Wednesday’s season-ending loss also ended the WHL careers of Wheat Kings overagers Darian Dziurzynski (pictured), Paul Ciarelli and Brodie Melnychuk. (FILE PHOTO)
Not many Western Hockey Leaguers have logged more time in a Brandon Wheat Kings uniform than Brodie Melnychuk.
The lanky defenceman from Balgonie, Sask., finished his five-year career third on the Wheat Kings’ all-time list with 318 regular-season games played. Throw in his 48 career playoff games, plus five more in the 2010 Memorial Cup, and Melnychuk has pulled the No.3 black and gold jersey over his head 371 times for games that count.
With that in mind, Brandon’s season-ending 6-0 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday night at Westman Place didn’t just wrap up Melnychuk’s WHL playing career, it was a major transition point in his life.
"I spent a quarter of my life here, five years, so it’s been good," the graduating 20-year-old said after the game. "The city’s been good to me and I’ve enjoyed every year of it."
Brandon’s third-round pick in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft, Melnychuk arrived as a 16-year-old rookie at the same time as scoring stars Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie — the two players chosen ahead of him. The 6-foot-4, 203-pounder didn’t reach the dizzying heights of the other two, but grew into a leader on the Brandon blue-line, recording 25 goals and 93 points during his career, along with a plus/minus of +67 and 161 penalty minutes.
Forwards Paul Ciarelli and Darian Dziurzynski also graduated with Wednesday’s loss.
The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Ciarelli carved out his reputation as a defensive specialist over his four-year career, but scored the biggest goal of the Wheat Kings’ season, netting the overtime series winner in the first round of the playoffs against the Calgary Hitmen last month in his hometown of Winnipeg.
"I’ve got to first off thank (general manager) Kelly McCrimmon for giving me the opportunity to play here," said Ciarelli, who finished his career with 40 goals, 65 points and 207 penalty minutes in 239 games. "As an undrafted player here, he gave me the chance to play as a 17-year-old. I’ve been able to play in the Memorial Cup, I’ve had four great years of playoff runs and I’ve played with a lot of great guys."
Dziurzynski had the shortest tenure of the three as a Wheat King, but was the most visibly upset at the conclusion of Wednesday’s game. Acquired from the Saskatoon Blades prior to October’s overage deadline, the 6-foot-1, 204-pound winger from Lloydminster, Alta., scored 27 goals after arriving in Brandon and finished his career with 92 goals, 161 points and 505 penalty minutes in 304 games.
"I’ve got a lot of good friends on this team, a lot of guys that I’ve got a lot of respect for, coaches, everyone," he said, his voice shaking. "This organization has been nothing but good to me, so thank you to everyone here."
None of the three know what their hockey futures have in store yet. Dziurzynski was chosen by the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes in the fifth round of last year’s draft, but has yet to sign a contract, while Ciarelli and Melnychuk went undrafted.
ONE-TIMERS: The Wheat Kings also have four 19-year-olds who have signed NHL contracts and are eligible to play professionally next season, including Mark Stone (Ottawa Senators) and Mike Ferland (Calgary Flames), who both missed Wednesday’s game with injuries after finishing 1-2 in team scoring during the regular season, as well as Kevin Sundher (Buffalo Sabres), who was acquired from the Victoria Royals at the WHL trade deadline, and goaltender Brandon Anderson (Washington Capitals).
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 13, 2012