STOCKTON, Calif. – The Stockton Heat will welcome a whole new wave of young talent to their roster, as names like Tyler Wotherspoon, Emile Poirier, Cody Goloubef, and Marek Hrivik have all moved on to different teams. But a new crop of players will make Stockton fans and new coach Cail MacLean very excited about the upcoming season. We’ll go through the crop one-by-one in this article.
Dillon Dube (WHL)
The 2016 second-round pick had quite a year in 2017, captaining the Team Canada world juniors team to gold and having a tremendous season with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League (WHL), putting up 84 points (38G, 46A) in 53 games. Dube also played six games with Stockton last year, collecting a total of four assists. In the past year, Dube established himself as one of the top prospects in the Flames organization. Because the Flames forward position is such a logjam, it is unlikely he gets an NHL chance this year, unless multiple injuries happen. A year in Stockton would be great for the soon-to-be 20-year-old to continue to mature and fine-tune his game at the pro level.
Juuso Valimaki (WHL)
Juuso Valimaki has done nothing but impress since being drafted 16th in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Finnish defenseman had another superb WHL season, earning him the honor of being named Captain of the Finland World Juniors team. He also had 17 points (4G, 13A) in 12 WHL playoff games to cap off his terrific year. It is possible Valimaki could challenge for the sixth defenseman spot with the Calgary Flames, along with other names like Brett Kulak and Oliver Kylington. If Valimaki does not get the spot, he will be called upon to play a big role in Stockton, as Tyler Wotherspoon and Cody Goloubef have moved on to other organizations.
Yasin Eliz (DEL)
The German forward took a small step back this year from his 16 goal, 48-point campaign in 2017-18. Regardless of the step back, Eliz is still a very talented forward who will look to bring some speed and energy into the lineup. Eliz signed a one-year entry-level contract and will become a restricted free agent next year.
Matthew Phillips (WHL)
Matthew Phillips had a dominant season in the WHL once again, totaling 112 points in 71 games. Without question, he was one of the most dynamic, exciting players to watch in all of the Canadian Hockey League. He played one game with Stockton in 2017, notching an assist in the contest. One concern around Phillips has been his size, he is 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds, but it hasn’t seemed to affect him, but we’ll see if it will in the American Hockey League. If Phillips can continue his WHL success in the AHL, Stockton fans will be in for a treat.
Glenn Gawdin (WHL)
Glenn Gawdin’s 2017-18 WHL season was just dominant. The 21-year-old forward lit the lamp 56 times in 67 games, and put up another 32 points in 24 playoff games, earning him MVP honors in the 2018 WHL Playoffs. Gawdin was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the fourth round in 2015. After the Blues opted not to sign him, he signed with Calgary in November 2017.
Lost in all of his scoring, is Gawdin’s two-way game, which has been very solid for all the years he’s been around. A top-line two-way center is something the Heat have needed since Mark Jankowski got promoted, and they may have that now in Gawdin. The 6-foot-1 center has played his whole career in the WHL, so this will be the first time we will see him playing pro hockey.
Zach Fischer (WHL)
Zach Fischer will get his first shot at pro hockey with the Heat next year. A 2017 fifth-round pick by Calgary in 2017, Fischer made a name for himself by getting a good amount of goals as well as racking up a lot of penalty minutes. Over the past two WHL seasons, he had 258 total penalty minutes and 56 goals. Stockton signed him to an AHL level deal on July 1. Fischer could be the Tom Wilson-like player the Flames organization needs to go with Matthew Tkachuk.
The Stockton Heat open their 2017-18 campaign on Saturday, October 6 against the Ontario Reign.
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