Mike Van Unen of the Merritt Centennials, left, and Connor Marritt of the Vernon Vipers fight for puck possession in BCHL action Saturday night at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

Mike Van Unen of the Merritt Centennials, left, and Connor Marritt of the Vernon Vipers fight for puck possession in BCHL action Saturday night at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

NHL Central Scouting eyes Vernon’s Swetlikoff

Big Viper forward listed as a C category choice

A highly skilled forward with size normally earns a decent rating from National Hockey League Central Scouting.

The scouting bureau released Monday its preliminary Players to Watch List as a prelude to the 2019 NHL Draft and 16 current Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) skaters, including centre Alex Swetlikoff of the Vernon Vipers, are among those ranked.

A 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward who often uses his strength to drive the net, was in the C group of North American skaters, those who may go in the fourth through sixth rounds of the 2019 entry draft, June 21-22, in Vancouver.

Vernon’s Marty Stein, a scout with the Detroit Red Wings, said the Kelowna product has premier upside due to his size and hockey sense.

“He needs consistency in his game but that will come as the season progresses,” said Stein. “He has made some highlight plays and can do more. Like any other prospect, his age, he needs to get stronger and more confident in his play.”

Viper head coach Mark Ferner says Swetlikoff will come off Injured Reserve with renewed energy with his draft status.

“It’s a feather in his cap,” said Ferner. “He’s been identified. He’s a talent and he’ll get drafted. Those 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 forwards, they don’t grow on trees.”

Swetlikoff, who compiled three goals and 15 points as a rookie last year, had three goals in six games before getting hurt hitting the boards. He has secured an NCAA scholarship with the Denver Pioneers for next year.

Topping the CJHL contingent is Victoria Grizzlies forward and 2017-18 CJHL Rookie of the Year Alex Newhook, who is ranked on the A Skaters list, which indicates him as a potential first-round selection for the 2019 amateur lottery.

Two other CJHLers were tabbed in the B Skaters category that has them as possibly second or third round selections. They are centre Massimo Rizzo of the Penticton Vees (BCHL) and defenceman Layton Ahac, who is a member of the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Of note, CJHL alumni Brendan Budy and Sean Comrie, who are both entering their freshman year at Denver University (NCHC), are also on the watch list. Budy, a left winger, spent the past two seasons in CJHL with the Langley Rivermen (BCHL) while Comrie skated the previous two years for the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL).

The 2019 CJHL Prospects Game goes Tuesday, Jan. 22 in Okotoks, Alta.

LW Harrison Blaisdell of the Chilliwack Chiefs and LW Alexander Campbell of Victoria Grizzlies were other BCHLers listed.

Swetlikoff was not in the lineup as the Merritt Centennials used their power play to post a 5-2 win over the host Vipers before 1,715 B.C. Hockey League fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

Boasting the league’s 10th best man-advantage record, the pesky Cents connected with three power play snipes in going to 5-4 in the Interior Division.

Vernon, who had not given up a power play in their last two games, dipped to 3-3-2.

The Cents registered two power-play goals and one even-strength in just less than six minutes early in the third period. Brendan Schneider hit an empty net with six seconds to play.

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Nick Granowicz, Brad Cocca, Daniel Tkc and Mathieu Gosselin completed the Merritt offence.

D-man Jack Judson wired a shot from the top of the right circle under the bar past Cents’ goalie Vincent Duplessis to make it 1-1 in the opening period, assisted by Josh Latta on the power play. Second star Teddy Wooding banged in his own rebound to put the Vipers in front 2-1 at 4:02 of the second. Logan Cash drew the assist.

Granowicz tapped one in from the side of the net for the game’s first goal and his fourth of the season, at 3:08. Judson equalized 10 minutes later for his third of the season.

Wooding produced his first BCHL snipe at 4:02 of the middle stanza. Vernon took six of nine minor penalties in the period.

Cocca, just inside the right post past Aidan Porter, Tkac, unassisted, and Gosselin on a quick shot off a touch pass by Talon Zakall, pushed the Cents up 4-2. Zakall finished with two helpers.

Kopperud, a Denver product who drew an assist on the Granowicz goal, has earned a scholarship with the University of Arizona Sun Devils for next year.

Vernon, who had just three forward lines due to injury and suspension, outshot Merritt 27-23. The Vipers visit the Penticton Vees Friday night and host the Vees the following night. Penticton shut down the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 2-0 Saturday night.

Ferner said captain Jagger Williamson will also come off IR for the weekend. Alternate captain Jesse Lansdell returns from a four-game suspension.


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