REGINA — When the Western Hockey League regular season starts this weekend, the Regina Pats will take their first steps towards achieving postseason success.
The Pats hope to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2018. Last season the squad finished last in the East Division.
A lot of eyes will be on the Pats this season with talented forward Connor Bedard being draft eligible in 2023. Last season he was the youngest player in WHL history to score 50 goals in a season. The Pats open the season Friday at home against Moose Jaw and then are in the national spotlight on Saturday as their contest in Moose Jaw is the CHL TV Game of the Week.
A member of Canada’s gold medal-winning 2022 World Junior Ice Hockey championship team. Bedard obviously get a lot of attention – for good reason. He paced the Pats last season with 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games. However, the Regina organization also has talent around him
Upfront, Tanner Howe was second last season on the squad with 27 goals and 69 points. It was his first full WHL season. Last summer he helped Canada win gold at the U18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The Pats have added forward Alexander Suzdalev. The team picked him in the 2021 CHL import draft and Suzdalev was grabbed by Washington in the third round of the 2022 NHL Draft. Bedard and Suzdalev were teammates in Sweden in the fall of 2020 when the start of the WHL season was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speedy forward Tye Spencer paced the Pats in scoring in their 4-1 preseason. He had six points, including two goals, in five games. Defenceman Parker Berge recorded four goals over four exhibition games. That tied him with Bedard, who played two preseason tilts, for the team lead.
Last season goaltending was, at times, a cause for concern. The Pats posted a 4.33 goals against average and had the league’s lowest save percentage at .859. However, the position could be an area of strength this season. The team added Koen MacInnis from Everett in the offseason. Last season he had 2.60 GAA, a .909 save percentage, three shutouts, and a 21-7-2-3 record. Returning goalie Matthew Kieper gained valuable experience last year. In the Central Scouting’s final pre-draft rankings. he was 25th among North American netminders. Fellow returner Drew Sim did not allow a goal in the parts of two games he appeared during the preseason.