Draft Diaries: Logan Stankoven is going to be an ongoing monthly series in which writer Jeff Rea and Kamloops Blazers forward Logan Stankoven will be collaborating to document Logan’s season. Logan will be providing commentary and quotes, telling the story from his perspective while Jeff helps weave the story together and provide the context. We kick the series off this month with a look back at the year that was for Logan in the WHL with the Blazers. What went right, what went wrong, and what did the young star learn in his first full year in the Dub? Find out all that and more in the first edition of Draft Diaries with Logan Stankoven.
“I’m fortunate to be playing junior hockey in my hometown and I can’t take that for granted.
It really hit me when we had our first preseason game in town. We ended up beating Victoria 9-1 and I finished with five points. Even though it was only a preseason game it felt surreal. Just the way the media was after the game and the buzz in the building. That’s when it really hit me.”
Logan Stankoven stands a modest 5’8″. But in terms of personalities, few in the proud hockey-town of Kamloops, British Columbia stand taller. From minor hockey prodigy to Thompson Blazers record-setter, Kamloops’ fifth overall pick in the 2018 Bantam Draft bleeds Blue and Orange.
Despite his meteoric rise within an organization blessed with Iggys, Daneykos and Doans, Recchis and Hitchcocks, Niedermayers, Berube’s, Sydor’s, and banners, the well-raised local boy remains grounded, self-motivated, and driven. Perhaps that’s why he’s so loved.
Logan’s WHL journey began on January 15, 2019.
“Getting in a few games as a 15-year-old was special but humbling at the same time. It was a good eye-opener to see where I needed to be in a few years, in order to be a high-end player and to consistently produce in the league.
Having the chance to play in all six playoff games as an underager was something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. The whole experience gave me a good feel for things and helped me to prepare for my 16-year-old season.
The first playoff game in Victoria was when I really saw the pace of play pick up. It was tough at first to keep up to the speed and physicality, but I learned from the first game, and from there on I wanted to prove to everyone that I do deserve to be playing as an underager in the playoffs.
I really tried to take that experience and bring it into my first full season with the Blazers.”
Kamloops was eliminated by the Victoria Royals in six games. Stankoven registered a lone goal and a single assist. A few months later, he led the CHL in preseason scoring.
“That opening night against Spokane was special for me because growing up I always remembered being in the stands as a fan and just seeing how much of a buzz there was around the rink before the opening night games. To finally be a part of one of these games made it feel like a dream come true for me.
Even in warmups, you could just feel the excitement brewing. To hear that the rink was sold out that night made it that much better. Even though that night didn’t end in a win for our team, lots of friends and family came out to support me. To have them there cheering me on made me feel thankful.”
Stankoven scored the opening goal of the opening game at 19:18 of the first period. He took a pass from Martin Lang, walked into the high slot, and wired a shot blocker side. “Taking Care of Business” belted out over the loudspeakers, the commenter matter of factly stated, “That’s what the kid does. He rips the puck,” and 5,654 fellow local kids nearly popped the roof off the Sandman Center.
Seconds later, with Stankoven still on the ice, Spokane equalized.
A WHOLE NEW ANIMAL
“I started off with a good training camp and preseason, hoping to carry it on into the regular season. But the WHL was a whole new animal. I found that out in our first weekend of games. We went 0-3 to start the season.”
The Blazers were quickly able to right the ship, however. After stalling out of the gates, they banged off 11 wins in 13 games, allowing two or less goals in all but one.
“We changed things around quickly and everything began to click, and before we knew it we were at the top of our division.
We brought in two key 20 year-olds in Max Martin and Ryan Hughes who were both very experienced and great players who contributed to our team right away. Bringing these guys in really bolstered our offensive side of things and made our powerplay lethal. Not only were they both highly skilled players, but they were also great teammates in the room and leadership material.”
Logan’s contributions were quiet during a nine-game stretch from October 11 until November 15 the Blazers won eight times. Stankoven contributed one goal over the stretch, which came in a 6-0 home win over Vancouver.
“Personally, I had a tough first half of the season. I really had to adjust to the speed and style of game that it took to be successful in the WHL. I also had to accept my role on the team, playing 3rd line minutes.”
TIMEOUT – TEAM CANADA
“I heard the news in early October. I was looking forward to representing my country for as long as I can remember. Receiving the news was a special moment for my family and me.
Having the opportunity to wear the Maple Leaf was humbling and something that I dream of hopefully doing someday again. Everything about my U17 experience was first class and it really gave me a good understanding of how many other amazing players are out there wanting to be in my exact same position. I enjoyed every second of it.
All the guys were great teammates to me but a few that stood out to me were Jacob Holmes, Kyle Masters, Peter Reynolds, and Evan Nause. All four of these guys I had never met before until the U17 camp back in July, but from the start of the camp ’till our last game at the U17 Championships, the bond we created with each other was special and those friendships will last for years to come.
Although we lost out in the Quarterfinals I thought it gave me a good taste of the talent that’s out there for my age group and what it takes to be the best.”
The U17-WJC took place from November 2-9 in Medicine Hat and Swift Current. Stankoven led Canada Red with four goals in five games.
Kamloops went 3-1 without him, scoring 22 goals in 4 games.
BACK TO THE BUS
“When I came back to Kamloops after the U17 tournament I didn’t really perform as well as I thought I could’ve. I struggled because of the style of play. Although I felt that the speed and skill at the U17 championships was just as good as in the WHL, the physicality and size was something I had to re-adjust to once I came back. Maybe I felt that when coming back from the U17’s things would be easier or that success would come right away, but I quickly found out that was not the case whatsoever.
The league was tough. My consistency wasn’t fully there yet which messed with my confidence and in return affected my play. There were times where I felt that I was playing like myself and I deserved to be having success, but other times it just felt like nothing was going right for me. I lost faith in myself to contribute to my team night in and night out.
I remember playing in Prince George and we were tied in the middle of the third period. I wasn’t having one of my stronger games and it didn’t get any better when I turned the puck over which resulted in the game-winning-goal for them. This moment really stuck in my head for a bit and I realized that I have to change and do a better job, ‘cause it just flat out wasn’t good enough. But, as a team, we finished off with a successful road trip out east, leading us into Christmas break.”
Kamloops walked into Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert and picked up three wins over four nights heading into the break. Stankoven pitched in with a pair of goals but finished with a mere 10 points over the previous 23 games.
“During the break, I had to reevaluate my game. I thought it wasn’t good enough. I realized that I had to give much more in order to be consistent each and every game.
I started taking boxing lessons and also got in a bunch of workouts to improve my stamina and get my cardio back to where it was at the start of the season.”
During the December break, Logan began working with boxing coach Gary Labbe. He also added additional strength and conditioning sessions with trainer Kevin Brechin while he was home. All this while spending and celebrating the holidays with family.
THE BACK 9
“When I came back I felt in way better shape and rejuvenated again and I just took off from there. My second half was great and things started to click and it showed up in the statistics, as well. I was contributing more and in return, I was getting chances at playing more powerplay and penalty kill, which really boosted my confidence.”
Over a three-week span from January 3-24, the Blazers won nine in a row. The rejuvenated center tallied five goals in his first eight games after the break and 13 points during the nine-game unbeaten stretch. Stankoven and the Blazers were catching fire.
”I first started getting PK minutes because of injuries to some of our key players. It came to me as a surprise, but I really wanted to take the opportunity and make good use of it to show the coach that “Yes, I do belong playing in this role”, and “You can trust me to make the right plays”. Although it wasn’t always consistent PK minutes, every now and then I’d get the opportunity to hop out there and I really took pride in that. I thought as the year went on I progressed and tried to do whatever I could to improve my game and contribute to the team more.”
Stankoven was rolling. He quickly established himself as a contender for WHL Rookie of the Year. The former World Select Invitational, Canada Winter Games, Macs Tournament and John Reid Memorial Tournament star was now consistently proving himself as a WHL game-driver.
On February 15, he had a four-goal night in a 5-3 win over Victoria. Two nights later he went two plus two in a 7-6 OT win. He was the first star in both games. On February 26, he turned 17.
“I felt that I was playing some of my best hockey individually. Our team had clinched our division and a first-round playoff matchup with the Kelowna Rockets, which I was really looking forward to.”
“The rivalry between Kelowna and Kamloops is something that goes way back. There’s always been that extra spark when the two teams meet, but to finally experience it this season was something that helped me to fully understand it.
We had a home-and-home against them not long after Christmas break and the Friday night in Kamloops was a game that didn’t leave a good taste in their mouths, losing 4-1.
So the next night, back in Kelowna, it was going the same way it did the previous night. We were up 6-2 halfway through the third period and from there all hell broke loose. We had two line brawls and even a goalie fight. All in all, there were a total of eighteen fighting majors and it all happened within the last 10 minutes of the game.”
Logan scored the seventh and final Blazers goal at 18:14 of the third. It was scored in the midst of the mayhem.
“Since the brawl we weren’t scheduled to play them again until our last few games of the season which we were all looking forward to. That would’ve set up quite the scene heading into the playoffs against them.”
On Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14 the Blazers and Rockets were scheduled to renew their rivalry, in two “meaningless games.” Shortly after that, they were due to meet in the first round of the WHL playoffs. Kelowna was the host city for the 102nd Memorial Cup, a few months later. Both teams had intentions on being there.
Instead, on Thursday, March 12, everything just stopped.
Things were certainly working up to a fever pitch. The Blazers had won nine of their last 11. Tickets for the Memorial Cup, just two hours across the 97C and up HWY 5, were a hot commodity. The Sandman Center was bouncing, the kids were undoubtedly “Taking Care of Business.” And a local boy named Logan Stankoven was on pace to surpass none other than Rob Brown and write his name into Kamloops Blazers history. Logan had 18 points in the previous 12 games.
“To have it all end the way it did was upsetting for all of us, especially for the 20 year-olds who played their last games in the league. Guys like Zane Franklin, Max Martin and Ryan Hughes. It was really too bad to see it end so suddenly for them because all three played major roles on our team and were great leaders on and off the ice. To know that their junior careers are over is tough to swallow.
Photo courtesy of the WHL
As a group, our team felt that we could’ve made a great run in the playoffs. Individually, I felt I was really coming on and playing well. Consistently too. Having tied Blazers franchise rookie goal-leader, Rob Brown, with 29 and with five games to go… but it all ended within the blink of an eye.
The moment I found out was heartbreaking. It didn’t feel like it was actually happening. But there was nothing we could do to change it. We had to move on and focus on the next season. We had to think about what we needed to do to get better.
Please join us next month for another edition of “Draft Diaries with Logan Stankoven”.
The October edition will feature Logan’s summer; his thoughts on the canceled Hlinka-Gretzky; his offseason training program; his forecast on the 2020-21 Kamloops Blazers; insight on Connor Zary; and, of course, his thoughts about the impending Draft Year.
Be sure to follow Jeff on Twitter at @JeffReaScouting for more on the NHL Draft!