PENTICTON – As fans drool over the top NHL draft picks and other promising prospects during the Canucks Young Stars Classic in Penticton, there are some who developed their skills in the B.C. Hockey League.
Spread among the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers are five BCHL grads. The Canucks have Wesley Myron, who starred for the Victoria Grizzlies for three seasons, Zach Davies, a Prince George Spruce Kings’ grad now a Flames prospect, Kyle Bigos of the Sharks, who played two years with the Vernon Vipers, Jujhar Khaira (Spruce Kings) of the Oilers, and Ben Betker (West Kelowna Warriors), also of the Oilers.
Ryan Howse, who played two games for the Spruce Kings, is listed on the Flames’ roster, but has chosen not to report to rookie camp and isn’t expected to play in the Classic.
Myron, 21, played one season of college hockey with the Boston University Terriers where he collected two goals in 21 games. He made the jump to minor pro with Kalamazoo in the East Coast Hockey League tallying two goals and nine points in 17 games.
Myron said playing in the BCHL gave him more time to develop.
“I was a smaller guy when I entered the BCHL,” said the forward, listed at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. “I kind of hit my growth spurt in my 19- and 20-year-old year. Then went on to college and it kind of lengthened my career a bit. If I was a (Western Hockey League) guy, they can only hold three 20-year-olds. You kind of have to rush things.”
With the Grizzlies, where he potted 50 goals and 111 points in 131 games, the Victoria native gained a good confidence boost and earned the trust from his coaches.
“I played almost all the key minutes,” he said. “It helped me develop my all-around game.”
Playing for the Terriers helped make the pro transition easier for Myron, who learned decisions need to be made quickly. During the tournament, Myron is excited to hit the ice and prove he has done the right things during the summer.
“I’ve worked hard, I’ve put on weight. I have really worked on my game,” said Myron, who played for Canada West in the World Junior A Challege in 2011-12. “I have a lot to prove.”
BCHL commissioner John Grisdale said the number of grads playing in the tournament is a sign of the growth and quality of players coming for the junior A league.
“I’m not surprised. I think there is a lot of players that could and should be involved in some of these camps,” he said. “If you look at our numbers, like last year we had 151 players playing in our league that had college education commitments. Of those, 95 were new. Led by our coaches and our managers, and obviously our owners are doing a great job of continuing to improve the talent level of our players.”
Grisdale added the Canucks Young Stars Classic is a great opportunity for those kids to show what they can do.
“I’m confident over time we will continue to provide more and more players.”
Bigos credits his former Vipers’ coach for his development.
“I think if I didn’t come to the BCHL in Vernon with coach Mark Ferner, I don’t think I would have developed the way I did or as much success as I’ve had so far,” said the towering six-foot-four, 235-pound defenceman, drafted in the fourth round, 99th overall by Edmonton in 2009. “It’s a skill league. A very competitive league. It showed me what I needed to do to get to the next level.”
Bigos, who won an RBC Cup championship with the Vipers in 2008-09 and earned the Roland Mercier Trophy as RBC Cup MVP, as well as the Top Defenceman Award, said while with the Vipers he improved his skating and hockey sense.
“Midgets, you can kind of get away with skill here and there, but at the next level, especially juniors, if you don’t play within the system, and improve on your individual skills, especially skating and the way you move and pass the puck, you are not going to be successful at the next level,” he said.
Bigos added the four years he spent with the Merrimack College Warriors, located 25 miles north of Boston, was amazing. It was another step up.
“It’s so much harder to get every inch of ice and every pass through,” he said. “It prepares you for the next level as well.”
Bigos, who was dealt to the Sharks on July 16, is looking forward to the competition. Their first game was against Vancouver’s prospects on Thursday. The Sharks took on the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
“Everyone is going to be fighting for every inch to prove themselves to get a contract and a spot on the big team,” said Bigos, who is motivated to play in the NHL and avoid working a 9-5 job.
“That’s always going to push your game up to the next level. That will make you play the best hockey you have played so far. I’m looking forward to reaching a new level.”