Morning Star Staff/Black Press Sports
Without future first-round NHL draft picks Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro in their lineup, the Penticton Vees won some pretty big B.C. Hockey League games.
With the dynamic duo back after boosting Team Canada West to gold over Russia in the World Junior A Hockey Challenge Cup in Ontario, the Vees just may run the table with 22 games left.
Penticton, who may see former Viper Demico Hannoun, d-men Gabe Bast, Seamus Donohue and Dixon Bowen return from injured reserve in the next day or so, top the table at 31-4-1-0.
The Vees visit the Vernon Vipers (16-20-0-3) New Year’s Day at 7 p.m. and also hit Kal Tire Place for a Friday, Jan. 8 tilt in Vernon.
TSN hockey analyst Craig Button has watched Jost and Frabbo play since they were 15.
“They are outstanding,” Button told Northumberland Today during the World Junior A Challenge in Cobourg, Ont. “They’ve got a single-minded focus. They have an unbelievable passion for playing hockey. A lot of players get out there and we use the term compete, but their passion for hockey is 24/7. They wake up with it, they want to figure out ‘how do I get better, how do I help my teammates get better, what do I have to do to give my team the best chance to win’ and they have high-end talent.
“It’s not about a style. They get into the game, they get invested in the game and they want an outcome that has a ‘W’ beside it. I think they’re going to be longtime NHL players, they are going to be part of winning.”
Some former Top 10 NHL picks who played in the World Junior A Challenge include Nail Yakupov (1st overall, 2012), Kyle Turris (3rd, 2007), Elias Lindholm (5th, 2013), Nikita Filatov (6th, 2008), Hampus Lindholm (6th, 2012), Alexander Burmistrov (8th, 2010) and Nikolaj Ehlers (9th, 2014)
Toss in high-scoring studs Scott Conway, Easton Brodzinski and Nic Jones and the Vees are a powerhouse for sure. Conway, a clone for former Vernon Canadians’ superstar/BCJHL scoring king Terry Lowe, is second in the BCHL with 31 goals and 69 points. Jones, a former Alberta League all-star who played last year for the Ohio State Buckeyes, has rang up 38 points in 24 games with Penticton.
“It’s a pretty deadly lineup if you ask me,” Brodzinski told Black Press Sports.
“We’re going to be a damn good team,” said Conway, a Big 10 rookie all-star with the Penn State Nitany Lions last year. “We’re going to be hard to beat. We are going to have so much skill up front and on the back end. Teams won’t know what to do when they play us.”
In net, Anthony Brodeur, son of NHL legend Martin Brodeur, is unbeaten in 19 games.
Jost, who is second in BCHL points with 61, earned MVP as Canada West captain at the World Junior A Challenge. He played alongside the Vipers’ Liam Finlay with the two combining for the winning goal versus Russia.
“It’s pretty surreal,” said Jost, who was born and raised in St. Albert before moving to Kelowna. “Whenever you wear this maple leaf over your chest you have a sense of pride and when you get gold it’s even better. I’m so proud of what the boys did this week and I thought we really bounced back from last year. I think we showed that Canada should be back on top.
“You never like losing and when you come in here you love winning and when you get that gold medal hung around your neck it’s a special feeling and it’s very humbling.”
Jost is committed to the University of North Dakota, while Fabbro has signed a letter of intent with the Boston University Terriers. Jost and Fabbro went seventh (Everett Silvertips) and eighth (Seattle Thunderbirds), respectively, in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Fabbro hails from New Westminster.
SportsNet has Jost rated as 10th overall and Fabbro 13th in next June’s amateur lottery in Buffalo.
Travis Zajac, the 20th pick in the 2004 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils, and Kris Chucko, who went 24th to the Calgary Flames that same year, reign as the last set of BCHL (Salmon Arm SilverBacks) teammates to be selected in the first round together.
The previous time two non-teammates were selected in the first round from the BCHL came in 2007. Turris was drafted third by the Phoenix Coyotes, and Riley Nash 21st by the Edmonton Oilers. Turris remains the highest player ever drafted out of the BCHL.
Beau Bennett, selected 20th by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010, is the last player selected in the first round out of the BCHL. Bennett played for the Vees.
The Vipers, meanwhile, will scratch winger Joe Sacco, who was stranded in Boston due to inclement weather.
Winger Jimmy Lambert must miss one more game due to suspension so head coach Mark Ferner will sit one defenceman Friday.
Ferner and assistant coach Kevin Pedersen watched 10 games over three days, starting Boxing Day, at the 38th Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament in Calgary.
“There were lots of good teams and players,” said Ferner. “I talked to a few players about coming here next year.”