Got to thinking about leagues in America and Canada that have some of the best talent in hockey today and since I now follow a team in the WHL I thought I would do a little digging and see what the league is all about.
It was formed in 1966 as the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League. They changed the name in 1967 to the Western Canadian Hockey League and then in 1978 changed it again to what we know today the WHL.
Today the league has 22 teams in two conference with four divisions. The team I support, the Victoria Royals, play in the Western conference – B.C division. The other conference in that division is the U.S division, the eastern conference is made up of the Central and East divisions.
The Victoria Royals were founded in 2006 as the Chilliwack Bruins and were relocated to Vancouver island for the start of the 2011 season where they were renamed the Victoria Royals. They play out the same arena as the former ECHL team, The Victoria Salmon kings. They have had ten NHL draft picks since 2011 including their captain Matthew Philips who was drafted by the Calgary Flames, Tyler Soy drafted by the Anaheim Ducks and Scott Walford, drafted by the Montreal Canadians.
Captain Matthew Phillips has finished the last 2 years on 50 goals and 64 assists and he also has the most points on the team with 112 in the season just finished. Tyler Soy has been with the club for 6 years he has the most goals, assists and points so it is safe to say these guys will be big losses to the club as they will now be moving on.
It’s looking likely that Soy will move the AHL and the San Diego Gulls and Phillips also goes to the AHL with the Stockton Heat.
This years WHL playoff champions the Swift Current Broncos have three guys moving up to the AHL and one moving back to Finland, netminder Stuart Skinner will play for Edmonton’s affiliate the Bakersfield condors forward Tyler Steenbergen will play for Arizona’s affiliate the Tuscan Roadrunners and defenceman Josh Anderson will play in for the Avalanche affiliate the Colorado Eagles and finally second round draft pick from finland Aleksi Heponiemi is going back to Finland to play in the liiga with Karpat.
Notable players for the Royals include former defenceman Joe Hicketts who played for the Detroit Redwings.
Finally they were the 2015-16 WHL regular season champions.
This is a great Development league in Canada has been for some years guys like Iginla, Sakic, Mike Vernon, Stu Barnes, Ray Whitney, Konawalchuk just to name a few. To me at least, that looks like one the strongest development leagues over the pond when you have guys of the that calibre starting out there before moving up the AHL.