KIJHL: Rebels, Leafs swing inter-divisional trade

Trail native Jamie Vlanich is on the move to join the Nelson Leafs.

Trail native Jamie Vlanich is on the move.

In a blockbuster deal between the Castlegar Rebels and Nelson Leafs Tuesday, the Rebels will send Vlanich and Travis Wellman, both 20, to the Leafs in exchange for Dallon Stoddard, James Sorrey, and Seth Schmidt.

“I’m pretty pumped, and looking forward to joining Nelson,” said Vlanich.

The pair were arguably the best Rebel players in its successful bid for the Cyclone Taylor Cup, both amassing 21-points in the playoff run, and Vlanch is confident that the two can bring the same dynamic to the Leafs line up.

“I think we both brought a lot to Castlegar last year, and I think we can bring that energy to Nelson this year for sure . . . Travis is a really good player coming from the AJHL junior league in Alberta, and he was really good in the playoffs last year.”

More importantly, Nelson will host the Cyclone Taylor championship and is guaranteed a spot in the tournament, so getting two veteran forwards who have gone the distance was vital for Nelson coach and GM Frank Maida.

“It made sense to bring in some experience, two guys who have played in the Cyclone Taylor,” Maida told the Nelson Star. “And it improves our scoring.”

Maida said the Murdoch division rivals had been negotiating for almost six weeks until all the pieces fell into place.

Castlegar head coach Jesse Dorrans, however, was compelled to make a trade after being informed that neither player wanted to return to the Rebels.

“Vlanich told me right at the beginning that he was looking for a change of scenery at the end of the year; then Travis Wellman, in the exit meetings, told us he was planning to go to the University of Calgary, so we kind of moved on and figured that’s what he was doing,” Dorrans told the Castlegar News. “But about two weeks ago, he let it be known that he wants to play for the Cyclone Taylor Cup and wanted to get traded to Nelson.”

Asked if there were any hard feelings, Dorrans said, “Absolutely not. They did everything we asked of them last year and they totally contributed and helped us win a championship. I carry the mentality that if a kid asks to be traded, and lets those thoughts creep into his head, he’s outta’ here. If they’re going to have those kinds of thoughts, that the grass is greener, then maybe they need to go see if it is greener.”

Vlanich grew up in Trail and is a three-season KIJHL veteran. Last season with the Rebels he scored 19 goals and added 32 assists to finish second in team scoring.

Wellman, a Calgary native, played his first season in the KIJHL last year, an injury-plagued campaign in which he played 11 regular season games, accumulating 13 points, before tying Vlanich for second spot on the Rebels in playoff scoring.

Meanwhile, Nelson is giving up a team leader in Stoddard; a Nelson native in his fourth and final season of junior hockey.

“It was very difficult, but Dallon was the key to the trade for Castlegar,” said Maida. “They wanted some experience and leadership, so we had to make that decision.”

Schmidt also has the potential to be a top performer on the blue line for the Rebels. The Creston-raised defenceman led the Leafs defence in scoring last season and is still only 18-years-old.

Vlanich and the Leafs’ first exhibition game is Sept. 3 against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. He will face his former team in the season opener on Sept. 13 in Castlegar.

With files from the Castlegar News and Nelson Star.