Calgary, Alta. – For the 14th time in franchise history, the Brandon Wheat Kings are East Division Champions, and for the first time ever, recipients of the Subway Cup.
The Subway Cup was created for the 2020-21 WHL Regular Season, presented to the Champion of the WHL Subway Hub Centre, which played host to the WHL’s East Division in Regina, Sask.
The presentation of the Subway Cup marks the conclusion of an unprecedented campaign in the East Division, which included rigorous protocols to ensure the health and safety of all players, staff and officials involved. Ongoing testing for COVID-19 was conducted to maintain the integrity of the WHL’s Subway Hub, with a total of 1,930 tests for COVID-19 revealing zero positives cases in the WHL’s East Division from March 5 through April 24.
“The 2020-21 WHL Season will enter the history books unlike any season prior,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “The WHL commends all players, staff, and officials, who sacrificed their normal way of life to enter the WHL Hub Centre and play with their same fierce competitiveness that is renowned with the Western Hockey League.
“In such a unique and challenging season as this, it is important to recognize the accomplishments of our teams and we are pleased to present the Brandon Wheat Kings with the Subway Cup – the first time a championship trophy has been presented to a WHL Division Champion. Many thanks to our corporate partner Subway® for serving as the official title partner for the Subway Hub Centre and making this all possible.”
With a record of 18-4-2-0 and 38 points through a 24-game regular season schedule, the Brandon Wheat Kings reign supreme as the top team in the East Division. No team in the East Division scored more than the Wheat Kings, who racked up an impressive 104 goals for in 24 games (4.33 goals per game). On the defensive side, the Wheat Kings were also the stingiest team in the East Division, allowing a mere 61 goals in 24 games (2.54 goals against per game).
This represents the first time since the 2015-16 season that the Wheat Kings stand atop the East Division. That season, the Club went 48-18-4-2 (102 points), finishing first in Eastern Conference before eventually marching to the WHL Championship and defeating the Seattle Thunderbirds in five games to claim the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
The Wheat Kings defeated every other team in the East Division at least once throughout the campaign. The high-powered offense of the Wheat Kings was fuelled by Arizona Coyotes prospect Ben McCartney, who finished second in East Division scoring with 37 points (13G-24A) in 24 games, along with 21-year-old right winger Lynden McCallum, who led the East Division in goal scoring with 21.
McCartney, a 19-year-old product of Macdonald, Man., was selected by the Coyotes in the seventh round (204th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft. He has been a mainstay for the Wheat Kings since the 2017-18 campaign after being selected in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2016 WHL Draft.
In typical fashion, a strong contingency of nine players from the Keystone province paced the Wheat Kings to the top of the East Division, including four players hailing from Brandon – forwards Ty Thorpe, Nolan Ritchie, McCallum, and defenceman Rylan Thiessen.
Beyond McCartney, a bright group of NHL prospects contributed to the success of the Wheat Kings in 2020-21, including Ottawa Senators prospect Ridly Greig and New York Rangers prospect Braden Schneider.
While McCartney and Greig (10G-22A) paced the offense, Schneider anchored the blue line, making his presence felt at both ends of the rink. A 19-year-old product of Prince Albert, Sask., the 6-foot-2, 210-pound captain of the Wheat Kings produced 27 points (5G-22A) and maintained a plus-18 rating, setting the tone physically along the way as well.
Behind the bench, first-year Head Coach Don MacGillivray proved more than capable of taking over the reins, while former General Manager Darren Ritchie and newly-minted GM Doug Gasper built a quality roster for MacGillivray to deploy.
About the Western Hockey League
Regarded as the world’s finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 375 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canada’s National Junior Hockey Team.