The ice is sleek and clean, Marty the Marmot is completely fired up, and the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre is ready to rock for this year’s version of our Victoria Royals.
A distinct new flavour will be satiating your hockey appetite this season, as long-time Royals and franchise cornerstones Matthew Phillips (most likely not returning), Tyler Soy, and Chaz Reddekopp have all departed from the Western Hockey League.
Though this year’s team will be less familiar to start, the many departures from last year’s veteran-laden squad means there is ample opportunity for a new core of Royals to emerge.
“That’s the beauty of junior hockey,” Royals General Manager Cam Hope told Victoria Buzz. “There’s always another group of guys that are exceptional players who are chomping at the bit to take those roles.”
Buried beneath the firepower of last year’s roster are some pretty talented kids, and with the inclusion of a few new additions, the next core of Royals are right on their way.
Let’s take a peek!
Age: 17 Height: 5’11 Weight: 161 lbs
Birthplace: Chestermere, Alberta
Acquired: 4th round, 69th overall in 2016 draft
Last season: 45gp-2g-5a-7pts for Victoria
Tarun Fizer enters the 2018 campaign after a modest start to his WHL career, posting 2 goals and 7 points in 45 games last year. Given the fact he was just 16 last year on a deep, mature squad, however, is a testament to the qualities he can bring to a hockey club.
The Chestermere, Alberta product will be putting his best foot forward this season, given it’s his NHL draft year. The Royals have about 8 forwards not returning from last season, so there is certainly room for Fizer to show the league what he’s capable of.
“We expect him this year to be the player that we drafted him to be,” Hope said. “It was very difficult for a 16-year old player to be on our club last year; we had this veteran group of guys taking up all of the oxygen when it came to offense.”
Fizer scored 33 goals in 36 games his final season of bantam hockey, suggesting a real appetite for some of that offensive zone oxygen.
“He is a terrific athlete and an extremely fast skater with a great release. We thought it was a steal that we could draft him outside of the first few rounds.”
Age: 18 Height: 6’0″ Weight: 190 lbs
Birthplace: Rodovre, Denmark
Acquired: 1st round, 38th overall in 2018 import draft
Last season: 40gp-5g-7a-12pts in Metal Ligaen
You may be completely unfamiliar with Danish import Phillip Schultz, but it won’t take long to get acquainted. The 6’0 center played in the top professional Danish League last year, amassing 12 points in 40 games. After posting modest numbers playing against men, he should be primed for success in the Western Hockey League.
“I’ll tell you what I like about him,” Hope began. “The first two games he played with us … he took a high stick [in both games], and had to leave to get stitches. In both games the first shift after he got stitched up he scored a goal. Twice he did that!”
Sounds like a fairy tale from a Canadian children’s book.
Stitched up goal-scoring aside, Schultz has completely dominated the Denmark junior circuit in the past, suggesting when he plays with players his age, his skill and impact should be felt. Though Canadian Major Junior is certainly different than the Danish leagues, Schultz plays a style that should fit the smaller surfaces in North America.
“Since he’s come here he’s been everything we thought he’d be and more,” Hope said, impressed by his quick adjustments. “He’s a professional level player who is going to make a big impact in junior.”
Age: 18 Height: 6’0″ Weight: 203
Birthplace: Parker, Colorado, USA
Acquired: 5th round, 90th overall in 2015 draft
Last season: 71gp-11g-7a-18pts for Victoria
Dino Kambeitz enters a similar scenario to Fizer in that, despite possessing offensive tools, he was forced to play near the bottom of the roster last season due to the vast experience the Royals possessed up front. The product of Parker, Colorado bagged 11 goals last season despite a limited role, and will get plenty of opportunity to show the coaching staff his capabilities.
“Dino was put into a secondary role by necessity last year,” Hope offered. “He’ll get a chance now to finally stretch his wings and show us what he can be.”
A skilled, shifty forward who is capable with the puck on his stick, Kambeitz should also continue to round out the rest of his game.
“I think that he is on track to be a terrific professional hockey player and this year will be the year he has a chance to show it with a lot more minutes and responsibility.”
Age: 18 Height: 6’0″ Weight: 190 lbs
Birthplace: White Rock, BC
Acquired: 3rd round, 57th overall in 2015 draft
Last season: 64gp-6g-19a-25pts for Victoria
Kaid Oliver enters the 2018-19 Victoria Royals season feeling like a veteran, having made the team as a 16 year old two years ago. A strong player who’s heavy on the puck, Oliver has been a coach’s dream in that he’s adapted to play the defensive side of the puck at a young age.
“Kaid feels like he’s a veteran guy already but he’s only turning 18,” Hope said. “He can play the game any way you like and over time he’s been a key member of our penalty kill and a terrific shutdown and faceoff guy.”
Players of Oliver’s ilk can become tremendously valuable as they mature. Once their offense comes around, they become a complete WHL weapon that takes no shortcuts on the defensive side of the puck.
“It’s remarkable what he’s been able to do at such a young age and the really important spots he’s been put in by our coaching staff,” Hope said. “He does it all and should be a really exciting year for him as he gets more offense into his game.”
Age: 17 Height: 6’1″ Weight: 190
Birthplace: Delta, BC
Acquired: 4th round, 88th overall in 2016 draft
Last season: 29gp-21g-24a-45pts for Delta Academy Prep
Tyus Gent got his feet wet in the WHL last season, appearing in 5 games for the Royals. The Delta product completely torched the Canadian Sport School Hockey League last year, amassing 21 goals and 45 points in just 29 games for the Delta Academy.
It remains to be seen whether this season is Gent’s true coming out party as he adjusts to the speed of WHL hockey, but his skill set is enticing.
“Tyus has a lot natural ability,” Hope said. “[He has] exceptional vision on the ice and he can really produce once he’s healthy and once he’s comfortable. Some guys take a couple of weeks to get their feet under them and get used to the pace, some guys take half a season and some guys take the full year.”
Regardless of Gent’s progress this year, the Royals are excited about his developmental track.
“Everyone develops at their own pace, [but he’s] going to be terrific as an 18 or 19 year old,” Hope concluded.
- What: Royals Fans! The wait is FINALLY over. Tonight is the home opener against the Prince George Cougars.
- Where: Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre – 1925 Blanshard Street
- When: Puck drops at 7:05 pm