Regina Pats get 2023-24 season underway in Brandon

A new-looked Regina Pats team will begin the season tonight in Brandon against the Wheat Kings.

Off the ice, with the retirement of John Paddock, Alan Millar will take over as the Pats General Manager with Brad Herauf as the new head coach.

Regina will be without six players from last year’s squad. Connor Bedard will begin his professional career with the Chicago Blackhawks. Defenceman Stanislav Svozil (Columbus) and Alexander Suzdalev (Washington) are also not returning.

Due to graduation, the Pats also lost defencemen Luke Bateman, Tanner Brown and forward Riley Ginnell.

Even with the significant departures, there will be 17 players returning to the squad in 2023-24, including forwards Brayden Barnett, Tanner Howe, Matteo Michels, Sam Oremba, Zane Rowan, Zackary Shantz, Tye Spencer, Zack Stringer, Borya Valis, Jaxsin Vaughan and Braxton Whitehead. On the backend, the Pats have defencemen Parker Berge, Layton Feist, Corbin Vaughan, and Carter Herman returning, with goaltenders Kelton Pyne and Drew Sim.

Photo: Keith Hershmiller/Regina Pats

The Pats claimed 20-year-old defenceman Keegan Slaney off waivers from the Calgary Hitmen. Along with Stringer and Sim, the trio will serve as the team’s 20-year-old players.

Howe was named the newest captain of the Pats on Thursday, joining Bedard and Barret Jackman as the only 17-year-old captain in team history.

The Prince Albert product is coming off an 85-point (36G-49A) season with the Pats. Many draft experts predict Howe will be a first-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft.

Valis is another player expected to be a key contributor upfront after collecting 48 points (20G-28A) in the 2022-23 campaign.

A trio of players looking to carry over their late-season success into this year are Tye Spencer Braxton Whitehead and Sam Oremba. Spencer finished last season with eight points (4G-4A) over his last 13 regular season games. Whitehead tallied 17 points (7G-17A) over his final 26 games. Oremba produced 14 points (6G-8A) in 23 games to end the season.

The Brandon Wheat Kings didn’t make the postseason in 2022-23 for the first time since 2018-19.

Last year was the first time the Wheat Kings were below .500 since 2012-13.

Tonight will mark the first of eight meetings between the Pats and Wheat Kings during the regular season. Only one of the contests will take place in the new year (March 22 @ Regina).

Coverage for tonight’s games begins at 5:35 on RM. The opening faceoff with Dante De Caria is at 6:00.

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