A former Smoke Eater will return to the Trail line up to fill a big hole up front, as coach and GM Nick Deschenes announced Thursday that the team acquired the rights to forward Jake Kauppila.
The Gurnee, Illinois native played 41 games for Trail in 2013, scoring 10 goals and 17 assists as an 18-year-old rookie before being traded to Alberni Valley for Jackson Elyniuk and futures on Jan. 10, 2014. That trade-deadline deal would also eventually bring Craig Martin back to Trail as part of the futures clause.
Kauppila will play one more year of Junior hockey before fulfilling his commitment to NCAA Division 1 Michigan Tech.
“He had some unfinished business I think, so he’s looking forward to being comfortable in a community he has been in before and a coach that he knows, so we’re looking forward to him filling a huge hole up front,” said Trail Smoke Eaters coach and GM Nick Deschenes.
Kauppila played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL last season where he netted nine goals and 19 points in 60 games. The 20-year-old is a six-foot, 195 pound forward who brings skill, size, and a high player IQ to a Smokies team that lost much of it’s offense with the graduation of players like Martin, Dallas Calvin, Charlie Zuccharini and Jake Lucchini.
With the addition of Kauppila and recent acquisitions like Colby Livingstone, Kurt Black, and Rhett Wilcox up front, coupled with the signings of local talents Ross Armour and Spencer McLean, the Smokies continue to improve despite being two months from training camp.
Since the end of the season Trail’s coaching and scouting staff has been hard at work running two spring camps and have signed highly touted netminders Bailey Macburnie and 16-year-old goalie Linden Marshall, as well as defencemen Nii Noi Tetteh and Evan Korizis.