Vees stockpile Minnesota prospects to build team

The joke on the BCHL message board by one poster refers to the Penticton Vees as the Minnesota Vees.

The joke on the BCHL message board by one poster refers to the Penticton Vees as the Minnesota Vees.

Hockey189 could be forgiven for his wit since returning players Chad Bannor and Joey Benik, who both hail from there will be joined by Reilly brothers Mike, Connor and Ryan, Mario Lucia, Steven Fogarty and Garrett Hendrickson.

Lucia and Fogarty are the most recent announced by the Vees, while no announcement was made regarding Hendrickson.

Lucia, six-foot-two 183-pound forward, is the Minnesota Wild’s second-round pick chosen 60th overall. Last season with Wayzata High School, he scored 25 goals in 24 games and collected 47 points. The top high school player selected in the NHL draft chose the Vees over the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League.

“We are very happy that Mario has decided to play for our organization,” said Vees head coach and GM Fred Harbinson. “We have developed a great relationship throughout the recruiting process. Our staff has continued to work hard this off-season to add different elements to our team. The addition of Mario Lucia will hopefully bring us a another step closer to our ultimate goal.”

Fogarty was recruited from Edina High School and was ranked 90th among North American skaters by Central Scouting and drafted by the New York Rangers in the third round, 72nd overall. Fogarty was an explosive force at centre for the Edina Hornets last season netting 23 goals and adding 17 assists in just 24 games. At six-foot-two and 194 pounds, Fogarty was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey Award as the state’s top high school player.

“Steven is a two-way player that brings more size and scoring ability to our lineup,” said Harbinson. “Our organization has been fortunate to have had three of the top 100 players from this past NHL draft commit to play for us this upcoming season.”

Minnesota Hockey Prospects site describes Fogarty playing “a physical brand of hockey, grinding it out on the boards and getting dirty in front of the net. Bullies his way around the ice, excelling at playing a power game. Has the ability to finish in tight and pick up his fair share of garbage goals. Has pretty good hands for a big guy and can stick handle with the best of them. Passing could use a bit more touch but this is not a glaring weakness. Does not have elite speed but is a mule on his skates.”

With Hendrickson, a graduate of Virginia High School, the Vees have another forward with size (six-foot-one and 175 pounds).

Bound for St. Cloud State University, where Harbinson worked as an assistant coach, the Vees get a rink rat in Hendrickson, which Minnesota Hockey Prospects said has many tools.

“Hendrickson has good size with above average hands and is not afraid to carry the puck in traffic,” said the site. “He bounces off bodychecks well while keeping possession of the puck. Has a good snap shot and nose for the net, which is evident from the 29 regular season goals he scored this season. Was one of the stars in the Elite league this past fall and was named all-state honorable mention last season. Needs to add strength and concentrate more on the defensive side of the game.”

Harbinson said Hendrickson is a good athlete, noting he won a state championship in tennis.

With a strong group of players coming in, Harbinson expects to have a competitive training camp. Harbinson wants to see his collection of players mold into a group that will be able to win a lot of games.

“Everyone gets excited about the players coming in but you can’t forget about the players already here,” said Harbinson, adding that he expects the team to be more skilled than last year. “Have the (Curtis) Loik’s and the (Travis) St. Denis’s. Logan Johnson, Carter Rigby, Cody DePourcq, Troy Stecher coming back. I think we have a lot of size up front. Hopefully have good balance in goal.”

The Vees also acquired Trail native and Smoke Eater scoring whiz Travis St. Denis, giving up Michael Betz and Steven Iacobellis.

“I think Steven is going to be a great player in this league,” said Harbinson. “Had an opportunity to get St. Denis. If we don’t take him he’s going to end up in Vernon or Westside or Salmon Arm and we didn’t want that to happen. St. Denis brings league experience. More importantly, I think what he did against the top teams last year is what solidified to us that we needed to make that move.”