WHL Veterans Return as Rising Stars MacKenzie and Bryant Secure NCAA Division 1 Commitments

The Virden Oil Capitals have had an exciting start to the season both on and off the ice.  After an 0 and 2 start, the Oil Caps have only one regulation loss in their last 7 games and sit second in the MJHL’s West Division. They have added some key pieces recently with 3 players returning from the WHL. Luke Robson, along with hometown boys Braeden Lewis and Ty Plaisier, have all returned bolstering an already veteran laden lineup.  The Oil Caps also have the league leader in points as forward Josh Lehto is in a 3 way tie for the scoring lead with 5 goals and 10 assists.

Off the ice, the narrative shifts to forwards Luke MacKenzie and Bryce Bryant, both of whom have locked up commitments to NCAA Division I hockey programs. MacKenzie has verbally committed to the Canisius College Golden Griffins in Buffalo, NY. Transitioning from U18 Southwest Cougars and beginning his rookie season in junior hockey with the Oil Caps, MacKenzie’s skating ability and goal-scoring touch will make him a player to watch for the Oil Caps going forward.

Virden’s own Bryce Bryant has verbally committed to the Bemidji State University Beavers.  Bryant’s smooth-skating, playmaking prowess has had an immediate impact with the Oil Caps, especially on the powerplay. His choice to attend Bemidji State aligns with the trajectory of notable Oil Cap alumni Tyler Kirkup and 2023 Stanley Cup Champion Zach Whitecloud of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Whitecloud’s journey is particularly inspiring. After his tenure with the Beavers, he transitioned into a standout defenseman in the American Hockey League before securing a full-time spot with the Vegas Golden Knights, ultimately clinching the Stanley Cup in spring 2023. Similarly, Kirkup, after his collegiate hockey career, embarked on a professional journey, starting in the ECHL, and now plays with the Coventry Blaze overseas in England.

Bemidji State University and Canisius College, both with elite hockey programs, have been launching pads for many players eyeing a professional career . Their commitment to nurturing hockey talent is well reflected in their alumni’s achievements on the ice.

GM and Head Coach Tyson Ramsey expressed his pride, stating, “We are very proud of both Luke and Bryce,” said Ramsey. “They have worked hard to earn the opportunity to commit to a NCAA Division I school and we are very excited to be a part of that journey for them and to do our best to help them be prepared when that opportunity becomes reality. They are both great kids and will be a big part of what we are trying to accomplish here with our club this season.” Ramsey elaborated on the growing camaraderie between Bemidji State and the Oil Caps, “It’s pretty cool for Bryce to be attending the same school as a couple other Oil Cap alumni,” said Ramsey. “I know Bryce had a really good conversation with Zach and that certainly helped make his decision to choose Bemidji. Hopefully, we can be a program that these schools continue to look to when trying to recruit young players.”

You can watch all the new faces and these talented young players this weekend when the Oil Caps play a pair of home games starting Friday against the Swan Valley Stampeders and finishing Saturday against the Winnipeg Freeze.  Both games will get underway at 7:30 pm.