Around the BCHL: Wenatchee Wild’s Christophe Fillion BCHL Player of the Week

Around the BCHL is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Welcome to the September 11, 2018 edition of Around the BCHL, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

With the first weekend of BCHL action in the books, we get the season’s first Player of the Week.

Wenatchee Wild forward Christophe Fillion gets the nod. The 18 year old scored two goals in his BCHL debut Friday night, leading his team to a 5-3 road win over the Vernon Vipers.

Fillion sniped two more in Saturday’s 6-3 road win versus the Surrey Eagles, adding an assist for a three point night.

Fillion and teammate Christope Tellier sit 1-2 in league scoring. It’s early days, and they may well go pointless for the next five weeks, but you have to give a ton of credit to Wenatchee hockey boss Bliss Littler for reloading his roster with star power every single season. These guys are natives of Sherbooke, Quebec and Littler must have spotted them when they played for the 2017-18 Iowa Wild AAA.

Littler casts a wide net when recruiting and has a knack for unearthing BCHL scoring champs.

Wenatchee has been in the league three years now and has found two points leaders, Brendan Harris in 2016-17 and Jasper Weatherby in 2017-18.

Will one of these Quebec kids be next?

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Life is about to get a lot more difficult for radio play-by-play and colour men around the league, with the Cowichan Caps making a trade for Dimitri Mikrogiannakis.

The Caps picked up the 19 year old defenceman in a Sunday trade, sending 19 year old blueliner Michael Keating and future considerations to the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s New Market Hurricanes.

A native of Aurora, Ontario, Mikrogiannakis played 61 regular season and playoff games with the Canes last season, generating 14 goal, 34 points and 42 penalty minutes. He stands six-foot-two and weighs 190 pounds, which is pretty big for a BCHL blueliner. But for the sanity of those trying to pronounce his name on air in the heat of action, might I suggest calling him Micro? Or Big D?

Just trying to help.

Cowichan head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp pulled the trigger on this deal.

Hired April 10, Vandy has shown no hesitance to wheel and deal. His Caps have been involved in 10 trades involving 20 players — 12 acquired and eight sent away. He is determined to fast-track Cowichan back into contention.

Opening weekend action saw his Caps drop a 3-2 shootout decision to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on home ice Friday. Vandekamp went back to his old stomping grounds in Nanaimo to face his former team on Saturday and the Clippers clobbered his Caps 6-1.

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Several BCHL teams spent last week announcing their leadership groups for the 2018-19 season.

But not the Chilliwack Chiefs.

New bench boss Brian Maloney is taking his time with the captaincy. He’s got four players wearing A’s – 20 year old defencemen Callum Volpe and Marcus Tesink, 19 year old forward Skyler Brind’Amour and 17 year old forward Harrison Blaisdell. Blaisdell is eye-catching because of his age, but Maloney doesn’t care about his birth certificate.

Blaisdell has a ton of experience already as one of just two player (along with Tyson Jost) to play in the TELUS Cup, World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, World Junior A Challenge and RBC Cup.

He certainly sounds like a leader when he speaks.

“Should a guy be captain just because he’s 19 or 20? Why?” Maloney told me recently. “To me, a leader is a leader no matter how old he is. And I’m not going to just give someone a letter because they score all of our goals or they’ve been here four years.

“I think it’s important that they are true leaders.”

It’s a good point, and here’s what Blaisdell had to say about it.

“For me, it’s all about not letting my age affect how the other boys think about me,” the second year skater said. “I can be a leader out on the ice, and in the room I can be a good guy and lead the team that way.

“Age doesn’t really matter.”

Just checked at 10 a.m. this morning. Maloney still hasn’t chosen a C.

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News about a former BCHL goaltender as Michael Garteig signs a one-year ECHL contract with the Newfoundland Growlers.

The Growlers are a brand new entry in the 27 team league. The team is affiliated with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.

Garteig, a Penticton Vees and Powell River Kings alum, was the BCHL’s Goalie of the Year in 2011 and 2012, but has had a tough time trying to establish himself in the pro ranks.

Signed by the Vancouver Canucks in 2016-17 after four years at Quinnipiac University, Garteig never got much of an opportunity the team’s AHL affiliate, playing just eight games for the Utica Comets over two seasons. Garteig played 22 games for the ECHL’s Alaska Aces in 2016-17, posting a 3.11 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. He played 24 games for the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings last year, posting a 3.81 GAA and .887 SP.

He is the first goalie signed by the Growlers, which hopefully gives him a leg up in securing the No. 1 job.

The Growlers will play their first game Oct. 12 when they host the Florida Everblades at the Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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Lots of players scored their first BCHL games last weekend, but the most notable has to be Trail forward Kent Johnson. The North Vancouver native sniped a sharp-angle past West Kelowna keeper Connor Hopkins in a 6-4 Smoke Eater win, making him the first 2002-born player to score a goal.

Trail is very excited about this kid, for good reason. He had 29 goals and 75 points last year for the Burnaby Winter Club Prep team.

Johnson was selected in the 10th round of the 2017 Western Hockey League bantam draft by the Everett Silvertips, but at five-foot-seven and 126 pounds (according to eliteprospects.com) it’s unlikely the 15 year old could survive the grind of major junior hockey.

The BCHL, which favours speed and skill, looks like the perfect place for Johnson to develop.

Side note: Seems like yesterday I was covering 1986-born goaltender Corey Milan and the Penticton Vees as a young(er) sports writer with the Penticton Western News. Now I’m talking about 2002-born players? How did that happen?

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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