Friday, September 21, 2001

2001-02 WHL season preview

 A carbon copy may be impossible.

 But the Red Deer Rebels believe they've got a shot at a reasonable facsimile. The 2000-01 Western Hockey League season was a veritable tour de force for the Rebels, who captured their first WHL championship in a five-game President's Cup series over the Portland Winter Hawks and went on to claim the 83rd Memorial Cup, emblematic of Canadian major junior supremacy, at Regina in May.

 Along the way, the Rebels built up a 54-12-3-3 record, possessed the WHL's most potent offence with 304 goals in 72 games, established a new Canadian Hockey League record for stinginess by allowing only 168 goals through that 72-game schedule, and rewrote another CHL mark by recording 11 shutouts.

 "If you look at our record and everything we accomplished last year, that's a tough thing to repeat," noted team owner, general manager and head coach Brent Sutter, whose Rebels claimed the Memorial Cup on May 27 thanks to a 5-4 victory over the Val-D'Or, Que., Foreurs, with Doug Lynch potting the winner 13:16 into overtime.

 "That was quite a feat for our kids. Are we going to be like we were last year? I don't know. And as for comparisons between this year and last year, I won't do that."

 As the WHL prepares to open its 2001-02 season Friday night, the defending champion Rebels have in all likelihood lost their top three 2000-01 marksmen to National Hockey League clubs -- WHL scoring champion Justin Mapletoft (43-77--120) to the New York Islanders, winger Kyle Wanvig (55-46--101) to the Minnesota Wild and winger Martin Erat (23-59--82) to the Nashville Predators.Meanwhile, former captain and defensive anchor Jim Vandermeer has graduated from the Rebels after a four-year WHL career.

 However, Sutter is confident that the nucleus of youngsters he gambled on two years ago -- wingers Colby Armstrong and Boyd Gordon, centre Joel Stepp, defencemen Doug Lynch, Jeff Woywitka and Bryce Thoma, and goaltender Shane Bendera -- will help the Rebels stay on a winning roll.

 "One thing you can't overlook, that means as much as anything else, is that these kids have won," noted Sutter. "They know what it takes, and that experience is very significant.

 "The kids in that group were put in a lot of situations over the last two years," said Sutter, whose Rebels open the season Saturday night with a home game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Centrium.

 "I was firm in what I believed in -- that if you keep your young kids, you've got to play them. That's the only way they get better and improve. "Now, they're going into their third year in our league as 18- and 19-year old players. They've done it together, and that's pretty big in itself. They know what's expected, they know how things work, and they're all excited about coming back and going after it again. That's good, because there's no complacency."

 New on the WHL scene for the Rebels are goaltender Cam Ward, Cody Holzapfel and Dion Phaneuf on the blue line, and a throng of forwards -- like former first-round bantam draft choice Colin Fraser at centre along with Chris Neiszner, wingers Derek Endicott and Jason Ertl, and pivot Mikhail Yakubov, chosen 10th overall last summer by the Chicago Blackhawks, from Lada Togliatta of the Russian Hockey League.

 "On one hand, it is hard to lose the likes of Wanvig, Erat and Mapletoft," said Sutter. "But of the 12 or 13 forwards here, we've got five first-year kids (including winger Joel Rupprecht, who played 14 games with the Rebels last winter) who'll start the year with us. "And Yakubov's a tremendously talented player who's going to make everybody around him better. To me, he's a phenomenal player."

 Meanwhile the Winter Hawks, last spring's WHL finalists, will open their season Friday at home against the Seattle Thunderbirds in one of seven games on tap for the WHL's opening night. That slate includes the first game in franchise history for the Vancouver Giants, who entertain the Kamloops Blazers at Pacific Coliseum.

 Last season, the Winter Hawks authored a Western Conference worst-to-first tale, erasing memories of their long '99-00 winter (16-49-7-0) by finishing four points out of first in the West (37-27-5-3) and then winning eight of their first 11 playoff games, dispatching the Spokane Chiefs in a five-game conference championship to reach the WHL final.

 "We're going to have very high expectations again this season," said head coach Mike Williamson. "We set some high standards for ourselves early last year, and I don't think a lot of people expected us to get where we did."

 The Winter Hawks expect forwards like Paul Gaustad, Josef Balej, Shawn Roed and Josh Olson to help take up the slack left by the departure of Garrett Prosofsky, who graduated from the WHL, and Marcel Hossa, who signed a contract with the Montreal Canadiens and isn't expected back.

 The foundation of the club this winter lies at the back end, where goaltender Lanny Ramage developed into conference all-star material last year and six returnees -- Dustin Bauer, Kris Callaway, Jesse Ferguson, Joey Hope, Patrick Wellar and Kevin Young -- headline the 2001-02 Portland defence corps.

 "We're really happy with what we're bringing back," said Williamson. "Jesse is an overager, Joey, Kris and Kevin are all solid, two-way, 19-year-old defencemen with good ability. "And we're adding (1985-born) Braydon Coburn, who played (14 games) for us in the playoffs last year, as a high-end prospect. We're going to expect our defence to contribute a lot this season," said Williamson.

 "And I think we have some young (forwards) ready to step up," he said. "(Right winger) Matt Girling definitely showed a touch around the net when he was called upon last year as a 16-year-old. And (17-year-old right winger) Brad Priestlay is the same type of kid."

 Thanks to WHL realignment this winter, two teams will find new homes, an extra division will begin play, and 16 of 19 clubs will make playoffs. The league's Western Conference, formerly a seven-team affair, will now be split in two. The United States Division includes the WHL's four American-based clubs: the Winter Hawks, the Chiefs, the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Tri-City Americans.

 Meanwhile, the British Columbia Division will be made up of five teams: the Kelowna Rockets, the Kamloops Blazers, the Prince George Cougars, the expansion Giants, and the Cranbrook-based Kootenay Ice, which has shifted over from the Central Division.

 Out on the flat lands, the Eastern Conference still includes two divisions, the Central and East, but the Swift Current Broncos have moved back into the Central in order to give each prairie division five teams.

 The first round of WHL playoffs will see clubs square off within each of the four divisions, with first-versus-fourth and second-versus-third matchups across the board.

 Below is a team-by-team WHL preview for the 2001-02 season, with snapshots of who's gone, who's back, and who's new. It should be noted that over-age categories -- that is, 20-year-old players in their final season of eligibility -- are official WHL club protected lists.

 In otherwords, they include players who have either signed contracts with their NHL teams or even played in the NHL, and have little or no chance of returning to their WHL clubs. All WHL teams must declare their three over-age players by Nov. 1.

 Statistical data in parentheses are last season's personal scoring stats, if available. Also in parentheses are individual players' draft status, if applicable, and/or 2000-01 club if they played elsewhere last season.


 Western Conference

 United States Division

 Portland Winter Hawks

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 37-27-5-3, 82 points, second in seven team West Division. Playoffs: Defeated Prince George 4-2 in conference quarterfinal; earned bye in conferece semifinal; defeated Spokane 4-1 in conference final; lost 4-1 to Red Deer in WHL final.

 WHO'S GONE -- C Garrett Prosofsky (37-48--85); D Dan Hulak (6-26--32); G Jomar Cruz (3.17 GAA, 7-8-2, .884 SV%).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Mike Williamson; G Lanny Ramage (3.14 GAA, .885 SV%, 30-21-3); C Paul Gaustad (11-30--41, 168 PIM, Buffalo 2000); D Kris Callaway (6-11--17, 144 PIM); C Willy Glover (11-14--25); D Kevin Young (4-20--24); D Joey Hope (7-27--34); RW Brad Priestlay (2-4--6); RW Matt Girling (11-13--24).

 WHO'S NEW -- D Braydon Coburn (M3A Notre Dame, 3-19--22); LW Brian Woolger (M3A Edmonton, 15-20--35, 141 PIM); D Jon Weigum (M3A Red Deer, 0-1--1); RW Tyler Grover (M3A Red Deer, 8-15--23, 108 PIM); G Krister Teows (Brandon, 3.80 GAA).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Slovakian RW Joe Balej (32-21--53, Montreal 2000); Czech C Jakub Klepis (HC Slava Prava).

 OVER-AGERS -- C Marcel Hossa (34-56--90, Montreal 2000); RW Dean Beuker (14-23--37); D Jesse Ferguson (12-41--53); LW Josh Olson (22-38--60, Florida 2000); C Shawn Roed (20-29--49).

 Spokane Chiefs

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 35-28-7-2, 79 points, fourth in seven team West Division. Playoffs: Defeated Kamloops 4-0 in conference quarterfinal; defeated Seattle 3-0 in conference semifinal; lost 4-1 to Portland in conference final.

 WHO'S GONE -- G Tyler MacKay (2.93 GAA, 31-24-6); LW Scott Henkelman (28-30--58); LW Shawn Thompson (7-24--31).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Perry Ganchar; C Brandin Cote (27-43--70); D David Boychuk (5-7--12, 232 PIM); C Lynn Loyns (31-42--73); C Jeff Lucky (20-20--40, Washington 2001); C Matt Keith (13-14--27, Chicago 2001); D Chris Heid (2-16--18, Minnesota 2001); G Barry Brust (3.24 GAA, .891 SV%); C Mason Wallin (14-28--42); LW Tim Krymusa (12-23--35).

 WHO'S NEW -- G Mike Brodeur (M3A Calgary Flames, 2.63 GAA); G Ryan Senft (M3A Tisdale, 2.73 GAA); D Stuart Kerr (M3A SWCougars, 5-11-16, 110 PIM); C Chad Klassen (M3A Beardy's 44-88--132); RW Sean Tymkow (M3A St. Albert, 15-20--35); LW Jeff Lynch (B3A Coquitlam, 41-54--95).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Spanish LW Ivan Gracia (Jaca HC, 30-32--62).

 OVER-AGERS -- Boychuk; Cote; Loyns; D Kurt Sauer (3-13--16, Colorado 2000); C Roman Tvrdon (28-34--62, Washington 1999).

 Seattle Thunderbirds

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 30-33-8-1, 69 points, sixth in seven-team West Division. Playoffs: Defeated Kelowna 4-2 in conference quarterfinal; lost 3-0 to Spokane in conference semifinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- D Dion Lassu (3-21--24); LW Brad Tutschek (11-15--26); LW Barrett Heisten (20-57--77).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Dean Chynoweth; D Matthew Spiller (4-7--11, 174 PIM, Phoenix 2001); D Craig Olynick (5-20--25, Los Angeles 2000); LW Tim Preston (13-22--35, Buffalo 1999); LW Jake Riddle (13-20--33, Minnesota 2001); RW Dustin Johner (25-31--56, Florida 2001); LW Darren McLachlan (10-9--19, 161 PIM, Boston 2001); G Nick Pannoni (4.12 GAA, Detroit 2001).

 WHO'S NEW -- G Brandon Heatherington (M3A Red Deer, 2.05 GAA); LW Aaron Bader (M3A Shattuck/St. Mary's, 13-24--37); C Nate Thompson (M3A, Alaska All-Stars); RW Steven Goertzen (M3A St. Albert, 11-18--29); D Cody Reynolds (M2A Grand Prairie, 18-25--43).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Russian LW Andre Muchkin; Russian D Stas Avksentiev.

 OVER-AGERS -- Preston; C Shane Endicott (36-42--78, Pittsburgh 2000); C Jamie Lundmark (35-42--77, NY Rangers 1999); D Scott C. McQueen (3-14--17); RW David Morisset (32-36--68, St. Louis 2000); C Oleg Saprykin (Calgary 1999); C Blaine Stowards.

 Tri-City Americans

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 21-36-8-7, 57 points, seventh in seven team West Division: Playoffs: Missed playoffs.

 WHO'S GONE -- C Joey Bastien (25-41--66); C Justin Hansen (20-16--36); RW Eric Clark (16-25--41).

 WHO'S BACK -- C Eric Johannson (36-44--80, Minnesota 2000); D Sean Curry (5-12--17, Carolina 2001); D Ryan Jorde (1-6--7, 219 PIM, Buffalo 2001); LW Ben Kilgour (23-41--66); G Tyler Weiman (3.77 GAA, 10-25-4, .893 SV%); C Pat Iannone (Kootenay, 4-8--12); D Brad Zanon (5-15--20, 147 PIM).

 WHO'S NEW -- Head coach Troy Mick; LW Ryan Kinasewich (Medicine Hat, 12-20--32); D Bobby Graham (M3A St .Albert, 12-25--37, 100 PIM); C Ian McDonald (B3A Edmonton SSAC, 34-73--107); G Braden Wiltzen (Bonnyville AJHL, 4.80 GAA); C Marc Connors (B3A Airdrie, 29-29-58, 180 PIM); RW Jordan Judge (Beaver Valley KIJHL, 21-42--63, 185 PIM).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Norwegian LW Peter Lorentzen (Stjernen Jrs. 25-11--36); Russian D Sergei Zavodovsky (Nizhny Novgorod Jrs.).

 OVER-AGERS -- LW Derek Atkinson (13-19--32); G Tyson Motz (3.87 GAA).


 Western Conference

 British Columbia Division

 Kootenay Ice

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 45-17-4-6, 100 points, second in five-team Central Division. Playoffs: Defeated Moose Jaw 4-0 in conference quarterfinal; lost 4-3 to Swift Current in conference semifinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- LW Bret DeCecco (34-31--65); D Dean Arsene (1-10 --11, 178 PIM); RW Mike Lee (7-15--22, 185 PIM).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Ryan McGill; G Dan Blackburn (2.77 GAA, .917 SV%, NY Rangers 2001); C Jarret Stoll (40-66--106, Calgary 2000); D Andy Thompson (2-12--14, 142 PIM); D Brennan Evans (3-7--10, 128 PIM); C/W Colin Sinclair (10-18--28).

 WHO'S NEW -- C Nigel Dawes (M3A Winnipeg Warriors, 55-41--96); D Curtis Fransoo (M3A North Battleford, 12-21--33 121 PIM); D Travis Featherstone (M3A Calgary Flames, 7-10--17); RW Dale Mahovsky (B3A Fort Saskatchewan, 27-44--71).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech C Tomas Plihal (Liberec Jrs. 16-12--28, San Jose 2001); Slovak RW Marek Svatos (23-18--41, Colorado 2001).

 OVER-AGERS -- LW Tyler Beechey (32-40--72); LW Zdenek Blatny (Atlanta 1999); RW Eric Bowen; D Cole Fischer (3-16--19); LW Jason Jaffray (31-42--73); D Steve McCarthy (Chicago 1999); D Craig Weller (St. Louis 2000).

 Kelowna Rockets

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 37-23-7-5, 86 points, first in seven-team West Division. Playoffs: Lost 4-2 to Seattle in conference quarterfinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- LW Jan Fadrny (33-46--79); G Kevin Swanson (3.11 GAA, 27 16-5, .892 SV%); D Gavin McLeod (4-15--19).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Marc Habscheid; C Rory McDade (28-70--98); C-RW Carsen Germyn (35-52--87); C Kiel McLeod (38-28--66, Columbus 2001); D Richie Regehr (10-27--37); LW Travis Moen (8-8--16, Calgary 2000); G Jason Stone (3.04 GAA, 0.897 SV%).

 WHO'S NEW -- RW Chuck Kobasew (Boston College NCAA, 27-22--49, Calgary 2001); G Josh Lepp (M3A Saskatoon Contacts, 3.00 GAA 1SO); D Taylor Emmerson (Burnaby BCHL, 1-4--5 167 PIM); C Ryan Coghlan (Calgary Royals AJHL, 10-11--21); C David Jacobsen (M3A Winnipeg Sharks, 20-30--50).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Slovakian LW Tomas Oravec (21-44--65); Slovakian D Tomas Slovak (HC Kosice, 5-5--10, Nashville 2001).

 OVER-AGERS -- D Blaine Depper; McDade; D Bart Rushmer (6-14--20, 158 PIM); D Joe Suderman (4-7--11).

 Kamloops Blazers

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 35-28-7-2, third in seven-team West Division. Playoffs: Lost 4-0 to Spokane in conference quarterfinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- RW Konstantin Panov (44-56--100); C Jonathan Hobson (31-33 64); D Shon Jones-Parry (4-17--21, 230 PIM).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Dean Evason; C Jared Aulin (29-79--108, Colorado 2000 to Los Angeles); C Scottie Upshall (42-44--86); D Shaone Morrisonn (13-26--39, Boston 2001); G Davis Parley (3.46 GAA, 0.907 SV%, Florida 2000); D Aaron Gionet (5-2--7, 231 PIM, Tampa Bay 2000); C Erik Christensen (21-23--44); C Paul Brown (9-12--21, 205 PIM).

 WHO'S NEW -- RW Keegan McAvoy (Seattle 7-17--24 197 PIM); D Cam McCaffrey (Crowsnest Pass AJHL, 2-7--9 355 PIM); RW Jonathan Bubnick (B2A Saskatoon Red Wings, 63-34--97).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Russian RW Alex Shelkunov (Nizhny Novgorod Jrs. 36 GP 16-9--25); Russian D Nikita Korovkin (3-1--4).

 OVER-AGERS -- McAvoy; D Tyler Sloan (5-26--31, Columbus 2000).

 Prince George Cougars

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 31-33-4-4, 70 points, fifth in seven-team West Division. Playoffs: Lost 4-2 to Portland in conference quarterfinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- C Berkely Buchko (39-30--69); D Christian Chartier (12-56 68); LW Brett Allan (26-22--48).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Ed Dempsey; D Dan Hamhuis (13-47--60, Nashville 2001); C Blake Robson (29-37--66, Atlanta 2000); LW Dan Baum (9-14--23, Edmonton 2001); G Billy Thompson (3.35 GAA, 24-24-3, .896 SV%, Florida 2001); LW Derek Boogaard (1-8--9, 245 PIM, Minnesota 2001); LW Aaron Foster (11-12--23); D Tim Wedderburn (9-25--34).

 WHO'S NEW -- RW Ken Davis (Medicine Hat, 19-15--34); C Tyler Redenbach (M3A Kamloops, 60-66--126); RW Zach Young (M3A Kamloops, 37-32--69); C Ricky Kozak (M3A Norman NStars, 17-27--44); C-W Chris DiUbaldo (Kelowna, 13-15--28); D Jared Lang (OCN Blizzard, 8-18--26).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Slovakian C Michal Lukac (Kosice Jrs. 11-25--26); Czech LW Tomas Tesarek (6-13--19).

 OVER-AGERS -- RW Justin Cox (30-38--68, Dallas 1999); Davis; C Derek Halldorson (Saskatoon, 13-6--19); D David Koci; Wedderburn.

 Vancouver Giants

 LAST SEASON -- Expansion team for 2001-02.

 WHO'S NEW -- Head coach Milan Dragecevic; D Andrew DeSousa (Tri-Cities, 0-8--8, 118 PIM); D Shane Grypiuk (Red Deer, 0-2--2); W Robin Big Snake (Calgary Royals AJHL); D David Selthun (Kelowna, 5-18--23); LW Pat Brandreth (3-8--11, 163 PIM); RW T.J. Mulock (B3A Langley, 60-58--118); C Tyson Mulock (Medicine Hat, 13-21--34); C Jeremy Jackson (Michigan St. NCAA, 7-12--19); LW Jeff Coulter (Saskatoon, 4-1--5, 191 PIM); RW Darren Lynch (Lethbridge, 4-4--8).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech C Marian Havel (Dukla Jr); Czech C Robin Kovar (Vsetin Jrs., 6-9--15)

 OVER-AGERS -- D Jeff Beatch (Seattle, 2-9--11); G Don Choukalos (Regina, 3.32 GAA, 33-23-2, Boston 1999); C Paul Deniset (Medicine Hat, 14-20--34); LW Scott Henkelman (Spokane, 28-30--58); RW Nick Marach (Portland, 13-15--28); LW Ryan Thorpe (Spokane, 8-17--25).


 Eastern Conference

 Central Division

 Red Deer Rebels

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 54-12-3-3, 114 points, first in five-team Central Division and WHL. Playoffs: Defeated Lethbridge 4-1 in conference quarterfinal; defeated Calgary 4-2 in conference semifinal; defeated Swift Current 4-2 in conference final; defeated Portland 4-1 in WHL final; won Memorial Cup at Regina with 5-4 OT win against Val-D'Or, Que., Foreurs.

 WHO'S GONE -- G Cam Ondrik (2.18 GAA, 7-2-0, .908 SV%) but has returned as Goaltending Coach; LW Devin Francon (4-7--11); D Jim Vandermeer (21-44--65).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Brent Sutter; RW Colby Armstrong (36-42--78, Pittsburgh 2001); C Joel Stepp (24-13--37, Anaheim 2001); D Doug Lynch (12-37--49, Edmonton 2001); D Jeff Woywitka (7-28--35, Philadelphia 2001); G Shane Bendera (2.49 GAA, 32-8-2, .902 SV%); RW Boyd Gordon (12-27--39); D Derek Meech (2-7--9); D Bryce Thoma (2-4--6).

 WHO'S NEW -- RW Derek Endicott (M3A Saskatoon Blazers, 15-16--31); G Cam Ward (M3A Sherwood Park, 2.90 GAA); D Dion Phaneuf (B3A Edmonton, 15-50-65, 208 PIM); D Cody Holzapfel (M3A Regina, 6-24--30, 93 PIM); D Kyle Tinordi (M3A Red Deer, 1-7--8); C Chris Neiszner (M3A Tisdale, 30-26--56).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Russian C Mikhail Yakubov (Lada Togliatti, 0-0--0, Chicago 2000); Czech RW Ladoslav Kouba (5-7--12).

 OVER-AGERS -- C Andrew Bergen (16-28--44); RW Martin Erat (23-59--82, Nashville 1999); D Ross Lupaschuk (28-37--65, Washington 1999); C Justin Mapletoft (43-77--120, NYIslanders 1999); D Darcy Robinson (3-11--14, Pittsburgh 1999); LW Jeff Smith (22-11--33); RW Kyle Wanvig (55-46--101, Minnesota 2001).

 Swift Current Broncos

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 43-20-7-2, 95 points, first in six-team East Division. Playoffs: Defeated Brandon 4-2 in conference quarterfinal; defeated Kootenay 4-3 in conference semifinal; lost 4-2 to Red Deer in conference final.

 WHO'S GONE -- C Layne Ulmer (63-56--119); D Jay Langager (12-40--52); D Dean Serdachny (4-10--14, 203 PIM).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Brad McEwen; C Nathan Smith (28-62--90, Vancouver 2000); RW Duncan Milroy (38-54--92, Montreal 2001); RW Ben Ondrus (13-17--30); C Brent Twordik (18-32--50); D Ian White (12-31--43); RW James Hiebert (12-12--24); G B.J. Boxma (2.65 GAA, 26-14-2, .902 SV%); G Todd Ford (2.98 GAA, 12-4-2).

 WHO'S NEW -- C Luke Hunter (M3A Caronport, 39-47--86); LW Aaron Richards (M3A Saskatoon Contacts, 24-41--65); C Jason Roberts (M3A Beardy's 15-16--31); RW Torrie Wheat (M2A Nanaimo, 22-31--53); LW Darryl Moscaluk (B3A Edmonton CAC, 36-28--64, 150 PIM).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech D Ales Cerny (2-5--7), Russian D Ivan Usenko (Nizhny Novgorod Jrs.).

 OVER-AGERS -- Boxma; Twordik; D Jakub Cutta (5-8--13, Washington 2000); D Adam Dombrowski (1-8--9); LW Craig Priestlay (8-5--13); LW Tim Smith (31-59--90, Vancouver 2000); D Clay Thoring (8-5--13).

 Calgary Hitmen

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 37-27-5-3, 82 points, third in five-team Central Division. Playoffs: Defeated Regina 4-2 in conference quarterfinal; lost 4-2 to Red Deer in conference semifinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- RW Shaun Sutter (29-35--64); D Matt Kinch (18-66--84); RW Sean McAslan (21-32--53).

 WHO'S BACK -- G Brent Krahn (2.99 GAA, 37-22-8, Calgary 2000); LW Shaun Norrie (24-24--48, Edmonton 2000); LW Owen Fussey (15-10--25, Washington 2001); D Wade Davis (11-21--32, Calgary 2000); C Michael Bubnick (8-22--30); RW Brandon Segal (16-11--27); D John Boychuk; D Jared Carli; C Chad Wolkowski (8-24--32).

 WHO'S NEW -- Head coach Richard Kromm; C Kyle Annesley (M3A Moose Jaw, 21-36--57); C Ryan Getzlaf (B3A Regina Rangers, 33-41--74); D Paul Albers (B2A Melville, Sask., 28-80--108).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Swedish LW Fredrik Sjostrom (Vastra Frolunda 2-3--5, Phoenix 2001); Russian LW Denis Sergeev (Dynamo II).

 OVER-AGERS -- D Toni Bader; C Kris Beech (22-44--66, Washington 1999 to Pittsburgh); G Brady Block (3.61 GAA); RW Pavel Brendl (40-35--75, NYRangers 1999 to Philadelphia); LW Robin Gomez (5-15--20, 253 PIM); LW Jordan Krestanovich (40-60--100, Colorado 1999); D Rod Sarich (5-27--32, Florida 1999).

 Lethbridge Hurricanes

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 29-35-4-4, 66 points, fourth in five-team Central Division. Playoffs: Lost 4-1 to Red Deer in conference quarterfinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- LW Brian Ballman (21-19--40); D Thomas Scantlebury (6-23--29, 162 PIM); D Adam Johnson (6-9--15).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Bryan Maxwell; C Warren McCutcheon (17-29--46, New Jersey 2000); D Phil Cole (6-15--21, New Jersey 2000); G Blake Ward (2.89 AA, .887 SV%, Colorado 2000); D Simon Ferguson (5-18--23, 169 PIM); C Ryley Layden (7-15--22); C Ryan Robinson (1-2--3); D Matt Fetzner (0-1--1).

 WHO'S NEW -- C Braden Appleby (M3A Sherwood Park, 10-17--27); LW D.J. King (M3A Beardy's, 30-28--58 120 PIM); D Clay Plume (Fort McMurray AJHL, 7-18--25); D Matthew Bergen (M3A Beardy's, 12-18--30); RW Nick Chibi (B2A Edmonton, 52-42--94).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Slovakian C Tomas Kopecky (22-28--50, Detroit 2000); Czech C Martin Podlesak (21-19--40, Phoenix 2001).

 OVER-AGERS -- C Nathan Barrett (46-53--99, Vancouver 2000); LW Scott Borders (17-22--39); D Mark Forth; LW Tim Green (15-28--43).

 Medicine Hat Tigers

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 24-40-5-3, 56 points, fifth in five-team Central Division. Playoffs -- Missed playoffs.

 WHO'S GONE -- C Vern Fiddler (33-40--73); D Jeremy Goetzinger (4-26--30); RW Brad Voth (9-9--18, 215 PIM); LW Ryan Kinasewich (12-20--32).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Bob Loucks; D Jay Bouwmeester (14-39--53); C Ryan Hollweg (19-39--58, NYRangers 2001); D Rory Rawlyk (Camrose AJHL, 3-6--9, NYRangers 2001); C Chris St. Jacques (37-36--73); C Ben Thomson (31-42--73); LW Joffrey Lupul (30-26--56); G Ben McMullin (4.38 GAA).

 WHO'S NEW -- RW Eric Clark (Tri-Cities, 16-25--41); C Adam Courchaine (M3A Winnipeg Warriors, 77-42--119); C Stefan Meyer (M3A Notre Dame, 36-32--68); D Steven Marr (M3A Kamloops, 27-38--65); RW Jason Boily (St. James MJHL, 8-3--11, 222 PIM); LW Steven Regier (M3A Leduc, 22-39--61, 135 PIM).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech D Petr Chvojka (3-18--21, Montreal 2000); Ukrainian D Nickolay Ladygin (Red Army Jrs. 7-13--20).

 OVER-AGERS -- C Brett Draney (20-28--48, Dallas 1999); D B.J. Fehr; G Kyle Kettles (4.25 GAA, Nashville 1999); D Brett Scheffelmaier (3-10--13, 279 PIM, St. Louis 2001).


 Eastern Conference

 East Division

 Regina Pats

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 40-27-3-2, 85 points, second in six-team East Division. Playoffs -- Lost 4-2 to Calgary in conference quarterfinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- C Blake Evans (52-50--102); C Brett Lysak (35-48--83); D Paul Elliott (18-50--68).

 WHO'S BACK -- G Chad Davidson (3.03 GAA, .890 SV%); C Grant Jacobsen (10-25--35, St. Louis 2001); LW Garth Murray (28-16--44, NYRangers 2001); RW Matt Hubbauer (20-14--34); LW Curtis Austring (12-5--17); LW Kyle Ladobruk (6-11--17); D Brett Bartel (0-3--3).

 WHO'S NEW -- Head coach Bobby Lowes; RW Byron Bitz (M3A Saskatoon Contacts, 17-35--52); RW Zach Roe (M3A Regina, 35-40--75); C Aaron Winterolt (Merritt BCHL); D Chris Schlenker (M3A Edmonton MLAC, 10-18--28, 120 PIM).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech D Filip Novak (17-50--67, NYRangers 2000); Czech D Matej Trojovsky (Lincoln USHL, 1-0--1).

 OVER-AGERS -- D Garnet Exelby (7-18--25, Atlanta 1999); D Jeff Feniak (3-14--17, 164 PIM); D Chad Grisdale (0-5--5); LW Gable Gross (31-32--63); D Barret Jackman (9-27--36, St. Louis 1999); LW David Kaczowka (4-6--10, 414 PIM); LW Kevin Korol (19-46--65); RW Karel Mosovsky (25-26--51; C Ryan Thomas (3-19--22); D Ryan Thrussell.

 Moose Jaw Warriors

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 34-29-4-5, 77 points, third in six-team East Division. Playoffs -- Lost 4-0 to Kootenay in conference quarterfinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- C Jason Weitzel (24-42--66); C Jarrett Thompson (23-32--55); G Tim Barlow (3.79 GAA, 17-14-0, .883 SV%).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Curtis Hunt; RW Steven Crampton (26-33--59, Pittsburgh 2000); RW Ben Knopp (22-34--56, Columbus 2000); RW Sean O'Connor (34-15--49, Florida 2000); C Brian Sutherby (34-43--77, Washington 2000); D Deryk Engelland (4-11--15, 157 PIM, New Jersey 2000); D Nathan Paetsch (8-55--63, 118 PIM, Washington 2001); LW Shawn Limpright (31-43--74).

 WHO'S NEW -- RW Lee Zalasky (M3A Sherwood Park, 37-44--81); D Lane Manson (M3A North Battleford, 14-12--16, 180 PIM); D Jason Lundmark (M3A Edmonton CAC, 11-20--31).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech LW Vaclav Studeny; Czech D Tomas Mojzis (11-25--36, Toronto 2001).

 OVER-AGERS -- C Scott Kelman (20-23--43, 140 PIM, Phoenix 1999); Limpright; O'Connor.

 Brandon Wheat Kings

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 32-32-5-3, 72 points, fourth in six-team East Division. Playoffs -- Lost 4-2 to Swift Current in conference quarterfinal.

 WHO'S GONE -- LW Aaron Goldade (22-34--56); C Brett Girard (17-22--39); G Jamie Hodson (3.48 GAA, 9-17-1, .901 SV%).

 WHO'S BACK -- C Ryan Craig (38-33--71); C Colin McRae (25-40--65); RW Jordin Tootoo (20-28--48, Nashville 2001); LW Randy Ponte (8-9--17, 283 PIM); G Robert McVicar (2.95 GAA, 27 GP); D Kevin Harris (10-34--44); D Brett Thurston (4-21--25).

 WHO'S NEW -- Head coach Dean Clark; LW Ryan Stone (M3A Calgary Northstars, 27-28--55); D Josh Garbutt (M3A Medicine Hat, 12-20--32), C Michael Young (OCN Blizzard, 21-44--65); RW Eric Fehr (M3A Pembina Valley, Man., 45-13--58).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech RW Jiri Jakes (22-16--38, Boston 2001).

 OVER-AGERS -- LW Milan Bartovic; C Travis Eagles (7-15--22); C J.D. Kehler; LW Randy Ponte (8-9--17 283 PIM); D Wade Skolney (2-9--11); D Nolan Yonkman (6-11--17, Washington '99).

 Saskatoon Blades

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 19-43-5-5, 48 points, fifth in six-team East Division. Playoffs -- Missed playoffs.

 WHO'S GONE -- C David Cameron (19-35--54); C Justin Wallin (12-39--51); C Derek Halldorson (13-6--19); D Chris Manchakowski (1-6--7).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Kevin Dickie, G Michael Garnett (3.32 GAA, .901 SV%, 7-17-2, Atlanta 2001); C Adrian Foster (0-5--5, New Jersey 2001); D Scott Balan (2-10--12, Chicago 2000); D Ryan Stempfle (5-11--16); C Warren Peters (27-14--41); LW Davin Heintz (5-8--13).

 WHO'S NEW -- RW Ryan Keller (M3A Saskatoon Contacts, 51-56--107); RW Derek Couture (M3A Calgary Northstars, 21-24--45); C Paul Gentile (M3A Calgary Northstars, 28-41--69); D Sean Moir (M3A, Shattuck/St. Mary's); G Gerry Festa (M3A Calgary Flames, 2.95 GAA); D Ryley Gardypie (M3A, Beardy's).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Czech C Daniel Volrab (Sparta Jrs 11-9--20, Dallas 2001). Russia F Vladimir Artushin, (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles & Hull Olympiques, QMJHL, 5-8-13)

 OVER-AGERS -- RW Garrett Bembridge (38-40--78, Calgary 2001); LW Paul Hurd (Seattle-Kelowna, 9-14--23); RW Ryan Kehrig (6-12--18); RW Justin Kelly (16-40--56); D Kane Ludwar (5-7--12).

 Prince Albert Raiders

 LAST SEASON -- Regular Season: 18-47-3-4, 43 points, sixth in six-team East Division. Playoffs -- Missed playoffs.

 WHO'S GONE -- C J.J. Hunter (29-22--51); G Grant McCune (4.48 GAA, 14-38-3, .881 SV%).

 WHO'S BACK -- Head coach Donn Clark; G Aaron Sorochan (5.26 GAA, 4-12-0); C Greg Watson (22-28--50, Florida 2001); RW Kyle Bruce (8-8--16, 193 PIM, Florida 2001); D Grant McNeill (2-6--8, 280 PIM, Florida 2001); D Nick Schultz (17-30--47, Minnesota 2000); RW Jesse Schultz (19-26--45); LW Riley Cote (17-35--52).

 WHO'S NEW -- G Thomas Vicars (Seattle, 3.82 GAA, .891 SV%); C Jeremy Colliton (Crowsnest Pass AJHL, 18-30--48); C Kyle Chipchura (B3A Spruce Grove, 27-59--86); D Andy Zulyniac (M3A Winnipeg Hawks, 5-19--24); LW Justin Magnuson (M3A Saskatoon 15-20--35).

 FOREIGN CONTENT -- Slovakian C Igor Pohanka (16-33--49, New Jersey 2001); Slovakian RW Rastislava Lipka (Spokane 1-3--4).

 OVER-AGERS -- LW Chris Harper; D Dustin Kazak; LW Michal Sivek (Washington 1999); Vicars, F Anton Borodkin.