With the National Hockey League’s Regular Season schedule beginning this Wednesday, 15 Wheat Kings alumni have been attending training camps ahead of the 2020-21 season. In no particular order, here’s a look at the first seven Wheat Kings and where they could be playing once the puck drops. Be sure to check in tomorrow when we profile the remaining 8 alumni.
Ryan Pulock – New York Islanders
Pulock signed a new 2-year contract with the Islanders in early November of 2020, keeping the d-man in New York where he’s been thriving for the past 3+ seasons. After being drafted by the Islanders 15th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Pulock has logged 234 games in the NHL scoring 108 points (31G-77A) and registering an impressive +27 from the blueline.
Pulock finished last season with 35 points (10G-25A) and has become a reliable, top pair defenseman for an Islanders team that made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning. The Grandview, Manitoba product finished playoffs with 10 points (2G-8A) in 22 games. With a fresh new contract and a pattern of improvement each season, Pulock will continue to be one of the most important pieces on the Islanders’ roster. Oh, and his great big slapshot that wreaked havoc during his time in the WHL? It’s still very, very hard.
Brayden Schenn – St. Lous Blues
There is no exact number of games or seasons required to signify a ‘veteran’ in the NHL, but it’s safe to say Brayden Schenn has become one. The 29-year old forward has been a steady pro since 2011 and has 658 NHL games to show for it. During his 9 seasons in the NHL, Schenn has made 5 trips into the post-season, the most memorable being 2018-19 when he had a career-high 12 points (5G-7A) en route to his St. Louis Blues winning the Stanley Cup. The former WHL Rookie of the Year with the Wheat Kings has been named an alternate captain for the Blues this season and during training camp has spent the majority of his time skating on the left wing of the 1st line alongside Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron.
Tanner Kaspick – St. Louis Blues
The former Wheat Kings captain who helped win the 2016 WHL Championship has yet to get his first taste of the NHL but has played the majority of his last two seasons with the defunct San Antonio Rampage, the Blues’ AHL affiliate. With the Rampage no longer in existence, the AHL’s Utica Comets will act as a feeder team for both the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues this year. In the early days of Blues training camp, head coach Craig Berube had Kaspick centering the 7th line of forwards (total of 8) between Jake Neighbours and Tyler Tucker. Kaspick finished last season with 14 points (6G-8A) and 33 PIM in 59 games for the Rampage.
Ivan Provorov – Philadelphia Flyers
Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers are no doubt excited for the hockey season to return and they can be just as excited to see their deluxe defenceman back on the ice. Provorov has been a star since joining the Flyers as a 7th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft which should come as no surprise to Wheat Kings fans who were dazzled night in and night out by the Russian superstar’s two seasons spent in the Wheat City. After being awarded the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference heading into playoffs, the Flyers had somewhat of a disappointing end to their season when they were knocked out of the NHL “bubble” by the New York Islanders in the second round. However, Provorov still managed to average .5 points per game during the Flyers’ playoff run scoring 3 goals and 5 assists including the overtime winner to force a game 7 against the Isles.
Along with spending the most time on the ice of any Flyer and the 8th-most among the entire NHL, Provorov finished the shortened 2019-20 regular season with his second-highest points total with 36 points (13G -23A) in 69 games. He will start the season as the top defenceman on the Flyers’ roster as hockey fans continue to wait and see where the talented young player’s ceiling is.
Nolan Patrick – Philadelphia Flyers
Another former Wheat King on the Philadelphia Flyers roster, another reason for the fans in Philly to be excited. After sitting out the entire 2019-20 NHL season with what was diagnosed as a migraine disorder, the #2 overall pick in the 2017 Draft will look to have a big comeback in 2020-21 after a pair of promising seasons from 2017 to 2019.
So far from his rookie and sophomore seasons alone, Patrick has 26 goals and 35 assists in 145 games. If the lines that Head Coach, Alain Vigneault has been running in training camp prove to be the same on opening night, Patrick will find himself between a wealth of veteran experience in Jacob Vorachek and James van Riemsdyk on the third line.
John Quenneville – Chicago Blackhawks
After a very promising 2019-20 NHL post season that had Quenneville playing on the ‘Hawks first line alongside team captain Jonathon Toews in a Game 5 elimination game, Chicago has recently placed Quenneville on waivers. Should he clear, he could very likely return to Chicago’s AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs.
After winning the WHL Championship with the Wheat Kings in 2016, Quenneville has logged 42 games in the NHL tallying 2 goals and 3 assists. The majority of his pro career so far has been spent in the AHL playing for the Binghampton Devils and IceHogs, scoring 141 points ( 59G-82A) in 174 games.
Stelio Mattheos – Carolina Hurricanes
21-year old Mattheos’ pro career has so far been nothing short of a whirlwind. Mattheos played 16 games for the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers last season after returning from beating testicular cancer, which was discovered just a day after Mattheos and the Checkers won the Calder Cup the previous season. Between battling cancer and a COVID-19-shortened season, Mattheos has had an abbreviated exposure to the pro ranks. If he isn’t able to crack a talented Hurricanes roster right out of training camp, he will belong to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL as the Checkers are one of 3 teams who have opted out of competing this season due to COVID-19. But no matter where Mattheos plays during the 2020-21 season, his talent and resiliency will be sure to show through. After scoring 182 points (87G-99A) in his final 2 seasons in Brandon, Wheat Kings and hockey fans alike want to see him healthy and playing hockey.