Last season: 47-18-3-4, second in Central Division; lost to Moose Jaw in Eastern Conference semifinal.
Bench brass: Head coach: Kelly Kisio (third season; ninth season as GM); assistants Dave Lowry (second season), Darcy Wakaluk (third season).
Key losses: WHL MVP and CHL goaltender of the year Justin Pogge (Toronto); graduated overage captain D Brett Carson (Carolina); D Jeff Schultz (Washington); D Craig Lineker (Chilliwack in expansion draft).
The 20-year-olds: D Dylan Yeo (wrist) will begin the season on the IR so the club will begin with forwards Steve Covington, Derek LeBlanc and Matt Isbister, who played the last two seasons with Clarkson University in the NCAA.
The imports: Swedish winger Freddie Pettersson, an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, returns for his second season (22 goals and 43 points in 59 games). He's injured and will miss the opening 4-6 weeks. He's joined by friend and countryman Robin Figren, a New York Islanders prospect.
Key returnees: LW Brodie Dupont (New York Rangers third-rounder in 2005) and Ryan White (Montreal Canadiens third rounder in '06) tied for the team lead in scoring last season with 53 points apiece. Pettersson and sophomore Brett Sonne (12 goals and 21 points in 64 games) should put up far better numbers.
New faces: Rookie d-men Michael Stone, Brett Plouffe and Marc Defoe and former Kelowna Rockets blueliner Kevin Reinholt. Rookie fowards Devon Kalinski and Brandon Kozun, overager Isbister, import Figren. Brendan Rowinski, the club's top bantam draft (13th overall in '05) is on the IR until at least November with a surgically repaired shoulder. Goaltenders Brant Miller, 19 and Martin Jones, 16, are still battling it for the backup spot.
Watch for: The Hitmen to score a lot more than last year's franchise low 195 goals. Of course, they'll also surrender more than the franchise record low 155 they gave up last season with Pogge boarding up the net. G Daniel Spence (9-8-1), 18, will be under the microscope.
The prognosis: The offence will be better, the defence will be weaker. Spence likely won't make anyone forget about Pogge but if he emerges into a quality starter, the Hitmen will challenge for the division crown. They haven't won a division pennant since 1999-2000.