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BCHL Next Generation: Prince George Spruce 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 Prince George Spruce Kings.

The BCHL recently announced a tentative Dec. 1 start date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which gives teams the option of holding an extended training camp from September through November before the start of the regular season.

With practice time often at a premium during a normal season, many teams are looking at this as an advantage in their preparation for the coming year.

With nine new recruits and another five new players acquired via trade, the Prince George Spruce Kings are among that group as they are eager to get their players in town and start building relationships on and off the ice.

“I really believe that an extended training camp is so beneficial,” said Spruce Kings head coach Alex Evin. “Not just to bring your team together, but to practice. It’s extremely important for young players. Obviously, the games are fun and everyone wants to play, but I think the development should be accelerated with the practice time and I think it will make the quality of the hockey a lot better come regular season.”

Evin is entering his second year as the team’s head coach after serving as an assistant since the 2017-18 season. The 33-year-old is a former goaltender who played five years in the BCHL, finishing his tenure by winning a Fred Page Cup with the Penticton Vees in 2007-08 and leading the league in both goals-against average and save percentage. He’s also third all-time in career wins with 79. He then went on to play four years at Colgate University.

With all that experience and success between the pipes, it’s obvious that goaltending knowledge is an important piece to what Evin brings to the team.

Last year was a bit of a down year for the team in net, especially after the heroics of Logan Neaton the year before when Prince George won the BCHL championship. That being said, the team picked up Carter Woodside midway through the season and he ended up providing a spark for the team in the crease, which his coach hopes he can build on this year.

“Honestly, I thought our goaltending was not a strong point for us last season,” said Evin. “But, we’re really proud of Carter. We picked him up in late November and he just got better as the season went on. He ended up playing the majority of our games after Christmas. He’s consistent and he works at the game harder than I’ve seen most other goalies work. We’re more than happy to give him the opportunity that he’s earned to be the number-one goalie for us going into the season.”

New Recruits:

Alex Krause (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Calabasas, Calif.
  • Previous team: The Loomis Chaffee School (USHS-Prep)
  • College commitment: Dartmouth College (2021-22)

The California native was his school’s second-leading scorer last season with 40 points in 32 games. He wraps up his career at Loomis Chaffee with exactly a point per game with 83 in 83 contests.

Evin’s scouting report:

“He’s an awesome kid. He came off a championship in the prep ranks. He’s a very intelligent player. He plays an honest game all over the ice, in all three zones, but he has a really good skill-set offensively as well. We’re excited to see what he can do.”

Max Borovinskiy (2004, F)

  • Hometown: West Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: Burnaby Winter Club Prep (CSSHL)

Borovinskiy put up 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 34 games as a 16-year-old for Burnaby Winter Club last season.

Evin’s scouting report:

“Max is a player we were extremely excited to recruit. We believe he has a really bright future, not just in our league, but in the game overall. He’s a very intelligent player. He’s got a drive and passion for getting better and he plays the game hard. He’s got a really good skill-set on him and we’re excited to have him develop in our program.”

Connor Elliott (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Coldstream, B.C.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Rockets (BC U18AAA)

The 17-year-old put up plenty of points for the Rockets last year, finishing his 2019-20 campaign with nine goals, 18 assists and 27 points in 40 games to finish third in scoring among defencemen on his team. He also played four games as an affiliate with the Penticton Vees last year.

Evin’s scouting report:

“Connor has good size. He’s young, but he kind of does everything well for a young defenceman. He’s an extremely hard worker. He had a really good season and seemed to improve every time we watched him play. We probably watched his team play six or seven times and he stood out every time.”

Nick Rhéaume (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Sherbrooke, Que.
  • Previous team: Cushing Academy (USHS-Prep)

The 18-year-old is the son of former NHL player Pascal Rhéaume and the nephew of women’s hockey standout goaltender Manon Rhéaume who famously was the first female to play an NHL game when she suited up for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a preseason contest. Nick played at Cushing Academy last year where he was over a point per game with 35 in 34 games.

Evin’s scouting report:

“Nick hopefully will develop into a strong power forward. He comes from a good hockey background. He’s got lots of drive and lots of tools. He works extremely hard. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in the next couple years.”

John Herrington (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Hudson Hope, B.C.
  • Previous team: Cariboo Cougars (BC U18AAA)

Herrington is a familiar face for the Spruce Kings, having played in eight regular-seasons games for the team as an affiliate last year, as well as an additional three in the postseason. The 18-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Cougars, finishing his tenure there with 62 points in 79 career games.

Evin’s scouting report:

“We’re very familiar with him. Last year, he got into a lot of game action for us and played quite well. He plays with pace. He’s coming off a great season with the Cariboo midget team and was their captain. We’re excited to have him join us hopefully for a few years and help him move on to the next step.”

Connor Tait (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Boyds, Md.
  • Previous team: New Jersey Hitmen (NCDC)
  • College commitment: Quinnipiac University (2021-22)

Tait spent the last three seasons with the Hitmen and scored 17 goals with 17 assists for 34 points in 35 games in his final year.

Evin’s scouting report:

“He’s been playing junior in the NCDC and has been contributing offensively. He’s going to be relied on to be one of those players that can provide offence. He plays with pace and he’s an extremely competitive kid.”

Aaron Trotter (2001, G)

  • Hometown: Victoria, B.C.
  • Previous team: Shawnigan Lake School Prep (CSSHL)

The 19-year-old went 11-7-1 last year with Shawnigan and finished the 2019-20 season with a .905 save percentage and a 2.57 goals-against average.

Evin’s scouting report:

“He’s definitely a late-bloomer and an extremely hard worker. He’s very committed to the game. He’s someone that’s going to earn everything he gets. For any player, you want to earn what you get. You want to have that right attitude and I think Aaron has that.”

Killian McGregor-Bennett (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
  • Previous team: Delta Hockey Academy (CSSHL)

McGregor-Bennett had 18 points in 34 games for Delta in 2019-20. He also appeared in four regular-season games for the Spruce Kings as an affiliate.

Evin’s scouting report:

“A lot of the characteristics for our new acquisitions this year are guys that are fast and he’s very speedy. He plays hard. He’s going to develop into a very good all-around BCHL player. He got along with everyone when he was up with us last year and made such a great impression.”

Ben LeFranc (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Penticton, B.C.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Hockey Academy Red Prep (CSSHL)

LeFranc spent the last four seasons in the Okanagan Academy system. He put up 18 points in 35 games in his final year in 2019-20.

Evin’s scouting report:

“Ben is a strong skater with good hockey instincts. He has the potential to develop into a really good BCHL defenceman in the future who drives the offensive side of the game.

Acquired via trade:

Christian Buono (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Merritt Centennials

The soon-to-be 20-year-old is heading into his third BCHL season. He’s been a solid offensive contributor ever since he broke into the league with the Powell River Kings and finished last season with 37 points in 58 games split between Powell River and Merritt.

Evin’s scouting report:

“He’s played in the league a few years and proven that he can play an offensive style of game. We really like his grit and his compete level. He’s an intelligent player. At one point, he was in Powell River playing in a program we thought was well-coached. He’s a player that should get a good opportunity to contribute in his last year of junior.”

Austin Spiridakis (2002, F)

  • Hometown: St. Albert, Alta.
  • Previous team: Alberni Valley Bulldogs
  • College commitment: Quinnipiac University (2021-22)

The 17-year-old spent the past two seasons with the Bulldogs and put up 12 goals and seven assists for 19 points in 42 games last year. He was also recognized for his work in the classroom when he was named the BCHL’s High School Player of the Month for February.

Evin’s scouting report:

“He’s a player that we identified as someone who we’d love to have in our organization at some point and the time was right. He’s got a great shot. He’s fast. He plays hard. He’s an awesome kid and we’re looking forward to giving him a good opportunity to play more of an offensive role and get some more ice-time.”

Darwin Lakoduk (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Edmonton, Alta.
  • Previous team: Penticton Vees
  • College commitment: American International College (2021-22)

After playing his first full BCHL season with the Victoria Grizzlies in 2018-19, Lakoduk was dealt to Penticton midway through last year and had the unique distinction of playing in 59 regular-season games in a 58-game schedule. He notched a career-best 33 points last year.

Evin’s scouting report:

“I’m familiar with Darwin from when I coached on the Island. He was playing Junior B and, when I was in Port Alberni, he came to some of our camps. He’s an awesome kid. He gets it. He’s had a lot of experience in our league. He’s someone that’s fast who plays with a lot of pace and a lot of grit and that’s a big part of our identity.”

Rowan Miller (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Previous team: Powell River Kings

Miller totaled 28 points in 99 games over the past two seasons in Powell River.

Evin’s scouting report:

“Rowan is someone we identified a long time ago as someone we liked. We like his pace. We like his grit. His habits are in a really good place. We’re excited to give him that next opportunity and maybe a little bit more playing time.”

Zach Gabruch (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Saskatoon, Sask.
  • Previous team: Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Gabruch was a steady stay-at-home defenceman for the Silverbacks last season, suiting up in 56 of 58 regular-season games and all four postseason contests. He finished his first BCHL season with a goal and four assists.

Evin’s scouting report:

“Zach is someone we felt improved in his time with Salmon Arm. We’re happy to have him. He’s a big body. He skates pretty well for a big guy and has a good stick. All five of these guys we added through trades have played, not just Junior A, but in our league. All of a sudden you look at our roster and you have 14 or 15 experienced players and I think that’s a big advantage for us going forward.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images (Krause, Rhéaume, Tait), Garrett James Photography (Borovinskiy, Buono, Spiridakis, Lakoduk, Miller, Gabruch), Bob Orr (Elliott), Vicki Brown (Herrington)