Whitehorse Huskies head coach Michael Tuton is real happy with the roster he’s taking into the upcoming season.
So much so, he half-kids the starting line could be selected by chance.
“With the players we have, you could probably pull three names out of a hat for the starting line,” said Tuton.
The senior men’s AA hockey club released its 2015/16 season roster on Monday. The list of 24 names includes 17 returners and seven new players.
Is it a better team than last year? “Yes, I’d have to say that’s true,” said Tuton. “I’m pretty excited to work with the guys we have on that list.”
The Huskies went undefeated in eight regular season games before losing a playoff series to the eventual Coy Cup champs last season.
With all the returning talent and new talent, it’s an exciting time to be a Husky, said Jared Tuton, the team’s captain last season.
“I think we had a really good year last season. We fell short when we went to Fort St. John, but that was because we were missing a handful of our really good players,” said Jared.
“Luckily people moved to Whitehorse who happen to be very, very good hockey players and that’s going to make our depth way better. Now, if we’re in the same situation where we’re missing two or three guys, we have really good guys to fill in.”
Of the new guys on the roster, two names are causing a stir.
After eight seasons playing outside Yukon, Whitehorse’s Ted Stephens is back and ready to play forward for the Huskies.
“I’m definitely excited,” said Stephens. “It’ll definitely be fun to play for Whitehorse and represent my hometown. It’s a really good group of guys and I think we’ll be a really good team.”
Stephens spent four years playing for the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2007 to 2011.
The 25-year-old then laced up for the “X-Men” at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., from 2011 to last season.
Stephens, who registered 18 points in 27 games last season, was impressed by what he saw in the Huskies’ tryouts.
“Pretty much everybody out there, it was their second or third time on the ice in a while, so most of the guys weren’t up to game speed yet,” he said. “But you could still see how much skill there is out there. I think we’ll be a really skilled team up front.”
“I think anyone in Whitehorse who knows anything about hockey knows Ted Stephens in a heck of a player,” said Jared. “He’s had a really good hockey career and I know him personally and he’s a really good kid.”
The other name on the roster grabbing attention is forward Kevin Petovello, who is new to Whitehorse. The 29-year-old spent four years in the BCHL before playing four for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, posting 11 goals and 12 assists in the 35 games in his final year.
He then spent two years playing professionally in the Central Hockey League and the East Coach Hockey League before returning to UoA Fairbanks as an assistant coach last season.
With Petovello, the Huskies now have five former NCAA players on board. Returners Adam Henderson and Derek Klassen played for UoA Fairbanks and Andrew Pettitt and Jared Tuton played for UoA Anchorage.
“I played against (Petovello) when he was at Fairbanks and when coach told me he was going to be in town and was going to be a Husky, I was over the moon,” said Jared. “He brings a lot to the table.”
The chisels haven’t been taken out to set the roster in stone. Some small changes could take place, said Michael.
The team will carry three goalies to start the season, for instance, and the plan is to go down to two at some point.
JJ Gainsforth is returning for a second year between the pipes while Brad Gustafson and Daniel Naef are new this year.
“We had four really good goalies try out,” said Michael. “There were some decisions there and we’re still not complete with those decisions, but we’re going to roll with the three for now. JJ Gainsforth will be our No. 1 guy going into the season, and the coaching staff and I will have a look at the other goalies and probably cut down to two at some point.”
Team management is still working with outside teams to determine the season schedule. The Huskies might begin their second run for the Coy Cup – B.C.‘s AA championship trophy – with an away series against the Fort Nelson Yeti early November.
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