BCHL Next Generation: Penticton Vees

BCHL- The Penticton Vees were the 2021-22 Fred Page Cup champions after finishing first overall in the regular season, then rolling through the BCHL Playoffs with a 16-1 record, including 16 straight victories after dropping their postseason opener.

The Vees will try to run it back again with a large group of returning players, but have also added to their roster throughout the summer.

Only a couple months removed from his fifth BCHL championship, the team’s president, general manager and head coach Fred Harbinson is already geared up for next season and he gives us the scouting report on all the new additions to the team for 2022-23.

New recruits

Dovar Tinling (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Pointe-Claire, Que.
  • Previous team: Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)

Tinling started the 2021-22 season as a sophomore at the University of Vermont, but eventually left to play in the USHL. He took off once arriving in Des Moines, putting up 25 points in 39 games down the stretch. Prior to making the jump to college, Tinling played a season with the Hawkesbury Hawks of the Central Canada Hockey League in Ontario where he amassed 51 points in 50 games as a 16-year-old. He recently participated in Philadelphia Flyers development camp.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He’s an elite offensive centreman. He went to school probably a little early and left after a year-and-a-half at Vermont and we were fortunate enough to be able to recruit him to come here. We’ve got a lot of different combinations that we’re looking at, but he’ll be one of our top centremen. He’s a guy that has produced in the past and hopefully will continue to do so in the future. We’re going to try to round out his game here. He should be an exciting player to work with.”

Luca Di Pasquo (2003, G)

  • Hometown: Livonia, Mich.
  • Previous team: Maryland Black Bears (NAHL)
  • College commitment: Michigan State University

Di Pasquo put up stellar numbers in the North American Hockey League last season. He tied for the fourth best save percentage in the league with a mark of .924 and also posted a 2.31 goals-against average, which was top-10 in the league.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“Di Pasquo never got drafted, but he was ranked 15th among North American goalies. He had a great year in the North American Hockey League, which has always been a strong league for producing goaltenders over the years. He’s a righthanded goaltender, which is something that I haven’t coached before, but it can create some issues for shooters at times. He’s a great kid from what I know from dealing with him through the recruiting process. He’s very mature. He handles the puck well. He should give us a continued ability to have strong goaltending, which we’ve had for quite a few years now.”

Callum Arnott (2004, F)

  • Hometown: King City, Ont.
  • Previous team: St. Andrew’s College (CAHS)

Arnott played the past two seasons at St. Andrew’s and was the team’s second leading point getter in 2021-22 with 41 in 44 games on 15 goals and 26 assists. The 18-year-old played 10 regular-season games with the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League as an affiliate last season and produced 13 points. His brother Grayson played in Penticton the two previous years, but has moved on to the University of Maine.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“We’ve had a number of very strong players come from St. Andrew’s over the years. Callum can play centre or wing. He’s got good hockey sense with strong offensive ability. I think he’s a good character kid that’s going to hopefully grow into a good offensive player for us.”

Hiroki Gojsic (2006, F)

  • Hometown: Langley, B.C.
  • Previous team: St. George’s School U18 Prep (CSSHL U18)

Gojsic led his prep school team with 51 points in 32 games. His 29 goals were also tops on the team, while his 22 assists were just two shy of the team lead. He also participated in Hockey Canada’s Under-17 Development Camp earlier this month.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He’s a big, lanky forward with really high upside to him. He can also play with an edge. We’ll work with him to encourage him to use his body and his physical abilities. We’ll have two 16-year-olds coming in and they’ll each have high ceilings as far as what they’re capable of doing. In both cases, they’re going to have to bide their time on a team that has a lot of veterans. Hiroki has a lot of ability and will be a Division I player for sure. He has the ability to probably play after college as well.”

Billy Norcross (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Lynn, Mass.
  • Previous team: Cushing Academy (USHS-Prep)

Norcross was Cushing’s captain and leading scorer in 2021-22 after notching 31 points on 11 goals and a team-high 20 assists. He was recently invited to Calgary Flames development camp.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“One of the reasons we won last year is because we were well-balanced. Different players had different roles on the team. Casey McDonald is a player that we’re going to miss for his leadership and his physical play, but I think Norcross can come in and supply that. He’s an older rookie, so there’s a lot of confidence in Billy. One of the things that he wants to do is improve his offensive ability and we’re going to help him with that. At the same time, he’s going to provide a lot of physicality, while producing on both sides of the puck.”

Gabriel Guilbault (2006, D)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Burnaby Winter Club U18 Prep (CSSHL U18)

Guilbault was an assist machine for the Burnaby Winter Club last year, chipping in with 18 helpers, which was the most by any defenceman on the team. He added a pair of goals to bring his point total to 20 in 30 contests, good enough for second among BWC blueliners. He’s another player that was invited to Canada’s U17 camp earlier this month.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He’s a really fluid skater. He’ll benefit from the overall group of defencemen we have. It creates challenges for a younger player when you have that many veteran guys, but the positive is that he’s going to get to learn from some very good defencemen that have worked their way through junior hockey. He’s also coming off the under-17 camp where he sustained a lower-body injury, but we’re hopeful to have him still ready for the beginning of the season.”

Acquired via trade

Ben Brunette (2002, D)

  • Hometown: North Bay, Ont.
  • Previous team: Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
  • College commitment: University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Brunette’s Junior A rights were acquired by Penticton from the Powell River Kings in a June trade, but the soon-to-be 20-year-old played last season with Waterloo in the USHL, although he was limited to just 15 games due to injury. During the pod season in 2020-21, Brunette was named the Coquitlam Pod’s Top Defenceman after putting up 10 points in 20 games for Powell River.

Harbinson’s scouting report:

“He gives us six veteran defencemen when you look at [Josh] Niedermayer, [Mason] Poolman, [Frank] Djurasevic, [Owen] Simpson, [Ryan] Hopkins and then Brunette. That gives us six guys with a lot of junior games under their belt. We’re looking forward to Ben coming in here and being a good influence on and off the ice. He should add to an already solid defence corps.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Arnott, Norcross, Brunette), Dave Watling (Guilbault)