Draft Diaries with Logan Stankoven: My WHL Season and the U18s

Jeff Rea

2021-07-15

Feature image courtesy of Andrew Armstrong

 

I got in six games with Kamloops and eight at the U18s, including the exhibition game. That’s fourteen games total this season.

 

MY DRAFT YEAR

Team-wise, we didn’t really know what to expect. 

 

We felt we had a young team this year, in Kamloops. We had a couple of good returning guys, like Zary and Centazzo. Onyebuchi on the back end. Me and Bankier were returning as well, besides that though we were one of the teams that had the most rookies in the league. 

 

We didn’t expect to win a bunch of games. But for the short stint that I had, you could just tell that those younger guys coming up really knew what the league was about. We learn from each other, that was the biggest thing. We made sure that we were prepared for the season. 

 

Some guys come into the WHL and know it’s gonna be a fast league, but once they hit the ice that’s when they really find out how fast it is, how quickly things can happen, and how skilled you have to be to have success in the league. I tried to really help out the younger guys so that they could all do a job and contribute to our team.

 

Giants 7-3 W (one goal, one assist, GWG)

We scored just off the bat. I wasn’t playing with Zary and Centazzo to start the game, I was put on the right wing for that first shift, to get some energy going. The puck dropped and we went into our zone. We chipped it out and I ended up grabbing the puck, coming into their zone, and dropped it off to Zary. Zary went back-door and found Onyebuchi. It was 31 seconds into the season. It was a good start for us. The Giants had a pretty good team this year. That start we had really helped. 

 

I scored on the power play. I made a seam pass to Zary. He faked the shot. The seam opened right back up for me. He slid it right through the seam and I basically just put it into the wide-open net.

 

Prince George 5-4 W (two goals, GWG)

It was our second game in back-to-back nights. They ended up going up 3-1 after one in that one, and we just kind of clawed our way back into the game. I think I had a couple goals that game. The first one was right off the bat. I just came off the bench and our Dman really made a nice play up the ice. He took it behind the net and found me in the slot. The second one was the game-winning goal, with just under ten to go. We had some good sustained zone time. One of their Dmen tried to clear it out and fanned on it. One of our guys grabbed it, took it to the net and just kinda slid it to me.

 

After starting the season with back-to-back wins on back-to-back nights, the Blazers had four nights rest. They hosted Prince George on Thursday, at the Sandman Center, but Stankoven was not in the lineup. The Blazers would pick up a 6-1 win, moving to 3-0. It was in stark contrast to the disastrous start to Logan’s rookie season, where the Blazers stumbled out the gates 0-3. Two nights later, Logan returned to the lineup.

 

Victoria 4-3 (OT W) 2 goals, 2 assists (OT GWG)

Their goalie Adam Evanoff stood on his head. We peppered him with 52 shots. I think that game could have been a lot worse than it was. My first goal was off the rush. Centazzo drove into the zone. It was a mini 3-on-2, sort of, and they didn’t really have any backpressure. Centazzo slid it to me, the trailer, and I just tried to shoot it as fast as I could on the ice and it found five-hole. I was surprised it went in. On the OT goal, Baragano just stopped it off to me on three on three. I made a rush up the ice. I couldn’t really find someone, so I just turned back and came across the top of the circle and made a fake. As soon as I looked at the net there was no one standing in front of me, so I just took it to the net and shot it over his blocker. It found the back of the net.

 

We lost some really good players. But those of us returning quickly realized that we still had a really good team. It was a nice mix of some leadership and some scoring. We had guys that worked really hard and were gritty. We had a good mix of guys. We just kinda kept going from there.

 

Vancouver 0-4 (held pointless)

We lost to Vancouver 4-0. That was a tough game. But we rebounded.

 

The Blazers outshot the Giants 30-28 that evening; but, Logan and his teammates were shutout by an impressive Trent Miner. Logan would only get two more games in with Kamloops before departing for the World U18 Championships, in Texas. They were both against the Victoria Royals.

 

Victoria 6-3 W (one goal)

We had a three-day break before facing the Royals on a Friday night. We beat them pretty handily in that game. I was shooting a lot and they weren’t low quality. I had some really good chances to score. If I could have buried some of those, I probably could have had a hattrick or four goals. It was too bad I couldn’t do more. I ended up getting a breakaway, made a move, and went five-whole.

 

Sunday, April 11 was Logan’s final game with Kamloops. The Blazers beat the Royals 4-3 and Logan chipped in with another goal. Kamloops had won six of seven. Logan had racked up seven goals and 10 points in his six game CHL campaign. The Blazers would easily go on to win the BC Division, with a 18-4 record. Vancouver finished second in the division at 12-10. Bitter rivals Kelowna would only get in 16 games, but were beaten five times and tied once. The Blazers were the best in BC.

 

We waited all season for it to start up, and then seven games in I’m leaving to go play with another group of guys. It was a little bit of a weird feeling for my teammates and me. But obviously, you can’t pass up on an opportunity to go and represent Canada.

 

I was happy to see them doing so well. They still had some really good players, like Pillar, Bankier, and Garland, but when Zary got hurt a few games after I left, I was wondering what’s gonna happen. But the guys showed really well. I wasn’t able to watch any games at the U18s, but I was always checking in on the scores and the box scores on the WHL app. I was really happy to see them continue to have success. I think things will be pretty similar next season. Zary is a big loss, he’s a big part of our team and he’s our captain, but those younger guys who had a successful season are a year older and more mature. I think that can take away from some of the losses we’ll have.

 

We were really looking forward to starting this season. I’m thankful I got those six games in.

 

The World Under 18 Championships

I flew out of Kamloops to Calgary. I flew out with Tyler Brennan, because Prince George was staying at a hotel here in Kamloops. We flew to Calgary and met up with a bunch of the others, like Connor Bedard, Nolan Allan, and Denton Mateychuk, and a bunch of the Hockey Canada guys because Calgary is where Hockey Canada is based out of. We flew from Calgary to Dallas. That’s where the whole team met up. The flights were spread out a bit, so a few of us had to wait for the others, like the Ontario guys, to fly in. The rule was three buses. We spread ourselves out over three buses, we weren’t on one bus as a team, we needed to form certain groups.

 

Connor Bedard

The first guy I really started talking to was Connor Bedard. I’d never really met him before. He’s always reached out to me, and I’ve reached out to him. We don’t really know each other but we congratulate each other and ask each other how things are. That was the one guy I was really looking forward to meeting. We all know just how good a player he is, but he’s just a great guy off the ice, too. He’s the one guy I gelled with right away.

 

Photo courtesy of Hockey Canada

 

Did you know you were going to be playing with him?

 

No, not at all. I didn’t expect anything going into that tournament. When you go there all the guys can score and put the puck in the net, so I had no clue where I was going to play or fit into the lineup. To end up playing with Bedard was pretty cool. He was a lot of fun to play with and it was good to get to know him as a player and a person.

 

I think we’re a similar type of player. We’re smaller guys with lots of energy. We can both shoot the puck and see the ice well. Some of the things I saw him do were ridiculous. In the Quarters, he tried the lacrosse move. I was standing in front of the net, and I couldn’t believe it. I was like “are you kidding me?”, I wouldn’t even think of doing that. Also, that backhand goal in the Final against Russia; the way he pulled that to his backhand so quickly and then just let it go off his stick, that’s high-end talent.

 

Off the ice, he carries himself so well. He’s humble. There are certain times over the years, where you play with great players whose heads may get a little big and they may think that they’re pretty good, but Connor’s not like that at all. I think that’s why he’s gonna continue to improve, just because of his mindset. He’s not out there to make guys feel bad or to show off, he works hard and is insanely committed and focused. It’s easy to see why he’s where he is today.

 

Modesty

I was a little bit worried going in, as I had only played six games leading up to it, in comparison to some of the other European guys and the US team who had played a full season. I didn’t really know what to think. I just knew that I had put in the work during the extended offseason, so I just needed to rely on my skills and go out there and do my best to play my game. For most of the Ontario guys, their first real game was against Finland and then our opener against Sweden.

 

Sweden 12-1 (one goal, one assist)

For us to go in there and blow Sweden out, as badly as we did, that was a shocker. I think we were just excited to get the tournament going. Especially that game against Sweden. We thought it was going to be a close and tough game. We brought our A-games.

 

I didn’t think their goalies played their best. In both games. We put up 20 goals in two games against them, and we were always looking to get the puck to the net and crash it. It paid off.

 

Simon Edvinsson

He was impressive. There was one time I was lined up against him. He was my point man and I went out to the point to block one of his shots, and the next thing I knew he had made a quick move right around me. I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, what the heck, where did he go?” I couldn’t believe just how fast he made that move, because it takes some guts to do that. If he messes that up, I have a breakaway going the other way. He’s very skilled. I have heard some comparisons to Victor Hedman. I could definitely see the comparisons there. It was a lot of fun playing against him. He’s big and skilled and he’s going to be good at the next level.

 

Latvia 4-2 W (one goal, one assist)

I was kinda cool to see the smaller countries that I usually never get to play against. Latvia was a surprise to me. You have to give them credit, they worked so hard. They didn’t have tonnes of skill or one or two players that stood out, but they all worked really hard and they deserved to be in that game.

 

We weren’t in panic-mood at all. We knew they wanted it badly. We just needed to resort back to the little things. Getting pucks to the net and testing their goalie. We were going to his glove hand a little too much and he had a good glove, so I thought we needed to test him a bit more.

 

As the game went on, we did, and we ended up getting a couple more goals there. We weren’t in panic-mood though, we knew if we stuck to our game we’d be able to sneak it out.

 

Switzerland 7-0 W (one assist)

I felt we were on the powerplay for the entire third period. The game was within reach for them, and then the game blew open and we had a bunch of powerplay goals. It doesn’t help when you’re in the box, and all the 5-on-3s and 5-on-4s didn’t help them at all.

 

 

Belarus 5-2 W (held pointless)

Belarus had a couple of players that were pretty skilled and really good. Klimovich didn’t have a tonne of good players around him, but he created some good chances for his team. Kuzmin, although not the biggest defenceman, was pretty nifty as well. He made some nice plays for a 

Dman. They battled hard. They were a good team too, but we just found ways to put the puck in the net and finish off the round-robin.

 

Czech Republic Quarter Final 10-3 (one goal, one assist, GWG)

The Czechs were really skilled. They had an impressive forward group. Their goalies didn’t have their greatest games. Their defense didn’t really help them much either. On my goal, two of their guys went to Bedard and he just kinda flipped it over to me on a mini-breakaway. I just kind of slipped it in.

 

Sweden Semi-Final 8-1 (held pointless)

We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game and it was tight through two. In the third, the dam just kinda broke for them and we peppered their goal. We knew their goalie would be nervous from their opening game. Letting in that many goals doesn’t feel good, so we knew obviously that was gonna be in back of his mind. He played well. I give him credit. But in the third, we blew the game open. I think it was a good game for a lot of us. There were a few guys that hadn’t really scored, to get them on the board and feeling good about themselves was big going into the finals.

 

TEAM USA

I thought the US was going to be a lot stronger. They had a few injuries, but even without Luke Hughes and Chaz Lucius, I still thought they were gonna have a really great team. 

 

We were live-streaming the US Sweden QuarterFinal on our hotel TVs. The classic Canada US game was something we were all looking forward to, but it turned out that Sweden beat them. So we got ready to beat Sweden, instead.

 

Russian Final 5-3 (one final GWG)

The Russians were really skilled and we knew they worked hard. They had some really dangerous forwards like Michkov, Miroshnichenko and Chibrikov. We knew we had to shut those guys down. It wasn’t an easy game. They went up 2-1 and then we scored to make it 2-2. We made it 3-2 and then I ended up scoring to make it 4-2. 

 

They scored one against us in the third, but I felt like they were all over us in the final twenty. We were chipping pucks out, off the glass, and changing. They wanted to win really badly, too. But our goalies played really well throughout, and I think that was the big thing for us in this tournament. Gaudreau was solid for us in that game. We didn’t have any weak spots.

 

 

Which players surprised you the most?

 

Mason McTavish and Olen Zellweger. 

I don’t think too many knew about Zellweger and how good he is. He’s not the biggest Dman, but he’s so focused and he loves the game. He has unreal hands. Honestly, he could be a forward, his hands are that good. Obviously, for being a smaller defenceman you have to be smart and quick, he’s got that, he’s got the full package and should go pretty high in the draft.

 

I think Ryan O’Reilly is a really good comparison for Mason McTavish. From watching O’Reilly and then watching Mason, that is literally who he plays like. Both big guys, who have some grit in them and can play physical, but they also put the puck in the net and play big minutes. That tournament did nothing but good things for Mason. And he’s a really good guy, too.

 

Shane Wright

Shane was definitely one of the best captains I’ve had. He wasn’t overly vocal, but when Shane would talk in the room all the guys listened. We knew if he had something to say it was important. It’s crazy to think that he’s an 04. He and Bedard. You would never think those guys are an 04 and an 05. You would never believe that they are younger than us. Shane’s a good leader and he was a good fit for our team.

 

Photo courtesy of Hockey Canada

 

Brandt Clarke

Brandt is a pretty funny guy. He’s kind of a jokester. I never knew him at all going into the tournament, so it was nice to get to know him and to see how he is as a defenceman. It was clear to see how skilled he is. The biggest thing for him that can translate is his Hockey IQ and how he makes plays. He’s not a Dman that is looking to get rid of the puck, he’s always thinking and one step ahead of everyone else on the ice. He’s always looking to make the right play and wait for things on the ice to open up.

 

This is the biggest tournament I have played in and won. My best hockey moment for sure. Our goal was to go there and have fun but we wanted to win. We wanted to bring Gold back to our country, and that’s what we accomplished.

 

Next Year

I’d love to go to the World Juniors next year, but I think it’s a bit of a longshot. This is the big year for the 02s, but the following year is my year to make it. But I’d love to be invited to the camp and get the experience to go out there and do my thing. Obviously, I’m not expecting a roster spot or anything. I just want to go there and play against those 02s and some of those drafted guys. Maybe then I can bring some experience back, and make Team Canada when my time comes.

 

As for the Blazers, coming back as a third-year guy, hopefully, I’m relied on even more. I’m not 100% sure how the team will look just yet, we still need to make a few moves. We only have one 20 year old, so we may need to pick up a couple more 20 year-olds and an import. 

 

Once I find out who’s coming, I’ll have a better idea of how next year will go.

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