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What's Going On in Western Canada?

I know I was curious, and I'm sure you're curious too, so here's a brief report on what is happening in the BCHL and AJHL.

In the BCHL, it didn't take long to sort out who the haves and the have-nots are. Six teams in the league are undefeated while 5 teams are winless.

One of those undefeated teams is Salmon Arm, who should be one of the league's top teams this year. The Silverbacks are loaded with future college players, including Michigan recruit Ben Winnett. Some people were skeptical this summer as to why Winnett was viewed as such a big recruit, despite fairly modest numbers in the BCHL last year. He's showing why this season though. Through 4 games, Winnett has tallied 4 goals and 6 assists, which puts him tied for 3rd in the league in scoring. Another youngster, Riley Nash, who will be one of the most highly sout after recruits this season, is also off to a strong start with 7 points in his first 4 games. The Silverbacks also have many other talented forwards including 2008 recruit Derek Lee, St. Cloud recruit Brian Volpei, former NTDP forward Tony Mosey, and California native August Aiken. Kelly Zajac, the younger brother of Travis and Darcy, is another potential future college player, but has been stuck not seeing as much ice time this year because so many talented forwards are ahead of him. There are also a few young defensive prospects that could garner some collegiate interest like Erik Spady and Matt Grassi. The Silverbacks also have 13 feet worth of goalie in the duo of 6'7" Gavin McHale and the miniscule 6'5" Chris Rawlings, who is one of the top goalie prospects for 2007.

Competing with Salmon Arm in the Interior Conference are the Penticton Vees, who are off to a 5-0 start despite missing two of their best playmakers in Northern Michigan recruit Robert Skinner, and North Dakota recruit Evan Trupp. The Vees also have Michigan Tech recruit Deron Cousens on defense, who is averaging over a point per game so far with 6 points.

Nanaimo heads up the Pacific Division with a 4-0 record, thanks in large part to the scoring of Denver recruit Kyle Ostrow, who has scored 10 points, and Duluth recruit Cody Danberg, who has 8. The beneficiary of their scoring prowess seems to be defenseman Matt Irwin, who leads the team with 5 goals on the season. Denver recruit Marc Cheverie leads the team in goal with the league's 5th best goals against average, despite having the 13th best save percentage.

Leading the league in scoring is Michigan Tech recruit Casey Pierro-Zabotel, with an impressive 14 points in his first 5 games. Pierro-Zabotel's numbers can't even be chalked up to an older player racking up big numbers, since he doesn't turn 18 until November. He's already a BCHL veteran though, as this will be his third season with the Merritt Centennials. Not only is he showing nice scoring touch this season, he also has excellent size. He's listed at 6'2" 208 lbs. It looks as though Michigan Tech has recruited an excellent player.

Pierro-Zabotel's teammate Wade MacLeod is second in the league in scoring, but is an older player. He'll turn 20 years old this January. He averaged a point per game last season in his first year in the BCHL.

In Alberta, the Camrose Kodiaks are the only team with an unblemished record, after winning their first three games. The Kodiaks are led by '90 birthdate Joe Colborne, who has 4 points in his first 3 games.

Tyler Gron seems to be the top prospect in the league this year. He's currently second in scoring, behind 20 year old Dustin Sather. Another name to keep an eye on is Andrew Cherniwchan. He played for Drayton Valley last year as an '89 birthdatae, and took his bumps as a young kid, but now looks poised to do well in the league now that he's a year older. He's got 6 points in his first three games, giving him the third best points per game average in the league so far. Duluth recruit Justin Fontaine has only played two games, but is also averaging two points per game.