The Victoria Royals will be excited to turn the calendar page to February, after a challenging January that saw COVID-related issues pause their schedule while they were in the midst of a hot streak throughout November and December.
Unfortunately, the team has struggled to find its footing since, as they’re in the midst of an eleven game losing streak.
With that being said, the Royals have an average age of 17.84 years – 5th youngest in the league – after icing largely veteran rosters throughout the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. Those teams featured the likes of Kaid Oliver, Scott Walford, Philip Schultz, Griffen Outhouse, Mitchell Prowse, and Brandon Cutler, who have all since aged out of the league. Tarun Fizer is the only player left on the Royals who would have played for both of those teams.
After putting all their chips in the middle from 2018 and 2019, Victoria predictably finds itself in the midst of a rebuild after a long streak from 2014 to 2019 where they finished in the top 2 of the BC division every year but once. It was a long era of regular season success, but all good things must come to an end.
The bright side is that this current group is so young that those who follow the team today will have some familiar faces to track over the next two or three years, as the Royals rebuild with a young core that should improve with time and experience.
With that in mind, here are a few players to get familiar with ahead of Victoria’s weekend homeset, which sees them host the Kamloops Blazers Saturday, February 5th at 7:05pm, and Sunday, February 5th at 4:05pm.
Austin Zemlak, Defenceman, 16 years old
Austin Zemlak was the Royals first round pick, 9th overall in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, and has suited up for 12 games thus far, including his first career goal January 21st against the Vancouver Giants.
Zemlak gets involved in the play often, competes fearlessly in front of his goaltender, and is more than willing to block shots for the team. He’s physical, has solid hands, and will be fun to watch as his comfort level increases and the offensive side of his game comes to fruition.
Unfortunately, the 6’0 defender has missed most of the season with injury, but appears to have put those issues behind him.
Brayden Schuurman, Center, 17 years old
Center Brayden Schuurman represents the centerpiece of the Royals’ youth movement, as he was ranked by NHL’s Central Scouting as one of the top 60 draft eligible prospects from North America for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
The 5’9 forward is already one of the best goal scorers on the team, 2nd only to Bailey Peach with 22 goals in 40 games. He may become one of the best goal scorers in the league with time, as he’s tied for 11th in the entire league when it comes to goal scoring – a list that is populated by far more 19 and 20 year olds than 17 year olds. In fact, Schuurman is tied for 2nd among under-18 players in the league in goals, putting him in excellent company among his age group.
The Royals’ 4th round pick from 2019 is feisty, willing to crash the net, and should continue to improve with every game of experience he gets.
Tanner Scott, Left Wing, 17 years old
Tanner Scott has been knocking on the door for top 6 ice time as of late, as he sits 6th on the team in scoring with 17 points through 36 games – a nice improvement from last year’s COVID-shortened season where he scored 3 points in 20 games as a 16 year old. Among under-18 players in the WHL this season, Scott ranks 40th in points. Nothing world beating, but encouraging progression nonetheless. Particularly on a Royals team that isn’t quite an offensive juggernaut.
Scott skates well and is a skilled 6’0 forward who has excellent hockey sense and supports his teammates all over the ice.
Drafted in the 3rd round, 48th overall in 2019, Scott should become a critical piece of the squad as he continues to improve and grow alongside this youthful roster.
Catch the Royals this weekend and next at Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena
Saturday, February 5th vs Kamloops, 7:05pm
Sunday, February 6th vs Kamloops, 4:05pm
Friday, February 11th vs Vancouver, 7:05pm
Saturday, February 12th vs Vancouver, 7:05pm
*Statistics accurate as of Friday morning, before Victoria’s away game in Everett Friday night.