You can’t beat Saturday afternoon puck.
Fans across Canada will be back on their couches this weekend, ready to take in the third installment of the CHL on CBC, this time featuring a dual between Alberta rivals in the Calgary Hitmen and Red Deer Rebels, with puck drop set for 3 p.m. Eastern.
To get you ready, here are three reasons why the latest Saturday affair is must-see TV:
A quartet of NHL drafted players will suit up in Saturday’s showdown, at two a side. For Red Deer, that pair includes second-year captain Jayden Grubbe, a seasoned centre who is skating in his third season with the club. A third-round selection by the New York Rangers in the 2021 NHL Draft class, Grubbe was limited to five appearances in last year’s abbreviated campaign, but now looks to follow up on a strong introductory season in 2019-20 that saw him finish first among all Red Deer freshmen with 29 points in 57 games. Meanwhile, the Rebels’ back end features another NHL-bound up-and-comer in Kyle Masters, a smooth skating blue-liner who continues to round out the offensive side of his game. Like Grubbe, Masters heard his name called in the 2021 NHL Draft, going to Minnesota in the following round.
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) October 15, 2021
For the Hitmen, the list of NHL prospects begins with veteran left winger Sean Tschigerl. Originally chosen by Calgary with the fourth pick in the 2018 WHL Draft, the Anaheim Ducks draftee saw an eight-game trial with the Hitmen later that season and has since appeared in 88 contests with the club, highlighted by last year’s shortened season in which he finished second in team scoring with 21 points in as many games. Rounding out the prospects group, 2003-born rearguard Tyson Galloway also brings plenty of promise. Owning always desirable size, the Kamloops, B.C., product is a St. Louis Blues prospect who intrigues talent evaluators with his tantalizing combination of size and skill.
The next wave
Beyond the four prospects already owned by NHL organizations, under the radar this season is Rebels rearguard Jace Weir, a right-shot defender who plays a pro-style game. Originally chosen by Red Deer in the 2019 WHL Draft, the native of Coldstream, B.C., debuted with the club last season, wrapping up his first year with nine points counting two goals and seven assists across 22 contests. The new campaign has seen Weir continue to flash his offensive flair, already with four points through five games entering Friday, tying him for top spot in team scoring with 19-year-old centre Ben King. Early projections see Weir as a possible selection in the top half of the 2022 NHL Draft class.
Jace Weir – (8) @Rebelshockey
Attention to detail matters. Passing lanes. Flow. Leveraging positioning. Jace Weir is often the poster child for smart, efficient, and quality detail of play. You’ll rarely find him rushed or panicked. #2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/WYpIMBaMOG
— Puck Preps Western Canada (@PuckPrepsWestCa) October 4, 2021
Goalie jobs up for grabs
Between both clubs, early-season action has seen the two squads share the duties between the pipes, with neither side having an undisputed starter ahead of Saturday’s showdown. Entering Friday play, Rebels 2003-born netminder Chase Coward has picked up a pair of victories through four appearances, while second stringer Connor Ungar excelled in his lone showing, turning aside 34 shots versus Lethbridge before ultimately falling in a shootout. It’s been much the same in Calgary through the early goings of the new campaign where fourth-year netminder Brayden Peters has come away with 77 saves and a victory through three appearances, while 19-year-old Jack McNaughton is ready to rebound after surrendering six to the Hurricanes earlier this season. Goaltending remains one of the game’s most important positions and all four netminders have shown plenty of upside in the past and the ability to steal the game for their side. Look for some possible bounce-back performances Saturday.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) October 4, 2021