The Penticton Vees announced Monday morning that highly touted rookies Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost are returning for their second season in the BCHL.
Fabbro and Jost, who are considered two of the top ‘98-born players in Canada, received heavy interest at both the major junior and National Collegiate Athletic Association level, but will be in Vees colours come September, and will be looking to build upon breakout rookie campaigns.
Also staying put is president, general manager and head coach Fred Harbinson.
“People say what more can I do in Penticton with the Vees? The fact is no matter where I coach it’s my job to have an impact and develop players,” said Harbinson in a team statement. “I have the ability to work with some of the most talented up and coming players in North America right here in Penticton — which is shown when players such as Tyson and Dante choose Penticton as a launching pad to the NHL.
“Every year there are new players and new challenges — there is plenty left to accomplish,” continued Harbinson.
Jost, 17, had a terrific season finishing fourth in team scoring in the regular season, as he averaged nearly a point per-game, with 23 goals and 45 points in 46 games; his 23 goals were tied for the team lead. Those numbers didn’t go unnoticed, as he was named to the BCHL All-Rookie team this spring. Jost found another gear in the playoffs, scoring a team-best 10 goals in 21 BCHL playoff games, en route to the Vees Fred Page Cup Championship win over Nanaimo. He turned heads at the Western Canada Cup (WCC), compiling five goals and six points as the Vees won their first ever WCC championship in franchise history. Jost was also named the tournament’s Top Forward and Top Scorer.
He shined on the national stage as well, picking up three goals and four points at the 2015 RBC Cup in Portage la Prairie, Man. He also is the first player to have played in all four Hockey Canada tournaments. He won bronze at the 2014 Telus Cup with the Okanagan Rockets, suited up for Canada at both the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge, and helped the Vees to a semi-final berth at the RBC Cup.
Fabbro excelled on the Vees blueline this year. The 16-year-old was the third-highest scoring defencemen on the Vees roster compiling 33 points in just 44 games; international duty had him miss 12 games. That regular season earned him a spot on the BCHL All-Rookie team alongside Jost. Despite being the Vees youngest rear-guard, Fabbro excelled in the BCHL post-season, as he was the highest-scoring defenceman, notching four goals and 15 points in 21 playoff games, helping the Vees capture their second league championship in four years. Fabbro, like Jost, wore the maple leaf at both the World Under-17 Challenge and World Junior ‘A’ Challenge.
Jost and Fabbro have been projected as first round draft picks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by numerous hockey publications.
Prior to the weekend the Vees also announced that three Okanagan Hockey Academy products committed for the 2015-2016 season. Defencemen Griffin Mendel (99) and Sam Jones (97), and forward Taylor Ward (98) will swap red for Vees blue.
“OHA has been a tremendous partner for the Vees over many years now. We are fortunate to have such a high-performance program so geographically close to the team,” said Harbinson. “We’ve never had so many OHA players join our squad in one year and I believe the pipeline to the Vees in future years looks equally exciting.
“We have made it a priority to add more local talent to our program. We want Vees fans to be proud of our local players, and with Cody DePourcq now graduated, we are very pleased to have three such talented and dedicated South Okanagan kids – both on the ice and in the classroom – joining our program.”
Mendel, 16, won the Canadian Sports Schools Hockey League (CSSHL) Prep Division championship this past spring with the OHA Prep White team. At six-foot-two, the rear-guard is known as a responsible, intelligent defenceman who can play in all situations and possesses a heavy shot from the point. Griffin was a first-round selection in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, going 11th overall to the Kootenay Ice. Mendel’s potential has caught the eye of many top National Collegiate Athletic Association Division l programs, and he appeared in two games this past season as an affiliate player.
Jones, who turns 18 in November, played for OHA Prep Red, in the CSSHL. Jones, who was born in Birmingham, England, according to www.eliteprospects.com, averaged over a point per-game on the blue-line this past season, amassing 31 points in 28 games. Jones was the highest scoring defenceman on OHA Red, and finished second in CSSHL Prep League scoring. The six-foot-two blue-liner is known as a strong skater, who like Mendel, has a hard shot from the point. Jones, who has been with the OHA for five season, has an upside the Vees like. In 2014-15, Jones played five games as an affiliate player with the Summerland Steam.
Ward won a CSSHL championship with Mendel and finished second in team scoring with 50 points in 28 games. The 17-year-old forward had a team-best 41 assists and possesses a strong hockey IQ.
Ward parlayed his regular season success into the CSSHL playoffs, where he showed strong, two-way forward habits and helped OHA Prep White to a Prep Division Championship. Those traits should come as no surprise, as his father Dixon Ward played over 500 games in the NHL with Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto, Buffalo and the New York Rangers.
Ward has caught the eye of several NCAA Division I programs, and scored his first career BCHL goal this past season with the Vees against West Kelowna.