The Vees busy week of player signings continued Thursday, as the team announced the commitment of three local South Okanagan products that all played at the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA).
Defensemen Griffin Mendel (99) and Sam Jones (97) and forward Taylor Ward (98) have signed-on for the 2015-2016 season. The three played on the two OHA Prep teams this past season in the Canadian Sports Schools Hockey League (CSSHL). Mendel and Ward were on OHA Prep White, which won the CSSHL championship in April. Jones played on OHA Prep Red and was their highest-scoring defenseman.
Jones is from Penticton and Mendel and Ward hail from Kelowna but have sent the last couple of years in town playing at OHA. Mendel and Ward were immersed in the Vees program this past season, as the two played as Affiliates and traveled with the team during the Fred Page Cup Final and to both the Western Canada Cup and RBC Cup.
Griffin Mendel: ’99 Defenseman / 6’2 – 186/ Kelowna, BC
Mendel, 16, and his teammates won the Canadian Sports Schools Hockey League (CSSHL) Prep Division championship this past spring with the OHA Prep White team. At 6’2”, the rear-guard is known as a responsible, intelligent defenseman (a Penticton High School straight-A student) who can play in all situations, and possesses a heavy shot from the point. Griffin was a first-round selection in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, going 11th overall to the Kootenay Ice. Mendel’s potential has caught the eye of many top NCAA Division l programs, and he appeared in two games this past season with the Vees as an Affiliate Player.
Sam Jones: ’97 Defenseman / 6’0 – 170 / Penticton, BC
Jones, who turns 18 in November, also played next door for OHA Prep Red, in the CSSHL. Jones, a local Penticton product, averaged over a point per-game on the blue-line this past season, amassing 31 points in 28 games. Jones was the highest scoring defenseman on OHA Red, and finished 2nd in CSSHL Prep League scoring. The 6’2 blue-liner is known as a strong skater, who like Mendel, has a hard shot from the point. Also a Penticton High school high achieving student, the Vees coaching staff is very keen on Jones’ upside.
Taylor Ward: ’98 Forward / 5’8 – 160 / Kelowna, BC
Ward won a CSSHL championship with Mendel on OHA White this past season, and finished second in team scoring with 50 points in 28 games. The 17-year-old forward had a team-best 41 assists and possesses a strong hockey IQ. Ward parlayed his regular season success into the CSSHL playoffs, where he showed strong, two-way forward habits and helped OHA Prep White to a Prep Division Championship. Those traits should come as no surprise, as his father Dixon Ward played over 500 games in the NHL with Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto, Buffalo and the New York Rangers. Taylor has caught the eye of several NCAA Division I programs, and scored his first career BCHL goal this past season with the Vees in a game against West Kelowna.