As the Conference Semi Finals of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs passed the midway point this weekend, the Brandon Wheat Kings have several former players in key roles on the remaining teams in contention.
Mark Stone added to his playoff points total with 3 assists on Sunday night as his Vegas Golden Knights downed the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 and took a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference Semi-Final series.
Stone – who skated for the Wheat Kings from 2008 to 2012 and played in the WHL playoffs for all 4 seasons spent in Brandon – assisted on Max Pacioretty’s goal to open the scoring at 9:28 in the first period. Stone also assisted on the final two Vegas goals of the game in the third period, bringing his 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs points total up to 14 (6G-8A). He’s now tied for 8th in the league in Playoff points.
Stone shares a bench with another former Wheat King and fellow Winnipeg, MB product Ryan Reaves who has 4 assists in a career-high 12 playoff games so far for the Knights. While perhaps not as big a danger as Stone on the score sheet, Reaves has been excellent in providing a physical presence that continues to pester the Canucks.
Russian-born defenceman Ivan Provorov (Wheat Kings 2014-2016) continues to be a key member of the Philadelphia Flyers’ playoff push, scoring his second goal of the post-season late in the third period of the Flyers’ 3-2 loss to Ryan Pulock and the New York Islanders. Provorov leads all Flyers with time spent on the ice and now has 5 PTS (2G-3A) as the Flyers are down 3-1 in the series.
Ryan Pulock – a member of the Wheat Kings from 2010-2014 – has been a pivotal member of the Islanders’ stifling defence and has 7 points (1G- 6A) to show for it. The former Wheat King captain and product of Grandview, MB ranks second on the Islanders’ roster for Time On Ice so far this post season and is sitting at +4.
The Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Calvert (Wheat Kings 2007-2010) remains on the injured reserve list and has yet to play in their series against the Dallas Stars. He sits with 3 points (1G-2A) in the 8 games he’s dressed so for during the post-season.
The Dallas Stars don’t feature any former Wheat Kings on the ice but they do have a connection to the Wheat Kings in assistant coach Derek Laxdal, who played for Brandon from 1984-1986. Laxdal was promoted to his current role mid-way through this season after head coaching the AHL’s Texas Stars for the past 6 seasons. During his extensive playing and coaching career, Laxdal also head coached the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings for three seasons from 2010-2013.
The aforementioned Vancouver Canucks are still without former Wheat King Micheal Ferland who left the ice after fighting the Minnesota Wild’s Nick Foligno in the Canucks’ playoff qualifying series. Ferland played for the Wheat Kings from 2009-2013 and his physical presence is undoubtedly missed by the Canucks as they now face elimination against the Vegas Golden Knights.