The Brandon Wheat Kings can score goals as well as just about any team in the Western Hockey League.
They just go about it a little differently than most.
Heading into Tuesday’s slate of games, the Wheat Kings were fourth in the WHL with 199 goals in 52 contests, an average of 3.8 a night. Remarkably, the Wheat Kings have done that without having a player among the league’s top 50 scorers, with team leader Jayce Hawryluk tied for 51st with 46 points, including 15 goals, in 46 games. The only other teams with no one in the top 50 are the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who are second-last in the WHL in scoring this season, and the Tri-City Americans, who have outscored only two teams.
Brandon’s secret is spreading the wealth. While the team doesn’t have a go-to gunner like the Spokane Chiefs, who have 20 fewer goals despite boasting the WHL’s top sniper in Mitch Holmberg (47 goals, 92 points), an impressive seven Wheat Kings have hit the 40-point barrier this season, tying the Edmonton Oil Kings for the most of any team in the league.
While that includes Ryan Pulock, who leads one of the league’s more dangerous blue-line corps with 44 points, the Wheat Kings have six forwards with 40-something points, meaning when fully healthy they can trot out strong first and second lines in addition to having rookies like Tyler Coulter and Jesse Gabrielle who have displayed the ability to produce when playing in the top six.
Now all that scoring is no guarantee of success when it comes to the tight checking of the playoffs, particularly for a team in the bottom third of the WHL in goals against. It’s probably enough, though, to put the Wheat Kings low on most teams’ lists of opponents they’d like to face with their seasons on the line.
GOALIE-SCORER: On Saturday, Calgary Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger became the first WHLer since Jordan McLaughlin of the Prince George Cougars in 2003 to be credited with a goal. Driedger was the last Calgary player to touch the puck before Kootenay’s Zach Franko sent an errant pass into his own net while the Ice had their goalie pulled for a delayed penalty in Cranbrook, B.C.
"I talked to (Franko) after the game and he couldn’t believe it," Driedger told Jefferson Hagen of the Calgary Herald. "He said ‘the D-man moved out of the way and the next thing I know, I’m giving you goals, Driedgs.’ I was laughing."
Driedger is the sixth WHL goalie to score, joining McLaughlin, Olaf Kolzig (Tri-City, 1989), Chris Osgood (Medicine Hat, 1991), Jeff Calvert (Tacoma, 1992) and Jason Clague (Red Deer, 1994).
Clague’s son, Wheat Kings prospect Kale Clague, responded to a list of the scorers posted by Twitter user @WHLFacts by tweeting "only difference is Clague’s was a game winner. In the playoffs."
AROUND THE WHL: Wheat Kings RW Peter Quenneville is on an eight-game point-scoring streak (five goals, eight assists), the team’s longest of the season. LW Rihards Bukarts, meanwhile, has points in six straight games (six goals, two assists) … Portland is on a 10-game winning streak, the third-longest in the WHL this season behind their own 11-gamer and a 16-game streak by the Kelowna Rockets. The Winterhawks have points in 12 straight, trailing only the Rockets’ 16-game streak … Prince George LW Todd Fiddler is the WHL player of the month for January, having posted 16 goals and 29 points in 14 games. The goalie of the month was Tri-City’s Eric Comrie, who went 8-2-0-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage … Kelowna RW Myles Bell was last week’s WHL player of the week, notching six goals and nine points in three games … Brendan Burke of Portland was the Canadian Hockey League goalie of the week, earning shutouts in both of his games.
Western Hockey League teams with the most 40-point scorers going into Tuesday’s games:
GP GF No.
Brandon 52 199 7
Edmonton 51 213 7
Portland 53 239 6
Swift Current 53 178 6
Kelowna 52 227 5
Kootenay 52 165 5