Vancouver Giants’ defenceman Kaleb Bulych tries to skate past the check of Victoria Royals’ Blake Bargar during the Royals 2-0 win on Saturday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre. The game was the final pre-season contest for the Giants who embark on their first season in Langley on Friday night when they welcome the Everett Silvertips to town. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. The Giants will also honour the late Gordie Howe, whose family is part of the Giants ownership group, prior to the game, as well as wearing a special ‘Mr. Hockey’ jersey.

Vancouver Giants’ defenceman Kaleb Bulych tries to skate past the check of Victoria Royals’ Blake Bargar during the Royals 2-0 win on Saturday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre. The game was the final pre-season contest for the Giants who embark on their first season in Langley on Friday night when they welcome the Everett Silvertips to town. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. The Giants will also honour the late Gordie Howe, whose family is part of the Giants ownership group, prior to the game, as well as wearing a special ‘Mr. Hockey’ jersey.

Game on, Giants

Western Hockey League set to drop the puck in Langley on Friday night as Vancouver hosts Everett

New.

That is the best word to describe the Vancouver Giants.

The major junior hockey club has a new venue, a new general manager and a new head coach.

The only thing that remains the same is the goal: getting into the playoffs.

“Once you get into the playoffs, you give yourselves a chance at a championship,” said head coach Jason McKee. “For us, that is the main goal, to get in and give ourselves a chance to go as far as we can.”

The Giants embark on their quest beginning with their first home game at the Langley Events Centre on Friday night (7:30 p.m.) when they welcome the Everett Silvertips to town. The two Western Hockey League rivals will complete the home-and-home series the next night in Everett.

Vancouver is coming off a season in which they missed the WHL post-season by 20 points, going 23-40-5-4. It was the third time in four seasons they failed to qualify for the playoffs.

General manager Glen Hanlon is still waiting to see which of the team’s eight players are returned to the Giants from their respective NHL clubs. And as was the case in 2015/16, the team is also battling injuries ahead of the season.

“We are missing so many players it is hard to get a read on what we have,” the rookie GM said on Monday.

“There are too many injuries for my liking (but) I am looking forward to getting our group together.”

Vancouver went 1-3-0-1 in the pre-season, picking up their lone win on Friday night in Kelowna, 5-4. They closed the exhibition schedule with a 2-0 loss to Victoria the following afternoon at the LEC.

“Exhibition is about evaluating your players and seeing how they grasp the system and trying to get a feel for your players both on and off the ice,” Hanlon said.

Wins and losses aside, Hanlon expects the team’s younger players to take a step forward in their development.

“Kids are all moving up in the depth chart from last year,” Hanlon said.

“I want to see a line like (Owen) Hardy, (Dawson) Holt and (Brendan) Semchuk play; three young kids that have been drafted high,” he explained.

“You don’t expect a 17 year old boy to carry our team but we do expect these three to be better than other 17s in the league because of where we evaluated and drafted them.”

Semchuk and defenceman Dylan Plouffe each had a goal and two assists in the victory while James Malm and Matt Barberis also came through with a goal and an assist in the victory.

“I thought we got better as it (camp) went on,” McKee said.

“We didn’t get the results we were always looking for but for me, I use training camp and exhibition for two things: to evaluate individuals and to evaluate if we are getting better from week to week, day to day, in that three to four week period and I thought we did that.

“Considering the amount of guys that were kind of in and out, I thought we def got better as a group.”

McKee, who brings a winning pedigree from the junior A Alberta Junior Hockey League as both a coach and general manager, knows it won’t be a quick fix with Vancouver as the players adjust to a new coaching staff.

“I think we have to create our identity throughout the year and what is going to make us good,” he said.

“We have some depth up front and a lot of young guys that are a year older and a year more mature so hopefully they can take the next step for us.”

And while a good start to the season results-wise would be ideal, it is not crucial.

“Any part of the year is a snapshot, it is not the big picture so we really have to focus on the big picture and getting better every day and hopefully the results come with it,” McKee said.

 

Langley Times

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