made his presence felt and ended up being one of their top contributors, racking up 13 points in 18 games.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He works extremely hard every day and puts so much into the game and you’re seeing him have success because of it. He’s great to have in the locker room because he’s so focused and helps raise the level of the guys around him. He’s very dynamic and extremely fun to watch.”

Jackson Morehouse (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Previous team: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 18U (18U AAA)
  • College commitment: Dartmouth College (2022-23)

Morehouse was the Penguins’ captain last year and finished as the team’s second-leading scorer with 43 points and their top goal scorer with 24 on the season.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“Jackson is a great playmaker and shooter. He can be really dangerous in the offensive zone. He’s got a really high IQ when it comes to making plays, but he’s also shown me that he understands the 200-foot game. He comes with the full package. He’s going to compliment a lot of our shooters and skilled players.”

Hoyt Stanley (2005, D)

  • Hometown: West Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver Northwest Hawks U18 AAA (BCEHL U18)

Stanley missed out on a season last year, but played the 2019-20 campaign with St. George’s School U15 Prep. He led his team that year in scoring from the blueline when he notched 36 points in 29 games.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He’s a young defenceman who’s going to find his way this year in the BCHL. He’s got all these 20-year-olds to help him develop. He’s going to be a student of the game this year. He’s a really good prospect in this league right now, but he’ll become an elite defenceman for us down the road.”

Jack Gorton (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Granite Springs, N.Y.
  • Previous team: Trinity-Pawling School (USHS-Prep)

Gorton played the last two years at Trinity-Pawling and put up 26 points in 36 games over his time there.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He has great touch around the net. He’s a finisher. He’s got a big body as well. He’s going to be a player that progresses for the next few years and develops into a strong hockey player for us.”

Justin Gibson (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Previous team: Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 18U (18U AAA)

Gibson piled up six goals and 21 assists last season with the Penguins to give him a total of 27 points in 39 contests. He is the younger brother of Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He’s a solid defender. He has a big body and he understands how to play the game in his own zone. There’s offensive upside to develop as well.”

Timothy Kim (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Greater Vancouver Canadians U18 AAA (BCEHL U18)

Kim’s last full season was with the Canadians U16 team in 2019-20 when he led them in all offensive categories with 42 points, 21 goals and 21 assists.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He’s another offensive, opportunistic player with some great speed. He has a great shot on the fly. He’s learning how to play in traffic and to deal with the bigger players. He’s somebody with some real upside.”

Kyle Kelsey (2004, G)

  • Hometown: Maple Ridge, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver North East Chiefs U18 AAA (BCEHL U18)

Kelsey did not play any meaningful games with the Chiefs last year due to COVID shutdowns, but the year prior, he posted a 12-7-1 record for the Burnaby Winter Club Elite 15s. That same season, he finished with a .921 save percentage, a 2.96 goals-against average and two shutouts.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He’s coming in as the backup and is going to learn from [returning goalie] Carter [Woodside] this season. He has an abundance of talent. He’s willing to work hard and he’s got a great attitude. We’re excited to see him develop.”

Michael Adamek (2004, D)

  • Hometown: Victoria, B.C.
  • Previous team: Westshore Wolves (VIJHL)

Adamek played Junior B last year for Westshore and managed to put up an impressive seven points in nine games. He spent the 2019-20 season with the Pacific Coast Academy Elite 15s and led all defencemen on his team in scoring with 25 points in 36 games.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“Mike is a huge battler. He’s a young guy that competes really hard. He’s got a good skill set and is going to grow in this league as the years go on.”

Acquired via trade

Kalen Szeto (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
  • College commitment: Yale University (2022-23)

Szeto is heading into his fourth year in the BCHL. He played with Langley from 2018 to 2020, but was loaned to the Trail Smoke Eaters last spring for the pod season after the Rivermen opted out. In the Penticton Pod, Szeto led Trail in scoring with 15 points in 17 games.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“We’re fortunate to have Kalen. He’s an experienced veteran who will play down the middle for us. He’s another offensive guy who is a great playmaker. He fits in really well. With him having so many games under his belt, he’s going to really be able to help our young guys.”

Clark Hiebert (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Oakville, Ont.
  • Previous team: Guelph Storm (OHL)

Hiebert most recently played in 2019-20 for Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League, suiting up for 38 games and chipping in two goals and six assists. Prior to that, he spent two years in the Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Milton Icehawks and the Burlington Cougars. The Grizzlies acquired his Junior A rights in a trade with Burlington in August.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He’s a solid 200-foot defenceman who is just a real leader out there. He’s a very mature 20-year-old who is going to help this hockey club and give us confidence right from the start of the season.”

Declan Ride (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.
  • Previous team: Oakville Blades (OJHL)
  • College commitment: Miami University (2022-23)

Ride was forced to sit out last year due to COVID shutdowns in Ontario, but has one season of Junior A under his belt from 2019-20 as a rookie with Oakville in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. That year, he chipped in six assists in 42 games.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He’s another big body. He plays with a lot of grit and is hard to play against. He’s a great skater and puck-mover. He’s a 200-foot defenceman who will be a great presence on our blueline this year.”

Eli Barnett (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Riverview, N.B.
  • Previous team: South Shore Lumberjacks (MHL)
  • College commitment: University of Vermont (2022-23)

Barnett played his rookie season in junior hockey last year in the Maritime Junior Hockey League with South Shore and contributed six assists in 22 games.

Didmon’s scouting report:

“He’s a big, physical, smooth-skating defenceman who moves the puck well. He’s going to be strong defensively and hard to play against, but he’s going to bring those offensive parts of his game as well.”

Photo credits: Kyle Robinson (Wood), Dan Hickling (Morehouse, Gorton, Gibson, Barnett), Trent Rolfe (Kelsey), Garrett James Photography