The British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) has long been considered one of the major feeding systems for the NCAA Division 1 men's hockey programs and the team currently leading the way is the Penticton Vees.
The BCHL has a total of 262 former players enhancing their skills on 56 of the 60 NCAA teams in 2016-17 and that number includes more than 30 from the Vees.
Best known among the former Penticton stars are forward Tyson Jost (Kelowna, B.C.) of the reigning national champion University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks and defenceman Dante Fabbro (New Westminster, B.C.) of the Boston University Terriers, who both were important members of the Team Canada silver medal winning squad at the recent IIHF World Junior Championships.
Despite losing both stars to the college ranks after last season, the Vees have not missed a step and are running away with the Interior Division with a 29-7-1 record and a 14 point margin over the second place Vernon Vipers. They are also challenging for the overall lead in the 17-team circuit as they trail just the Wenatchee Wild by just a single point.
The NCAA programs will once again benefit from the Penticton feeder system next year as 14 members of the current 22-man roster have made commitments to U.S. schools for the 2017-18 season and two others are planning the move in 2018-19. Highlighting how well scouted the Vees are by the colleges is the fact that 15 different programs have received those commitments over the next two campaigns.
The Vees' forwards who have signed on to NCAA programs for next season are (hometown in brackets): Nick Jones, North Dakota (Edmonton, Alta.); Ty Amonte, Boston University (Norwell, Mass.); Matt Gosiewski, Harvard Crimson (Wilton, Conn.); Chris Klack, Clarkson Golden Knights (Georgetown, Ont.); Grant Cruikshank, Wisconsin Badgers (Delafield, Wis.); Jamie Armstrong, Northeastern Huskies (Warwick, R.I.); Ryley Risling, Robert Morris Colonials (Medicine Hat, Alta.); and Taylor Ward, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (Kelowna, B.C.).
The defencemen heading to the NCAA next season are: Mitch Meek, Michigan Tech Huskies (Victoria, B.C.); James Miller, New Hampshire Wildcats (Spruce Grove, Alta.); Jonny Tychonick, North Dakota (Calgary, Alta.); Griffin Mendel, Denver Pioneers (Kelowna, B.C.); and Kenny Johnson, Michigan Wolverines (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
The other Penticton player planning to head south of the border is Toronto, Ont.-born goaltender Mathew Robson who will be trying to crack the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers lineup in 2017-18 as a freshman.
The two Vees committed for the 2018-19 campaign are both from Ontario. They are forward Jared Nash from Stratford and defenceman Joseph Leahy from Waterloo. Nash is headed to Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves while Leahy will toil for Cornell Big Red after next season.
The Vees won the BCHL championship (Fred Page Cup) in 2015 and it looks like they're all in for another long playoff run before the majority of this squad heads off to the NCAA.
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