The Victoria Royals have started the 2021-22 Western Hockey League season in a somewhat rare overage situation.
Forwards Bailey Peach and Evan Patrician, and defenceman Neithan Salame, the club’s three 20-year-olds, played elsewhere last season.
“That hardly ever happens, you usually have at least one or two, if not all three coming up through your organization,” said Royals’ Head Coach and General Manager Dan Price.
Price says he remembers just two seasons ago, when the Royals’ had three graduating players from different organizations, with goalie Shane Farkas from Portland, defenceman Will Warm from Edmonton, and Gary Haden acquired from Saskatoon.
“I thought I’ll never see that again, and here we are in 21-22 and we have three, brand new 20-year-olds.”
When it comes to Island life, Royals’ forward Bailey Peach knows it quite well. However, his season started on the other side of the country in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Islanders.
Peach was a QMJHL first-round Bantam Draft pick of the Sherbrooke Phoenix in 2017, and as he prepared for his first full year in Charlottetown, the Islanders put Peach on waivers in September.
But not long after that, he got a call from the Royals’ General Manager.
“Not many guys get to play as an overager and honestly I’m humbled and happy to be able to come here and help out this team as best I can,” said Peach, who recorded two goals and eight points in his first 10 games with the Royals through Oct. 27.
“He creates offence through hard work, going to difficult areas,” added Price.
“It’s not something where he’s playing on the perimeter and throwing pucks in from the half-wall. This guy works and competes and he’s created a good body of work for himself in that way.”
Injuries have hit the other two Royals’ overagers, as Patrician hasn’t played since Oct. 16 at Prince George, and as of Oct. 27, Salame had yet to make his Royals’ debut on the blueline.
But after three seasons with the Wheat Kings, Salame comes to the Royals with expectations of using his experience to lead a young defence.
“Since my rookie year, I’ve got more confidence over the years and evolved my defensive and offensive game I thought, so looking to bring that here and contribute to wins,” said Salame, a product of Edmonton, AB.
“These are all 10 out of 10 individuals, they’re just such great people,” said Price about the three 20s.
“They’re leaving a legacy here, they have left a legacy here already, and that makes the transition much more, I would say easy and seamless, the fact they just fit our culture and our ideology in Victoria.”
The Royals still aren’t sure if Tarun Fizer, the club’s captain last season, will return to Victoria, after signing an Amateur Try-Out contract with the Colorado Eagles, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.