NANAIMO — The Clippers are preparing for their 46th season which begins on Saturday against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The BCHL club has revamped its roster and the hockey and office staff.
They've also updated their hockey office at Frank Crane Arena and are in the process of revonating the team dressing room.
The roster has just two returnees in Brady Lynn and Josh Bourne.
Lynn is the longest serving Clipper playing in 79 games over the last two seasons and notching 29 points.
He'll be wearing a letter as an assistant captain.
It's a big responsibility I think and it's pretty exciting to have that role on the team. A lot of guys look up to you so you have to play that role out and lead by example," said Lynn.
Josh Bourne will also wear an A and is looking to build off a good run of offense since he joined the team part way through last season from the KIJHL.
He had 20 points in 22 games and seems in good form with goals in three of the five exhibition games he played this year.
Coach Darren Naylor is still deciding on his roster with some hard decisions still coming as the team gets ready to host Cowichan Valley on Saturday.
Naylor isn't down to his 23 man roster yet.
"We're sitting at 26 right now in camp. There's still a couple of in house battles right now. In the next 48 hours will get it down even further," said Naylor.
On Wednesday the team announced that Marcus Mitchell would be the team captain, taking over from Jamie Collins who is moving on to Clarkson University in the NCAA.
Mitchell has played in 146 games and has 71 points split between Salmon Arm and Penticton.
The 19-year-old is entering his final season of junior hockey and was impressive in the preseason with four goals in five games.
The other assistants are Jordan Dawson and Nick Wilson.
Dawson was picked up in a trade recently after playing in the WHL with Edmonton and the BCHL with Langley.
Wilson came to the Clippers in a multi player trade with the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The massive deal sent David Melaragni, Lucas Vanroboys, and Preston Brodziak to the Caps with Wilson, Ethan Scardina, and Jonathan Stein coming back to Nanaimo.
In total the Capitals have four ex Clippers on their roster and their bench boss is former Nanaimo coach Mike Vandekamp.
Wilson says it's going to strange to play his old team right out of the gate but he won't be distracted by it.
"I believe that the correct mindset to go into the game is just go out, play my game, play some hockey. Definitely it is exciting playing against the old team, and the hockey opener is also a big thing," explained Wilson.
For fans and media the matchup has been talked about since the BCHL schedule came out early in the summer.
The game is bound to be emotional with friendships on both sides and players with something to prove against their former clubs.
Brady Lynn says he's got good friends who are now playing down in Duncan but it's 'friendship off' when the Clippers and Capitals play head to head.
There's every reason to think that this Island Division eight game season series could be one of the best head to head rivalries in the entire BCHL.
Some of the new names that fans should pay attention to are 16-year-old Kyler Kovich out of Coquitlam, and 18-year-old Tyler Willams from Michigan.
Kovich had 41 points in 37 games last year with the Vancouver NE Chiefs of the BCMML and Williams had 11 points in 30 games with his Belle Tire midget team in Detroit.
Williams was one of the most notable players in training camp because of his speed, and his also scored two preseason goals.
This season Nanaimo had a heavy dose of exhibition games which made sense considering so many newcomers.
They went 3-2-0-1 and the club was very impressive in their final two contests beat Alberni Valley 6-0 and Powell River 6-2.
Clippers OT winner vs Powell River Aug 26:
The Island Division really does appear to up for grabs this year.
The only long time coach of his team is Craig Didmon with the Victoria Grizzlies.
Victoria will be a team that garners a lot of attention this year because of forward Alex Newhook who appears destined to be a high NHL draft pick.
He was the BCHL's Rookie of the Year in 2017-18 and will be a player the Clippers will have to watch very closely in their head to head matchups.
Nanaimo, Alberni Valley, Cowichan Valley and Powell River all will have aspirations of being elite teams but even watching those teams through the exhibition season it's hard to predict who will actually emerge as strong contenders.
The Clippers will get a good look at every divisional opponent in the next three weeks.
They play Cowichan in the season opener on Saturday and then Alberni Valley on Sunday afternoon.
On the 14th and 15th they'll be in Powell River for a double header, and they'll host Victoria on Sunday the 23rd.
Darren Naylor Interview
Nick Wilson Interview
Brady Lynn Interview
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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