Royals mid-season review

Jon Howe (photo)

Royals RW Axel Blomqvist was traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors for Alexey Sleptsov, Justin Paulic, and a sixth-round draft pick. – Jon Howe (photo)

After last year’s record-setting season, junior hockey fans in Victoria have come to expect big things from the Victoria Royals. Whether or not the Royals could repeat the results from last year—or even improve—remains to be seen, but at the halfway mark of the season it looks like the Royals are preparing for a deep playoff run.

The Royals started off the 2014-15 season by sending six players to NHL rookie camps: forwards Axel Blomqvist, Austin Carroll, and Brandon Magee, and defencemen Travis Brown, Joe Hicketts, and Keegan Kanzig.

Shortly before the start of the season there plenty of excitement as the Royals dealt goaltender Michael Herringer to Saskatoon for a draft pick, and signed head coach Dave Lowry to a contract extension. Defenceman Joe Hicketts signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings, and Tyler Soy and Chaz Reddekop were named to the NHL central scouting list—definitely a hectic start to the year.

On Oct. 10, the Royals snatched up Russian defenceman Marsel Ibragimov off of waivers from Edmonton, and then two weeks later acquired a draft pick in exchange for forward Jake Kohlhauser.

In the midst of all the trades came some exciting news: Joe Hicketts was named to team WHL as an assistant captain while Dave Lowry was named head coach for the Subway super series against an all-star team of Russian junior players.

Trades were not the only noteworthy events of the first half of the 2014-15 season; there were some memorable home games as well. The Pink in the Rink is always a popular promotion game in Victoria and the Royals did not disappoint this year, defeating the Vancouver Giants 3-2 in front of a raucous crowd. However, the Royals would continue wheeling and dealing, sending forward Matthew Campese for a draft pick on Nov. 18.

Arguably the most surprising deal of the season came the day after the Campese trade. The Royals traded the 6-6, 242 lb fan-favourite defenseman Keegan Kanzig to the Calgary Hitmen for forward Greg Chase.  Kanzig was paired with Joe Hicketts for the majority of the season and was known for his physical presence all over the ice.

Shortly thereafter, Joe Hicketts and Dave Lowry were both picked for Canada’s World Junior team, and eventually went on to bring Canada the gold medal for the first time in six years.

Continuing the frenzied theme of this season, there were a slew of trades to start 2015. The Royals gave up a draft pick and the rights to a prospect in exchange for two picks and forward Alex Forsberg from the Saskatoon Blades.

Once again the Royals proceeded to shock fans when they dealt 6-6 forward Axel Blomqvist for defender Alexy Sleptsov, goalie Justin Paulic, and a draft pick. They also traded backup goaltender Jayden Sittler to Lethbridge for another draft pick, and sent forward Mitch Skapski to Saskatoon, receiving yet another draft pick in return.

After the upheaval of the Royals’ roster, the team has still managed a considerable amount of success. Dave Lowry has managed to stabilize an ever-changing group of players, positioning them nicely for the WHL playoffs.

The Royals currently sit second in the B.C. division behind the division juggernaut Kelowna Rockets. The next home game is Friday, Jan. 23 against the Kamloops Blazers.

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