Vees get head start on future with recruits

Vees recruit Zach Stepan, Noah Henry and Evan Anderson for 2013

While Curtis Loik and the Vees worked to take a 2-1 series lead on the Chilliwack Chiefs

While Curtis Loik and the Vees worked to take a 2-1 series lead on the Chilliwack Chiefs

A red light flickered behind BCHL goalies 334 times thanks to the juggernaut offence the Penticton Vees.

With most of those talented weapons leaving on National Collegiate Athletic Association scholarships next season, the Vees need to replenish the cupboards.

Entering the fold for 2012-13 are Zach Stepan, Noah Henry and Evan Anderson. Anderson, 17, is the most recent recruit  and hails from Colorado. He suited up for the Thunderbirds major midget under-18 team in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League. The T-birds won the Rocky Mountain District Championship. Anderson scored 15 goals and collected 31 points in 39 games. His skill level is measured without the puck as he takes pride in his defensive play.

“I’m playing centre this year and that means being a two-way player and being dependable in your end,” said Anderson.

“Evan is a big kid with a power-forward frame that will excel down low in the offensive zone and isn’t shy about using his body to create space,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “He’s a player we have been tracking for the last couple of seasons and not surprisingly is drawing heavy NCAA interest.”

Anderson said it was an easy decision once he visited Penticton.

“Everyone was very welcoming, the coaching staff were great to me and everything was just first-class,” said Anderson. “Watching their games and seeing how big their crowds were got me really excited.”

Stepan, 17, is the cousin of New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan and a top prospect for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh. He is ranked 44th amongst North American Skaters in the mid-term rankings by NHL Central Scouting. The centre is described as having a good shot with great vision and excels at distributing the puck. His numbers with Shuttuck-St. Mary’s Prep School Sabres echo the scouting report. Through 42 games he has 18 goals and 56 points. The Wisconsin native is set to join the Ohio State Buckeyes in the fall of 2013.

“It speaks volumes for the BCHL and the Vees organization that a player of Zach’s stature has picked Penticton for his next stop in his hockey development,” said Harbinson. “Zach is clearly a player that is going to help us immediately. He is a two-way player, competes hard with and without the puck. Has a heck of a knack for the offensive side of the game. He is a great kid.”

Stepan said the Vees are a proven team and their success speaks for itself.

“It’s one of the top programs in junior hockey, the winning this year and in years past, plus their track record for developing players stands out,” said Stepan.

Henry, also 17, will be a key piece to the Vees defensive core. He brings a well-balanced mix of size and speed as well as offensive punch with 29 points in 49 games, third best amongst Sabres defensemen.

“Henry continues the long line of strong skating defenseman the Vees have had over the years,” said Harbinson, who mentioned Joey Laleggia, Mike Reilly and Troy Stecher. “He will be an integral part of our teams’ defensive depth next season.”

Harbinson likes his speed and is impressed with Henry’s skating ability, noting the defenceman gets pucks to the net.

For Henry, it’s about what the program offers.

“I felt really comfortable with everything, the coaching staff, the top-notch facility and the city is great as well,” he said. “Coach Harbinson and his staff made me feel at ease and I am really excited for the chance to play for a great organization.”