Former Kelowna Rockets are hitting the ice in the NHL in big numbers this season, with veteran players being joined by a handful of newcomers to the NHL fraternity.
Fifteen former Rockets are on NHL rosters at the start of the new season, including recent ex-captain Colton Sissons (Nashville) along with stalwarts Shea Weber, now with the Montreal Canadiens, and Josh Gorges of the Buffalo Sabres.
Veteran Vern Fiddler, who has played over 800 games over a 15-year career, is back on the New Jersey Devils’ opening night roster.
“We’re very proud to see so many of our alumni make it to the NHL and have success,” said Rockets president/GM Bruce Hamilton.
“To be able to turn on the television and see so many of our former players is a real treat for our organization and for our fans. We take a a lot of pride in developing hockey players and young men who can find success at all levels of hockey.”
Nine of the ex-Rockets are defencemen, including Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg), who played 57 games in the AHL but made the Jets out of training camp, and Damon Severson, who is going into his third season with New Jersey.
When it comes to former Rockets’ D-men in the NHL, two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith (Chicago) leads the way as one of the top defenders in the NHL while others are in the mix, coming out of the so-called defense factory in Kelowna. Tyson Barrie (Colorado), Luke Schenn (Arizona), Tyler Myers (Winnipeg) and Alexander Edler (Vancouver) will all be important members of their respective teams bluelines.
Up front, Jamie Benn (Dallas) is considered one of the top scoring threats in the NHL while Leon Draisaitl will look to improve on a 51-point rookie season with Edmonton. Mikael Backlund (Calgary) and Blake Comeau (Colorado) round out a considerable list.
The 15 former Rockets are among 132 WHL alumni on National Hockey League opening night rosters for the 2016-2017 regular season.
Rockets host Saskatoon…
The Rockets open a four-game WHL home-stand tonight against the Saskatoon Blades. Face off at Prospera Place is 7 p.m. Kelowna (3-5-0) will then host the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday, the Everett Silvertips on Wednesday, and the Tri-City Americans next Friday, Oct. 21.