After the 100 Mile House Wranglers withdrew from the 2020-21 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Head Coach and General Manager Dale Hladun headed to Central Canada.
The long-time KIJHL coach spent time with his family in Shoal Lake, Manitoba. It wasn’t a full on vacation for Hladun though. He reconnected with friends in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and helped run hockey practices for his nephew’s high school team. He used those opportunities at home to scout talent and recruit “a bit of Eastern flavour” for this season, which wasn’t easy. His lone returning player from the Wranglers’ 2019-20 roster is La Ronge’s Chase Vancoughnett-Lafleur.
“With the limited amount of hockey, usually you get to at least see kids at provincials, so not seeing any players was not easy to start recruiting,” says Hladun.
He leaned on his network of friends and researched on the internet. He also did a lot of driving and scouting, evaluating to get reads on kids.
“I don’t think we’re any different than every other club in that none of us really knew the majority of kids we were trying to recruit,” he says.
Among the players to head west to 100 Mile House from Manitoba is Rylan Kent, who played with Hladun’s nephew’s high school team. There is also Rory McNabb and Cody Oertel, who played for the Yellowhead Chiefs U18 squad where Hladun lived in Shoal Lake. Spending time with Waywayseecappo Wolverines Head Coach and General Manager Taylor Harnett resulted in the Wranglers landing potential MJHL prospects Christian Gambler and Cadence Mentuck, who Harnett would like to see make his team next season.
Hladun also landed Curtis Coffin, who was playing in the Pilot Mound Academy and tried out for the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders. Hladun was also able to recruit B.C. talent.
The Wranglers have Finley Enns and Jace Myers from Williams Lake; Colton Thon, Kaden Ernst and Garth Rasmussen from Quesnel; Bryce Hochachka and Tyler Lalikeas from Prince George. There is veteran goalie Casey Thomson, whose family moved to Clinton.
“We lucked out too, a local kid named Ethan Sanders, is from 100 Mile,” says Hladun. “He has played in Kamloops the last three years. A wonderful player and kid. It’s nice to be able to build with a piece from home. It’s awesome to have a local player.”
Another 100 Mile House player is Tanner Hooper. The other B.C. products are Vancouver’s Solomon Oldham, Houston’s Reid Stumpf and Matt Tucker from Smithers.
Hladun joked that the first day of tryouts was more like running a hockey school.
“Some of those prairie kids truly were on the combine until they got here,” he says. “It will take time.
“To use a golf term, our front nine, we’re going to need a mulligan here and there,” Hladun continued. “We will probably have to find where we are going to drop the ball. I think our back nine of the season will be pleasantly surprised, if not surprising a few clubs.”