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Grizzlies highly-touted blue-liner Stanley set to make BCHL debut

Defenceman Hoyt Stanley makes his Grizzlies debut tonight in Coquitlam as Victoria looks to extend its win streak to three games. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Hoyt Stanley will have a day to remember, making his B.C. Hockey League debut on his 17th birthday tonight in ­Coquitlam against the Express.

The mobile six-foot-one ­Victoria Grizzlies defenceman from West Vancouver was taken 81st overall in the fourth round of the 2020 WHL prospects draft by the Everett Silvertips but instead chose to pursue the U.S. university NCAA Div. 1 route through the BCHL.

The touted blue-liner’s career path, however, took a detour when he suffered a ­concussion Aug. 2 during a Grizzlies ­preseason camp.

“It’s been a long time and tough mentally just sitting at home and taking school online. But I stayed positive,” said ­Stanley.

He returned to the ice and has been practising with the ­Grizzlies since mid-December and is back in the classroom at Belmont Secondary.

“I feel good and am hungry to play. I’ve had great doctors and great support.”

Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon said the coaching staff and Stanley’s teammates are excited for him: “He has been patient and has worked hard. That main thing is he is healthy.”

Stanley’s dad, Graham ­Stanley, played pro hockey in the AHL, ECHL and IHL. ­Sister Kaiden Stanley plays field hockey in the NCAA Pac-12 for the University of California-Berkeley and is on the NextGen Canadian junior national team. Mom Kyra Stanley was internationally ranked in trampoline.

“I learned work ethic from my dad,” said Hoyt Stanley.

“He was not the most skilled player but he put in the hours and worked very hard.”

Technically, Hoyt made the Grizzlies at age 16 along with celebrated rookie forward ­Matthew Wood. The last 16-year-old to crack the Grizzlies roster was current Colorado Avalanche NHL rookie forward Alex Newhook, winner of the silver medal with Canada at the 2021 world junior championship.

Stanley certainly has the prospects for an outstanding junior career as a puck-moving rearguard. He had seven goals and 36 points in 29 games for St. George’s Bantam Prep in 2019-20.

Wood, who turns 17 on ­Sunday, and Stanley are part of a heralded 2005-born B.C. class, headed by 2020 WHL prospects draft first overall pick Connor Bedard of North Vancouver, the first player to be awarded exceptional status and allowed to play in the WHL as a 15-year-old. Bedard is expected to go first overall in the 2023 NHL draft, with Wood also touted for the draft that year. Bedard, Wood and Stanley came up playing on Team. B.C. together and also in spring league.

ICE CHIPS: Grizzlies ­forwards swept the BCHL Three Stars of the Month Award for January with Connor Eddy (11 goals and 22 points in eight games) named first star, captain Ellis Rickwood (22 points in eight games) second star and Wood (17 points in eight games) third star. “They make an impact every night and are committed players who work hard,” said Didmon. … The Grizzlies (19-16) are in Coquitlam (9-20-3) tonight, at Chilliwack (20-11-2) on ­Saturday night and at Langley to take on the Coastal Conference-leading Rivermen (23-8-3) on Sunday afternoon.