Season in Review: Veteran Defensemen

As we close the book on the 2020-21 Western Hockey League season–one that overcame a myriad of obstacles in order to continue player development–we take a look back at the strides made by the Chiefs on the ice.

We opened our Season in Review series by taking a look at the Chiefs’ rookie skaters before diving into the performances by the team’s veteran forwards in 2020-21. Today, we recap the contributions Spokane received from their veteran defensemen.

This year’s crop of blueliners had some big shoes to fill with the departure of Co-Defensemen of the Year and NHL prospects Ty Smith and Filip Kral in addition to 2019-20 WHL plus-minus leader Noah King. The team used a combination of experienced vets–two of the team’s three overage players were defensemen–and up-and-comers to build the foundation of what should be a strong defensive unit for years to come.

#3 Matt Leduc, D

After playing all 21 games of the 2020-21 season, Leduc finishes his WHL career with 174 games played, all as a Chief. Named one of Spokane’s alternate captains prior to the season, Leduc matched his career high in points while playing his typically tough, heavy-hitting defense. The Richmond, BC native was also the recipient of the 2020-21 Chiefs’ Players’ Player Award.

#5 Jordan Chudley, D

Chudley spent the 2020-21 season doing what he’s done since joining the Chiefs prior to the 2019-20 season: establishing himself as a physical presence in the Chiefs’ defensive zone. The Souris, MB native had an assist vs. Portland on April 10 when he matched a career best with a +2 rating.

#6 Mac Gross, D

A 2017 third-round bantam selection by the Chiefs, Gross debuted with a 27-game stint in Spokane during the 2019-20 season. This season, he appeared in 16 games, connecting for his first career Western Hockey League goal on March 21 at Portland.

#7 Graham Sward, D

Sward was limited to just 11 games in 2020-21 as he was forced out of action due to injury. He connected for his lone goal of the season on May 4 against the Tri-City Americans. The 2018 first-round bantam pick revealed to rank 117th on the final 2021 NHL Central Scouting Service Draft Rankings following the completion of the season.

#21 Bobby Russell, D

One of Spokane’s two overage defensemen, Russell saved his best WHL season for last as he compiled 12 points through 21 games. His three assists against Seattle on May 1 accounted for his first career three-point game, and his +3 rating on April 10 vs. Portland matched a personal best.

#25, Raegan Wiles, D

In 21 games played this season, Wiles recorded 10 points on a goal and nine assists while posting a +1 rating. The second-year blueliner had a career night on May 1 against Seattle when he registered a pair of assists en route to posting a +5 rating on the night. He followed that performance up with another two-assist game the following night against Everett. His breakout season earned him the distinction of being named the Chiefs’ 2020-21 John “Hitman” Hern Defenseman of the Year

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