White Rock-raised hockey player Colton Gillies in action with Dinamo Riga of Russia’s KHL league a few seasons ago. (Photo: twitter.com/CompleteHkyNews)

White Rock-raised hockey player Colton Gillies in action with Dinamo Riga of Russia’s KHL league a few seasons ago. (Photo: twitter.com/CompleteHkyNews)

JUNIOR HOCKEY

NHL vet Gillies returns to help coach ‘the new game’ to Surrey Eagles players

The BCHL team’s first preseason game is Sept. 20 at South Surrey Arena

White Rock-raised Colton Gillies has returned to the Surrey Eagles nest, this time as an assistant coach.

As a 15-year-old, Gillies played just three games with the Eagles back in the 2004-05 season, before jumping to the WHL and eventually becoming a first-round draft pick of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, 16th overall in 2007.

Now 32 years of age, Gillies will work the Eagles bench this season alongside head coach Cam Keith.

News of the hiring was posted to the BCHL team’s website Thursday (Aug. 26).

“I’m very excited,” Gillies said in the news release. “I definitely miss playing the game, so this is a good way to keep my toes in the water still. I can help out some of the local kids on the team, so I’m going to use my 12 years of (pro) hockey experience to help the Eagles in some way and help get these players to the next level.”

As a pro, Gillies played 154 NHL games with the Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets, and spent parts of four seasons in Russia with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga, from 2016 to 2020. His career stats are posted to eliteprospects.com.

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“(Gillies) just finished playing pro hockey at a very high level,” Keith noted. “He played in the NHL so he’s still in tune with what’s being coached at the highest level. The kids will respect that and listen to him; he’ll bring excitement and energy to our young group and hopefully the boys are excited to get to know him and ask him some questions.”

Gillies said he understands the change in hockey over the past few years and how to help junior players adjust to a new age of hockey.

“I’m really excited to get to know Cam a little bit better, and to help these guys with a ton of skill to take the next step,” he said in the webpost. “Cam has a ton of drills, and guys want to come here and play with the Eagles. The culture here is great, and I’m excited to learn from Cam while adjusting to the new game to help these smaller, faster, and more skilled players take the steps they need nowadays to make the jump to the next level.”

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For the 2021-22 season, the Eagles play their first preseason game Sept. 20 at South Surrey Arena, in a 4 p.m. faceoff against Coquitlam Express. Two nights later, the rink will host an Eagles battle with Chilliwack Chiefs. The regular season starts with a Surrey-Coquitlam clash on Oct. 8. More game details are posted to bchl.ca.

In other Eagles news, on Aug. 12 the team announced the commitment of 2003-born goaltender Eli Pulver (St. Georges/CSSHL), who will share the net with Max Prazma this coming season.

Days earlier, the Eagles acquired Richmond-raised forward Jacob Bonkowski (born in 2003) from the Powell River Kings, as well as the BCHL playing rights of forward Primo Self (2001) from Cowichan Valley Capitals, in exchange for forward Gabe Schovanek (2001) and the BCHL playing rights of OHL defenseman Colin Campbell (2001).

Back in May, the Eagles announced a three-year contract extension for head coach Keith, on the heels of a first-place finish in their three-team BCHL pod during the league’s abbreviated 2020-21 season.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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