One of the Rockets newest players, Ismail Abougouche in preseason action (Photo - @Kelowna_Rockets/Twitter)

One of the Rockets newest players, Ismail Abougouche in preseason action (Photo - @Kelowna_Rockets/Twitter)

A veteran group to lead the way: Kelowna Rockets season preview

The Rockets open the season at home (Prospera Place) on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 7:05 p.m.

It’s a veteran group of Kelowna Rockets that are hitting the ice in the black, white, red and teal this season.

After an outstanding 42-20-1-5 record, finishing second in the B.C. division and fifth in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, the team suffered a first round exit against the Seattle Thunderbirds, who ended up losing to Edmonton in the WHL finals.

A lot of the same faces are as on this year’s squad as they look to improve from last season.

Forwards

The dynamic forward group is led by Andrew Cristall and Colton Dach. Cristall has an amazing rookie season for the Rockets, finishing 69 points (28 goals, 41 assists) in 61 games. He was one of six 16-year olds in the league to finish with more than 60 points. Cristall, along with defenceman Caden Price and head coach Kris Mallette won gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Team Canada in early August, posting six points (one goal, five assists) in five games. The now 17-year old is NHL Draft eligible and many hockey writers project Cristall as a late first-round pick.

Dach, who led the Rockets in scoring last season (29 goals, 50 assists, 79 points in 61 games) will not be starting the season with the team as he’s currently at the Chicago Blackhawks training camp, He was drafted in the second round (62nd overall) by Chicago in the 2021 NHL draft.

Adam Kydd is also looking to have another big season after posting 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 69 games last season. 33 of his 52 points came in 39 games with the Rockets, who picked him up in a trade with Calgary.

Unfortunately, the team will be without forward Pavel Novak, who stepped away from hockey for the time being after he was diagnosed with cancer in late June.

The team is looking at their newest forwards to fill in and produce throughout the season. Four new forwards have made the team: Grady Lenton, Will Munro, Ethan Neutens, and Logan Peskett.

Blue Line

Of the seven defenceman from last season, five are returning and the team is welcome three new members to the back end.

Led by Price, the returning d-men also include John Babcock, Jackson DeSouza, Elias Carmichael, and Noah Dorey. Of the returning five, Babcock led them with 23 points in 57 games last season and led the team with a +28 plus/minus rating. He continued where he left off in the preseason, recording a goal, three assists, and a +5 rating in five preseason games.

The three new members are looking to solidify the blue line as well as help pack an offensive punch from the back end. Lac La Biche, Alberta native Ismail Abougouche collected 23 points in 34 games for the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers U16 team last year and was drafted by the Rockets in the 2021 WHL Draft.

Logan Dochuk and Jackson Romeril, from Edmonton and Calgary respectively finish off the defenceman.

In The Crease

Last season’s starter Tayln Boyko won’t be starting the season with the team as he’s at the New York Rangers training camp. It’s unknown when he’ll be back with the team. The Rockets acquired Boyko in an early season trade with the Tri-City Americans last year. Between the two teams, he appeared in 54 games, finishing with a 29-18-5 record and a 3.03 goals against average (GAA).

Jari Kykkanen, last season’s back up goaltender is back with the team. He went 8-3 in 13 appearances with a 2.75 GAA.

The team also brought Nicholas Cristano back into the fold, who played for the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds last season. He was the Rockets third goalie during the 2020-21 pandemic season.

——

The Rockets get the regular season started at Prospera Place on Saturday night (Sept. 24) when they welcome the Portland Winterhawks to town. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m. and tickets and available here.

READ MORE: Former WHL defenceman named captain of West Kelowna Warriors

READ MORE: New locals and a Scotsman: Kelowna Chiefs season preview


@cunninghamjordy
jordy.cunningham@kelownacapnews.com

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