Penticton’s Ben LeFranc commits to BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings

From Penticton to PG

The Prince George Spruce Kings have added some Okanagan depth and youthful experience to their blue line next year.

Penticton’s Ben LeFranc is the eighth player to commit to playing in the northern capital for 2020-21, depending on when COVID-19 will allow the season to begin, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 1.

The 16-year-old defenceman just finished his fourth season with Okanagan Hockey Academy, producing 18 points in 35 games in his 2019-20 campaign, including 12 assists.

“Along with a tremendous work ethic, Ben is a very strong skater and an intelligent player,” said Spruce Kings Head Coach Alex Evin in a team release Monday.

“He has a lot of tools to hopefully develop into a really good BCHL player.”

In 2018-19 with OHA’s Elite 15 squad, LeFranc potted a high-school career-high 10 goals and 22 points in 35 games.

He was also called up to the Red Prep squad in the same year for the playoffs.

LeFranc was also named Most Sportsmanlike Player in his rookie season with OHA’s Bantam Prep team in 2017.

He is listed as the seventh defenceman on the Spruce Kings roster for 2020-21.

BCHL announces delay to season start

BCHL postpones season

The BC Hockey League has announced they are delaying the start of the 2020-21 regular season until Dec. 1, pending approval from the Provincial Health Office.

“We’ve been having discussions with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture since March around a safe return to play,” said BCHL Commissioner Chris Hebb. “The PHO has indicated to us that waiting until December gives us the best chance at ensuring we have an uninterrupted season, while also maximizing the amount of regular-season games we’ll be able to play.”

The league has indicated they will release a full schedule with a December start date at a later date and this pushback to Dec. 1 aligns with the NHL’s plan to start their 2020-21 season.

“The reality is that, for us to be able to operate, we need to have fans in our buildings,” said Chairman of the BCHL Board of Directors Graham Fraser. “It became clear from our discussions with the PHO that the best way to accomplish this would be to delay the start of our season to give them time to assess the effects of a potential second wave of COVID-19 during flu season.”

Teams will have the option to hold an extended training camps from September to November, which will include regular on-ice training. The league will resume more normal operations once the province moves into Phase 3 of viaSport BC’s Return to Play model, exhibition competition with other BCHL teams will be expanded in-region.

Teams may also continue to run summer invite camps up until September 8, and under current mass gathering restrictions, only 50 people are allowed on the ice and in the stands. 

The BCHL’s Return to Play Task Force feels that the extended training camp model will give our players an opportunity to stay engaged and continue to develop their game in a safe environment,” said BCHL Executive Director Steven Cocker. “Our teams will be providing on-ice and off-ice training resources to continue aiding players to achieve their hockey and education goals and to make sure they are ready to go when the season starts.”

Once exhibition competition resumes, it will be streamed live on HockeyTV and live-scored on the BCHL website. Inter-division competition will be held within regions throughout the BCHL.


Vees nab championship-level forward

Vees nab new forward

The Penticton Vees announced Monday the team has acquired forward Finlay Williams from the Prince George Spruce Kings in exchange for future considerations.

Williams, 17, is a BC Hockey League champion, joining the Spruce Kings for the team’s run during the 2019 playoffs. The 6’0”, 190-pound forward got into eight BCHL playoff games while suiting up for six Doyle Cup games and six games at the National Junior ‘A’ Championship.

Williams also has secured his future in collegiate hockey as he is committed to play with the University of Michigan Wolverines.

In his time before Junior ‘A’, Williams played at the Burnaby Winter Club as part of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) where he tallied 74 points in 61 games split between his Bantam Prep and Midget Prep campaigns.

He also represented British Columbia at the Canada Winter Games in 2018.

“Fin is an extremely mature person and player who will have an immediate impact on our program,” said president, general manager and head coach Fred Harbinson.

The Vees would like to welcome Fin and his family to the Vees organization, the City of Penticton as well as the South Okanagan.

Penticton Vees players vying for spots on national teams

Vees vie for national spots

Two Penticton Vees players have earned spots in prestigious development camps vying for spots on national junior hockey teams. 

Incoming 16-year-old Josh Niedermayer, brother of the Vees' Jackson Niedermayer, has been selected for Hockey Canada's virtual Under-17 development camp in late July. 

The camp boasts 113 players in total with 64 forwards, 37 defensemen and 12 goaltenders, who will be split up into six teams for the week-long virtual camp, participating in a variety of sessions with a focus on player development through online education.

The 2020 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge is set to take place in Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I. in November. 

Vees forward Stefano Bottini has earned a spot in Switzerland's National Under-20 Camp, looking to nab a spot on the Swiss World Junior Hockey Championship team for 2021. 

The camp consists of 36 players vying for a spot on the Swiss Under-20 National team with 18 forwards, 14 defensemen and 4 goaltenders making their way to Cham to challenge for a roster spot.

Bottini, 18, is one of ten 2002-born players to crack the selection camp roster after having a tremendous season as one of the youngest players on his Under-20 Lugano team during the 2019/20 campaign.

The 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship takes place in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta. slated for December 26th, 2020 to January 5th, 2021.

Penticton Vees announce multiple trades, aquisitions

Vees welcome new players

The Penticton Vees have been busy this week, announcing several trades and acquisitions to the team. 

Goaltender Kaeden Lane is joining the club from the Grande Prairie Storm in exchange for Carl Stankowski. 

Lane, 18, has played each of the last two seasons with the Storm after a stellar two seasons with the Burnaby Winter Club. The 5’11”, 170-pound netminder has posted a 3.22 goals-against average along with an .897 save percentage in 74 career games with the Storm while registering 31 victories in that span, including four shutouts.

The Vees have also announced a three-team trade that resulted in the acquisition of defenseman Ben Wozney and forward Ryan Upson. 

Wozney, 19, has played each of the last two seasons in Powell River, suiting up in 86 career BCHL games including a contest as an affiliate player with the Prince George Spruce Kings. The 6’2”, 170-pound rearguard has tallied four goals and 29 assists for 33 points in that span. Wozney also secured his collegiate future in committing to Bowling Green University for the 2021/22 season during the year.

Upson, 19, played last season with the West Kelowna Warriors in his first season of junior hockey, registering three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 54 games after making the transition from the West Van Academy in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).

Former Vees Liam Noble and Carson Hemenway were traded in the exchange. 

The Vees welcome all the new players and their families to the South Okanagan. 

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