Like the team did one season ago, the Vees are profiling the team through the Penticton Herald with daily profiles. Major credit goes to Assistant Coach / Assistant GM Steve Cawley who put together these detailed profiles on the goalies, defense and forwards. Today we start with the introduction and the goalies.
We’ll continue with the defense on Monday.
2015-16 Penticton Vees Player Profiles
“It’s hard not to feel cheated. We scored in overtime. We thought we were going to have a chance to win a national championship.”
-Fred Harbinson, May 2015.
A player’s character is often judged based on how they respond to adversity, so evaluating a coaching staff using the same metric is probably fair. After losing a heartbreaking national championship semi-final in which the referee incorrectly blew the whistle on a winning goal in the first overtime period, how would recruiting be affected? With so much distraction then subsequently materializing for Harbinson (offers to coach at NCAA powers Wisconsin, North Dakota and surely others), would time constraints and uncertainty affect the ability to convince young stars, Tyson Jost & Dante Fabbro to return? With only five other players potentially returning from the 2014-15 season, a lot of recruiting work and negotiation was going to be needed to bring the Vees back to BCHL championship caliber.
“Recruiting is an all-year activity for our staff. Every year, we graduate well over 50% of our team to NCAA Division I hockey, so we can never take a day off of recruiting”, explains Harbinson. “I think our first big recruiting win took place during the early rounds of the playoffs, when Minnesota pals Dixon Bowen and Colton Poolman visited us and decided to commit to our program, rather than return to the USHL. The two University of North Dakota committed players will bring character and toughness to our program.”
“Having OHA as our neighbor is a massive advantage to our program”, continued Harbinson. “We have a great partnership, and from them, over the course of the year, we were able to draw Okanagan locals Taylor Ward, Griffin Mendel and Sam Jones to the Vees. Along with CSSHL rival, Ben Brar (Yale Academy), we are leaning more and more on the prep school league to re-stock our lineup with quality people.”
Added Harbinson, “our import cards are critical (each BCHL team is allowed six American players ) and we believe we added three other quality American players to our roster in Seamus Donohue, Tyler Niven and Easton Brodzinski. Again this season, we have benefitted from our Minnesota-based relationships and strong brand reputation. Donohue was considered the top defenseman in Minnesota high school hockey, mobile Dman Niven is being closely watched by several NCAA hockey programs and big Brodzinski is a power forward with deep family roots in Minnesota hockey.”
From other Canadian provinces, the Vees recruited Jason Lavallee from Quebec (transferred from Sorel, RESQ) and Owen Sillinger from Saskatchewan. Through trades, Harbinson added Mitch Brooks from Ontario (signed from Stratford, GOJHL) and Albertan Chris Gerrie (from Olds, AJHL in exchange for former Vee Jarod Hilderman). “Each of these four players are highly regarded and played very key roles for their teams last season. They will all bring considerable experience and talent to the Vees”, said Harbinson.
The most important recruiting challenge this off-season for Harbinson was bringing back Jost & Fabbro. Both players are regarded as high 2016 NHL Draft Picks, and the pressure from the WHL to play there must be high. Responded Harbinson, “I believe we demonstrated to both players last season what we have to offer in terms of being a top Canadian developmental junior program. We are adding to that framework this year to give them even more tools to help in their progression. Both players believe that they can fulfill their professional hockey objectives by playing two years in Penticton then going to the NCAA program of their choice. We are very proud to have them back, and expect each to play key leadership roles for us.”
Continued Harbinson, “Scott Conway recognizes the NHL exposure that the Vees will attract this year, and I think that played a big part in the former Penn State player deciding to play for us. I expect him to have a massive impact this season. He was named to the Big 10 all rookie team and was one of the top players in the USHL the year before. In total, I believe that we have the potential to have more offensive firepower than we had last season.”
With 20 year old veteran goalie Anthony Brodeur and Brendan Barry returning in nets, the Vees have an excellent chance to repeat as the BCHL team with the lowest goals against average. Add in returning Vees and former Team Canada West players Demico Hannoun and Gabe Bast, and the Vees roster certainly looks intimidating on paper. “We do not shy away from publicly stating that our goal is to win the National Championship, emphasized Harbinson. We look great on paper, but our ability to fight together through adversity will determine just how successful we will be.”
The Penticton Herald will, over the course of the next month, provide you with an in-depth introduction to each player on the Vees’ 2015-16 roster. Ended Harbinson, “I believe our high talent level will make Penticton fans proud and excited to come to the SOEC. I expect this team could field upwards of 6 future NHL draft picks. There’s no question that I believe we will again be a leading contender to deliver a National Championship, back to Penticton, and end the season not feeling cheated, but elated.”
After two years in the QJMHL and a stellar four years with Shattuck St. Marys Prep School, Anthony Brodeur comes to the Vees with more than just a recognizable last name. The Vees expect Anthony to bring the team valuable experience, composure and a calming influence to the dressing room.
Anthony’s proudest hockey moments came at Shattuck’s, where he attended the school for four years, winning a US National Championship. In the “Q”, Brodeur played for Gatineau and Drummondville, with his highlights last season being a 1-0 shutout win (against Gatineau, who had released him) and a 54-save winning performance vs. Halifax.
Away from the ice, Anthony is an avid, scratch golfer who enjoys spending time playing with his father at their cottage north of Montreal. In fact, if not a professional hockey player, Brodeur believes he could make a push into professional golf.
Coach Harbinson on Brodeur: “The one trait that was reiterated by every reference we used on Anthony was how strong his character is. He’s a great kid who has been around NHL locker rooms and player his whole life. He knows what it takes to succeed and is striving to show he deserves a chance to play professional hockey. As an NHL draft pick, Anthony has experienced playing for elite teams and is coming off an excellent New Jersey development camp. I believe Anthony will carry on the tradition of excellent goaltending that has developed within our organization. ”
Brendan Barry returns to the Vees for his second season, after posting very impressive numbers in his rookie year. Despite being one of the youngest goalies in the BCHL, Barry posted some of the league’s best stats, including a 10W-2L record, a 2.06 GAA and .912 save percentage.
“I thought I started off well despite how nervous I was at the beginning of the year”, said Barry. “It took me a little while to get comfortable, but I think I did well and I’m really excited to get this season started”.
Several NCAA programs took notice of Brendan’s potential, and after some contemplation, Brendan decided that Clarkson University would be the best place to move on to after his tenure with the Vees. “I took my education more seriously last year, and I’m proud of my grades at Pen High (Brendan graduated in the spring). Clarkson is an excellent school and hockey program. I’m going to bolster my grades in Math during this year, as I’m motivated to boost my GPA.”
Added Brendan, “I’ve been training a lot this summer and expect to be on the ice every day in August. The highlight of my summer was playing against some of the top junior players in North America at a camp in LA, and I really want to prove that I can be an elite goalie. I have learned that I need to stay focused at all times, not just when I want to.” “I have two goals this year, 1) to battle for and earn as many starts as I can, and 2) help the team return to the national championships.
Coach Harbinson on Barry: “Brendan has outstanding potential. He’s a player that loves to play in games, especially big games. Brendan comes in this year with another year of maturity under his belt, and he recognizes his weaknesses and strengths. I am expecting Brendan to be an important part of our team’s success this season.”
As part of our five-part series in introducing Penticton to the 2015-16 Vees, we presented the goaltending tandem that will be expected to bar the door to the opposition. Over the next week, you will meet the team’s seven defenseman. Said Coach Harbinson, “a key recruiting strategy for this coming season is that we wanted to be as dynamic on the back end as we were last year. So much of the offense in hockey today is generated from the d-corps. I think the speed and skill of our defensemen will result in pucks exiting our zone quickly, and then this same group will find ways to get more pucks in the offensive zone to the opposition’s net.”