At the top of the WHL’s BC Division are the Vancouver Giants with a 30-12-2-0 record. Equipped with some star power, primarily on defense, the Giants play stingy hockey and shut down the best of teams.
One concern heading into the Jan. 10 trade deadline, was the Giants’ lack of a premier goal-scorer in their top six. Expectations were elevated as there were a handful of star players on the market. Regardless, a blockbuster deal never happened and aside from a few minor deals, the Giants stood pat.
It appears that management made the right call. A certain calm has spread through the organization since the deadline – everyone knows their roles and there is cohesion. The Giants are undefeated since the deadline (6-0-0-0), including a huge victory over the nationally top-ranked Prince Albert Raiders 3-1.
Giants’ Stars Are Shining
The key to the Giants’ success this season has been the fact that their star players are shining – Bowen Byram, Davis Koch, Milos Roman, David Tendeck and Trent Miner have all been terrific.
Byram has been a stud on the back end for the G-men this season, propelling himself up the rankings for the coming NHL Entry Draft set to take place in, where else?, Vancouver.
The Cranbrook, BC product has notched 16 goals for 43 points in 44 games. The Giants were built with defense at the forefront. Byram is second in team scoring, but the 2001-born blue-liner is more than just a point-per-game player. He is also rock-solid defensively and logs a lot of minutes against opposing stars at even strength and on the penalty kill.
Between the pipes, Tendeck and Miner are the best goaltending one-two punch in the WHL and both are among the top-five goalies in the league. Tendeck, an Arizona Coyotes prospect, has 27 starts and 16 wins and Miner has posted 13 wins in 18 starts. Having two phenomenal starters at their disposal gives the Giants a lot of flexibility and a certain advantage for back-to-backs or long road trips.
Miner ranked sixth among North American goalies in the recent NHL’s 2019 Draft Prospect Rankings. At 6-feet, Miner isn’t the tallest of goalies, but he makes up for it with premier athleticism and fundamental play.
“Solid goaltending is one of the key foundations for an organization,” said former General Manager Glen Hanlon. “Trent is a highly rated goaltender that gives us stability in a key position for a long time. He is a very competitive player that his teammates will feed off of and the fans will enjoy.”
Up front, 20-year-old Davis Koch is leading the team in scoring with 18 goals and 49 points in 44 games. Since coming to Vancouver at the 2017-18 WHL Trade Deadline, Koch has been an offensive catalyst for the G-men. His hockey-IQ and experience in the league generally have him a play ahead of everyone, which generates a lot of open ice and scoring opportunities.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 14, 2019
“Davis Koch is a dynamic player, a game-changer, and a proven scorer in the WHL and his leadership and experience will be a welcomed addition to our organization,” said Hanlon.
Also shining up front has been Calgary Flames prospect, Milos Roman. The Slovakian-born forward brings a lot of offense to the table for the Giants. Roman has 18 goals and 37 points in 38 contests this season.
“We are glad to add a top-six forward to our group,” said Hanlon. “Milos is a highly skilled and entertaining player who makes his linemates better with his vision and creativity.”
The ex-GM said it best: his vision and creativity with the puck are really what separates him from the pack. Roman has a knack for creating something out of nothing.
Vancouver Giants Chemistry
Line juggling is commonplace in major junior hockey. It can be tough to find the combination that clicks and creates offence, or prevents it. The Giants have been rolling the same combos for weeks now and they’ve had chemistry. With the exception of the fourth-line left wing position, there are no changes at all game in and game out.
Koch, Tristen Nielsen and newcomer Jadon Joseph are the perfect representation of this. In the six games since the deadline, the trio has combined for 31 points.
“We’re starting to click now and make some good plays. Bringing Jadon onto our line brings some life that we needed and it’s been working out very well,” said Davis Koch of the Vancouver Giants.
With steady contributions from the top-three lines, the Giants are now comfortable with their depth. Their defensive corps is more of the same. Byram and Washington Capitals prospect, Alex Kannok Leipert are lights out together. They are both not the biggest defenders but their skating and composure make them very solid in all three zones.
On the bottom pair, new addition Dallas Hines is now skating with Kaleb Bulych. The duo form a very big and very aggressive shut down defensive pairing. Combined, they stand at 12-foot-7 and roughly 395 pounds.
2018-19 Giants Verdict
Simply put, this team is a contender for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, the trophy awarded to the WHL Playoffs Champions. The Giants’ depth is, for the most part, unrivalled in the WHL and they are going to win a lot of games down the stretch.
Their defensive prowess allows them to shut the door on powerhouse teams like the Raiders. On the flip side, their depth up front and offence from the back end gives them the ability to put the puck in the net too. It doesn’t hurt that they have two of the best goalies in the league in their net.
What do you think about the Giants? Are they the real deal?
Matt is a longtime fan, player and student of the game of hockey. Broadcast and Online Journalism student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.