Tonight, the Surrey Eagles begin their 25th season in the British Columbia Hockey League when they take on the Langley Rivermen at South Surrey Arena, so it’s time to take a look at what the fans can expect from the team on the road to the RBC Cup.
Coming off of a disappointing 9 win season last year, GM Blaine Neufeld and the Eagles had a busy off-season looking get the team back to their winning ways. With the return of Gary Nylund behind the bench as an assistant coach, it quickly became obvious that losing would not be accepted by the team going forward.
The Eagles first identified scoring as a problem they needed to fix and with that in mind they set their sights on Kyle Star, a forward from Langley who had spent the last two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League recording 72 points. They also brought in Paul McAvoy from the Connecticut Oilers of the Eastern Hockey League. Finally, they brought in Gary Dhaliwal from the Greater Vancouver Canadians. Dhaliwal was the top scorer on the Canadians last season, scoring 22 goals and 29 assists in just 36 games.
With last year’s starting goalie, Christian Short, moving on to R.I.T. University, the Eagles looked to acquire an elite goaltender and that’s exactly what they got when they acquired Justin Laforest from last year’s RBC Cup Champions, the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Laforest, 20, has been to the last two RBC Cup finals. Last year, he posted the lowest goals against average in the entire MJHL and posted a 12-0 record in the playoffs on the Terriers run to the RBC Cup.
Finally Neufeld looked to improve the blue line with the additions of Ludvig Adamsen, Trent Huitema and Kodi Schwarz.
Adamsen, 18, has a big season ahead as he’s been named to Denmark’s Under 20 team for the 2015-16 World Junior Hockey Championships. You’re probably wondering how the Eagles found out about this World Junior calibre defenseman, right? Well, Eagles fans can thank Enio Sacilotto of the WHL’s Victoria Royals for the tip. Normally, the Royals would have pursued Adamsen, but he is looking to play college hockey in the United States and playing for the Royals would prevent that due to NCAA restrictions.
Huitema, 17, is a 6 foot 7 monster who spent last season with the Abbotsford Pilots of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. The Eagles believe Huitema will be on the radar for college scouts and NHL scouts alike so they wanted to have the opportunity to develop him in to the player they believe he can become.
Lastly, the Eagles brought in Kodi Schwarz from the Alberta Junior Hockey League where he was the Rookie of the Year last season recording 7 goals and 31 assists for 38 points in 56 games last year. Schwarz, 20, will be particularly motivated to suceed this year as he looks to obtain a college scholarship in his last junior eligible season.
However, these additions cannot be the only place the Eagles look to for success. The Eagles hope Darius Davidson can improve upon his breakout season last season when he lead the team in points with 51 points in 58 games. Latrell Charleson will also be relied on heavily to help the new additions on the blue line transition to the Eagles system. I also expect the Eagles will get big seasons out of Ty Westgard, Owen Johnson and Jeffrey Stewart in their first full seasons with the Eagles.
It’s reasonable to expect the Eagles will at least challenge for a playoff spot this year, which is more than can be said for the Vancouver Canucks, so if you’re looking to watch entertaining hockey this year, the Eagles are definitely worth checking out this season.