Matthew Wedman signs AHL contract

Ex-Rocket inks pro deal

Former Kelowna Rocket forward Matthew Wedman is ready to start his professional career..

Wedman signed a one-year contract with the American Hockey League's Charlotte Checkers Monday.

The announcement was made by Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito. The Checkers are the AHL affiliate of the Panthers.

Wedman, acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds in December, was named the Rockets Most Valuable Player, despite only suiting up for 35 games.

During that span, he posted 17 goals and 19 assists.

Originally selected by Florida in the seventh round of the 2019 NHL draft, Wedman amassed 211 points, including 92 goals, in 310 career WHL games.

The AHL announced back in the summer its intention to start a new season Dec. 4.

Western Hockey league will play with, or without fans

WHL in a COVID world

Owners of the 22 teams which make up the Western Hockey League will face "significant financial losses" during what will be an abbreviated regular season.

Just how deep those losses will be will be determined by health officials in the four provinces, plus Washington and Oregon state that lay claim to those teams.

After unveiling two tentative return to play dates, the WHL Wednesday announced it will definitely begin play Jan. 8.

During a conference call Thursday, league commissioner Ron Robison stated that, while the league hopes to meet its objective of having 50 per cent fan capacity by that date, he admits that may not happen everywhere, if at all.

"We recognize ultimately that will be determined by the health authorities through our discussions with them," said Robison.

"Those discussions are ongoing, and we're looking forward to getting some clarification on that soon. But, the number may be significantly lower than 50 per cent, given the health restrictions that apply in various provinces and states currently."

Robison says it will be a challenge for owners to navigate through the next several months, but doesn't believe any of the clubs are in danger of folding as a result.

"It's very difficult circumstances we find ourselves in. From an ownership perspective, I admire their commitment to the players, to get a season started, to work our way through this.

"But, there is going to be significant financial losses for all of our clubs without question."

Robison says the plan the league has laid out would include a maximum 50-game schedule concluding May 2.

Teams would play within their own divisions for the regular season to eliminate cross-border travel which is not allowed in many cases. The league is working with governments of both Saskatchewan and Manitoba to allow travel between provinces to accommodate teams within the Eastern Division, which include two clubs in Manitoba and five in Saskatchewan.

As for playoffs, Robison says the league hopes to be able to run a complete playoff schedule, but admits those discussions have not yet taken place internally.

"Of course, that will depend on the staging of the Memorial Cup, and the ability for us to have full inter-conference playoffs with the border opening...whether that will be in place at that time.

"We are going to have to make that decision later in the season."

With each of the six jurisdictions at different points in their recovery, Robison says the league is also wading through the different protocols in place in different provinces and sports in terms of cohorts and quarantining between games.

Those details, he says, are still being worked out.

While the league has not yet gone to various levels of government for financial assistance, Robison says that could change if fan capacity is less than what the league expects.

Kelowna Rockets forward Pavel Novak was taken in the fifth round of the NHL draft

Rocket pair drafted to NHL

Two Kelowna Rockets heard their name called Wednesday during the final day of the NHL draft.

Pavel Novak had to wait a little longer than expected before he was selected.

The Kelowna Rockets forward, a native of the Czech Republic, was selected in the fifth round, 146th overall, by the Minnesota Wild.

He was ranked 85th by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters heading into the two-day draft.

Novak, who led the team in scoring during his rookie year, was the only Rocket selected during this year's draft.

A year ago, the Rockets led the CHL with four players taken, including two (Lassi Thomson and Nolan Foote), in the first round.

Defenceman Michael Kruitl was also selected. He was taken in the fourth round, 110th overall by Chicago.

Kruitl has yet to suit up for the Rockets after being selected 24th overall in this year's European draft.

He has been limited to just 70 games over the past two seasons due to injuries.

Two other players with ties to the team were also taken.

Kelowna native Jack Finley was selected in the second round, 57th overall, but the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Finley plays with Spokane in the WHL.

His father Jeff played for six teams during a 13 year NHL career.

He also spent two season as an assistant coach with the Rockets before turning his attention to scouting.

Ethan Bowen, a Rocket second round bantam selection, was taken late in the seventh round by Anaheim.

Kelowna Rocket forward expected to hear his name called during this week's NHL draft

Novak on NHL radar

Normally, Western Hockey League players are into the early throws of a brand new season in early October.

But, as we know all too well, this is not a normal year.

Instead of practicing line rushes and forechecking strategies, junior-age players hope to hear their name called over the next 48 hours during the NHL entry draft.

The draft was pushed to tomorrow and Wednesday with the NHL season pushed into the fall due to COVID-19.

Kelowna Rockets forward Pavel Novak expects to be one of those players lucky enough to get the call from an NHL team.

The Czech product is ranked 85th on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

Factoring in European players expected to go in the draft, Novak should be taken somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.

Named the team's rookie-of-the-year during the shortened WHO season, Novak put up 58 points, including 25 goals in his rookie campaign. He led the team in points, goals and game-winning goals and was tied for the club lead with eight power play goals.

Novak is expected to be the only Rocket to be selected during the two-day draft.

Last year, the Rockets led the CHL with four players selected, including Lassi Thomson, (19th Ottawa) and Nolan Foote (27th, Tampa) who went in the first round.

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