The Kelowna Rockets have had a very interesting start to the 2022-2023 campaign. Coming off a 40+ win season, the Rockets had high expectations entering this year. Throughout ten games, Kelowna sits at a 3-6-1 record, with wins against the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals. The Rockets began this year facing some of the WHL’s finest clubs, having played the Portland Winterhawks, Everett Silvertips, Winnipeg Ice, and Seattle Thunderbirds so far, just ten games in. It’s a hard league to win in, and facing 4 teams that have all been ranked on the CHL top 10 list doesn’t help.
What has been good for Kelowna this year?
Although they sit at the 3-6-1 mark, Kelowna could very easily be much further ahead thus far. As I mentioned earlier, Kelowna has faced 4 of the best teams in the CHL. Every one of those contests has come down to the wire. The Rockets did not fall to any of those 4 teams by more than 1 goal. They lost to Portland on opening night 5-4 in OT, Seattle on October 7th, 5-4, Everett one week later 5-4 and just this past Saturday, Winnipeg 5-4. Kelowna has stayed competitive with some of the best teams in the CHL, so don’t count them out this early.
The Rockets hop on the bus this coming Thursday to get set for some matchups south of the border against the red-hot Portland Winterhawks this weekend. Kelowna plays in Portland this Friday, October 28th and then again Saturday, the 29th. The Rockets haven’t won in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum since October 30th, 2014. They have won in the neighbouring Moda Center more recently, but still not since 2016. After that, Kelowna returns home to Prospera Place to face the Kamloops Blazers on November 5th. Three tough matchups ahead of a Rocket team that just dropped 3 in a row.
Leading Scorer: Andrew Cristall
Cristall has posted 7 goals, and 8 assists so far this season, along with a +1 rating. The young forward is a 2023 NHL Draft Prospect and has shown his worth so far for Kelowna. The 17-year-old is on pace for 102 points this season and has proved himself as a top forward in this league.
Best Defenseman: Elias Carmichael
Entering his 19-year-old season, Elias Carmichael has cemented himself as a top defenseman for the Kelowna Rockets. So far this season, he has 1 goal and 6 assists for a total of 7 points, which is already half of his total from last season. The Langley, BC product sits at 6’3 and 191 pounds and is around the middle of the pack for Kelowna in terms of +/-
On the come up: Jari Kykkanen
Jari Kykkanen has been very, very good when called upon this season. Coming into the 2022-2023 campaign, Kykkanen wasn’t sure if he would be the #1 guy or if Kelowna would get Talyn Boyko returned from the New York Rangers. Boyko did, in fact, get returned, but has only played 2 games so far since he’s come back. Kykkanen started the year out as the clearcut number one for the Rockets. In the 7 games he’s played for Kelowna this season, he’s faced 205 shots, stopping 181 of them, and he earned himself a shutout in there. Jari was called up last year just after Christmas and has played a solid role for the Rockets since joining the squad.
Unsung Hero: Gabriel Szturc
Gabriel Szturc is a first-round CHL Import Draft pick of Kelowna and is having a hot start to his second full season in Kelowna. Posting 5 goals and 10 assists so far throughout just 10 games played, Gabriel has shown he’s here to play. Szturc is on pace for a whopping 102 points this season, which would be more than double his 41 points from last year.
MVP: Andrew Cristall
This one is a no-brainer. Andrew Cristall has been nothing short of excellent so far in his draft-eligible season. With 7 goals and 8 assists so far in 10 games played, he has been the fuel to this Rockets offence. On most analysts’ draft boards, Cristall is somewhere in the top 20 prospects for this upcoming NHL Entry Draft. He has elite vision and playmaking abilities and has really developed into a well-rounded forward for Kelowna. Look for him to make his mark on the Rocket Roster this season.
Well, that just about wraps up my Rocket Report throughout the first 10 games here on the Area51 Sports Network! Stay tuned for more Kelowna Rockets and WHL Content, as the season is just getting started!!