10 WHL ‘save the dates’ for the 2014-15 season, 3 of which involve Vancouver Giants top pick Tyler Benson

Ten offseason coaching changes, two new ownership groups and a stacked 2013 bantam crop later, there’s no shortage of excitement surrounding the WHL’s 2014-15 season.

The anticipation to watch Vancouver Giants prized pick Tyler Benson play in the Dub has been boiling for two years, but he’s far from the only freshman to garner heavy interest this season. Brandon Wheat Kings rookies Nolan Patrick and Kale Clague and Regina Pats sniper Sam Steel are future stars in the making. They should without a doubt help sell tickets in visiting arenas, let alone their own barns.

With the league starting on Sept. 19, here are 10 regular-season games to draw a circle around.

Sept. 19: Regina Pats at Brandon Wheat Kings – It’s the first time the pair of East Division clubs meet each other since the Wheat Kings swept the Pats in the first round of last year’s playoffs. In addition, Patrick and Clague will square off against Steel for their first showdown. It could be the start of a tight race between the three for the Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Year nomination.

Oct. 17: Kamloops Blazers at Vancouver Giants – After 10 years behind the Giants’ bench, Don Hay returns to Vancouver for the first time as the Blazers’ head coach. It seems safe to say Hay’s return will involve a lot of cheers and few boos. He earned the respect of Vancouver hockey fans with a WHL championship and MasterCard Memorial Cup win in 2006.

Oct. 30: Kelowna Rockets at Portland Wintehawks – It’s the Rockets’ first chance to get some revenge after having their special 118-point season last year halted in the third round of the playoffs by the Winterhawks. It also should be a quality hockey game as they are poised to be two of the top teams in the Western Conference yet again.

Nov. 1: Vancouver Giants at Seattle Thunderbirds – Benson, the top 2013 bantam pick, and top 2012 bantam pick Matt Barzal will face each other for the first time on the year. Barzal will be on his way to asserting himself as a top 2015 NHL draft prospect while Benson will have his feet wet in his rookie season. Barzal should have the upper hand in open ice with his outstanding vision, but Benson has the size at 6-foot, 196-pounds to win the battles along the wall.

Nov. 2: Edmonton Oil Kings at Portland Winterhawks – Albeit both teams have new bench bosses and altered rosters, it’s a rematch of last year’s WHL championship. The rowdy Portland fan base will be expected to pack their barn and fill it with boos when Edmonton touches the puck. Let’s just hope for the sake of diversity that these two clubs don’t meet each other again this year in May.

Nov. 21: Regina Pats at Vancouver Giants – The two top picks of the 2013 bantam draft – Benson and Steel – will matchup against each other for the first time in the Dub. They have met on other stages, though, as they played against each other in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League in 2012-13.

Dec. 2: Calgary Hitmen at Red Deer Rebels – Just days before Canada’s world junior camps, three highly regarded NHL prospects will hit the ice in a divisional matchup. Carolina Hurricanes first-round defensive prospect Haydn Fleury and Colorado Avalanche first-round forward prospect Conner Bleackley will host Vancouver Canucks first-round wing prospect Jake Virtanen. At this point, the odds seem to be in the favour of Fleury and Virtanen of making the team while Bleackley has a shot at earning a bottom-six role in Canada’s offense.

Dec. 2: Saskatoon Blades at Kamloops Blazers – Blades blueliner Jordan Thomson will return to Kamloops for the first time since taking off on them for personal reasons last November. With that, 18-year-old centre Matt Revel, who was sent to Kamloops in the Thomson deal, will face his former club.

Dec. 9: Saskatoon Blades at Prince George Cougars – Alex Forsberg will return to Prince George for the first time since finally receiving his trade request from the Cougars in May. But the man who turned Forsberg’s trade request into a soap opera – former GM Dallas Thomspon – won’t be watching from the CN Centre because he was justifiably canned by the Cougars’ new ownership group. This will also be the first game between the Blades and Cougars that doesn’t involve a Brodsky owner.

Feb. 21: Calgary Hitmen at Tri-City Americans – Tri-City head coach Mike Williamson will face his former team for the first time. In addition, Hitmen overage Connor Rankin will square off against his former junior team for the second time since the 2014 trade deadline deal.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen