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BCHL Next Generation: Wenatchee Wild

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 will start with the Interior Conference. Next up is the Wenatchee Wild.

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After a year hiatus during the shortened pod season, the Wenatchee Wild made their return to the BCHL with a young, up-and-coming team. Although they were forced to play on the road for over a month to start the season, they steadily improved as the months went on and ended up seventh place in the Interior Conference.

Led by an impressive crop of first-year forwards, including leading scorer Ean Somoza and recent Calgary Flames draft pick Cade Littler, the Wild proved to be a tough out in the postseason, taking the number-two overall seeded Salmon Arm Silverbacks to seven games in the first round.

Wenatchee is looking to carry last year’s late-season momentum over to 2022-23 and will combine a strong group of returning players with a new crop of talent to try to build on their success. The team’s Director of Scouting and Recruiting Leigh Mendelson sat down with us to give us his thoughts on this year’s new recruits.

New recruits

Jason Stefanek (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Yorba Linda, Calif.
  • Previous team: Mount St. Charles Academy 18U AAA (18U AAA)
  • College commitment: Dartmouth College

Stefanek was a major point producer for a national championship winning team at Mount St. Charles last year, finishing his campaign with 103 points in 71 games across all competition.

Mendelson’s scouting report:

“Jason is a guy that we chased after for a couple years. He’s a very intelligent player with a really good motor. He’s very creative, but also very competitive. He’s not a skill guy that wants to play with the puck outside of the dots; he attacks the middle of the ice. Like anybody else, he’ll have an adjustment period getting into junior hockey and the grind of it, but once he gets that over with, he’ll be one of our go-to guys offensively.”

Lucas Marshall (2004, D)

  • Hometown: Newport Beach, Calif.
  • Previous team: Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18U AAA (18U AAA)

Marshall was the second highest scoring defenceman with the 18U Ducks last season with 30 points in 58 games across all competition. He also played prep school with Santa Margarita Catholic where he averaged a point per game with 17 in 17 contests.

Mendelson’s scouting report:

“Lucas is a young player we’ve seen quite a bit over the past few years. He took a big step forward the second half of this past season. He came to our prospects camp and impressed our staff, so we invited him to our final tryout camp and he performed well again. He is very mobile, competitive and a sound puck-mover. He still has a lot of room for development, but we feel he’s on the right path to attract NCAA programs.”

Benjamin Picard (2005, F)

  • Hometown: Oakland, Calif.
  • Previous team: San Jose Jr. Sharks 16U AAA (16U AAA)

Picard was his team’s second leading scorer in 2021-22 when he amassed 53 points in 52 games on 20 goals and 33 assists.

Mendelson’s scouting report:

“He’s a big, strong kid with a good hockey sense. He’s got solid skills and he thinks the game really well. I think that he’s got enough game to come into junior hockey as a 2005-born and play. Once he’s makes the necessary adjustments, his offence and his ability to produce will come along with it. He’s an excellent student as well, so he’s going to have his choice of institutions to play NCAA hockey down the road.”

Lukas McCloskey (2005, D)

  • Hometown: Newport Beach, Calif.
  • Previous team: Anaheim Jr. Ducks 16U AAA (16U AAA)

McCloskey totalled 16 points over 30 games with the Ducks last year. Like Marshall, he also split time with Santa Margarita Catholic where he had three goals and one assist in eight contests.

Mendelson’s scouting report:

“Lukas is a young man we’ve been recruiting for a couple years. He’s a big, strong, right-shot kid who is kind of a prototypical mobile, pro-style defenceman. We’re going to continue to help him build the offensive side of his game, but his mobility, his competitiveness and his ability to defend is very good. We think he’s a player that’s going to have his choice of colleges and a lot of scrutiny for the NHL Draft in the coming years.”

Jackson Ebbott (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Encino, Calif.
  • Previous team: Salisbury School (USHS-Prep)

Ebbott split time last year with Salisbury School and the Buffalo Regals 18U program. He had 12 points in 28 prep school games, while adding 16 in 28 games for Buffalo.

Mendelson’s scouting report:

“We like his competitiveness. He’s got some size and he goes to the hard areas. I think we’re going to have to continue to help him develop the offensive side of the game, but we like his willingness to go into the dirty areas and play hard in there. He’s got a good brain and a good stick. He’s a player that’s going to grow with us this year and we’re excited about him.”

Liam Choquette (2003, G)

  • Hometown: Montreal, Que.
  • Previous team: Tabor Academy (USHS-Prep)

Choquette appeared in 13 games for Tabor Academy in Massachusetts last year and posted a .915 save percentage.

Mendelson’s scouting report:

“We were intrigued by his path, being a kid from Montreal playing prep school in New England. We watched some film, talked to some guys out east about him, then got him to our camp and he was excellent. He’s a lot like Andy Vlaha who is our returning goalie. It will give us a good one-two combination, but will also push Andy. Liam is a really athletic goaltender and he’s really competitive. We’re thrilled that we’re going to have two really solid guys in net. Hopefully they can form a good bond and partnership and push each other to continue to get better.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Stefanek, McCloskey, Ebbott)