The Trail Smoke Eaters were relatively quiet when the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s trade deadline came and went on Friday.
After securing forward Matt Osadick in a trade with the Merritt Centennials on Tuesday, the Smoke Eaters only other move was to send rookie defenceman Corey McCann to the West Kelowna Warriors in exchange for futures on Friday.
The deadline ensures all teams are down to 23 carded players.
Smoke Eaters coach and GM Jeff Tambellini made a number of moves in the past few months adding size and experience on defence with the additions of Jameson Murray, Cody Schiavon and Kyle Pow, and skill and speed up front with the signing of Carson Briere and Osadick.
“We like who we have, for sure,” said Tambellini. “We’ve been happy with our group pretty much the second we brought in Jameson Murray at the start of the year. It really shifted our entire group, and we liked the additions we made all season, and if we had to start the playoffs today, I’d be fine with that too.”
The Interior Division’s first place Penticton Vees acquired the rights to 18-year-old rookie defenceman Carson Hemenway from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for futures, and inked Drew Elser from the USHL’s Central Illinois Flying Aces. Elser, 19, played in 14 games with the Vees last season, until injury ended his season. The Vees also put defenceman Cade Webber on the season-ending injury list.
Meanwhile, the Cowichan Valley Capitals bolstered their defence with the addition of Austin Chorney from West Kelowna in exchange for d-man Maxime Dumas and futures, and sent goalie Keegan Karki to the Vernon Vipers for futures.
The Caps were in a good position to add bodies, with cards still available at the deadline, but when 16 of 17 teams make the playoffs, few clubs are interested in offloading veterans, and there aren’t assets like draft picks or protected players that teams can trade away.
“All those things come together to make making moves a little more challenging,” Caps coach Mike Vandekamp said.
The Coquitlam Express, meanwhile, acquired the CJHL playing rights to defenceman Wyatt Head from the West Kelowna Warriors in exchange for Addison Macey and future considerations. The Express also made a deal for two veteran players in goalie Joe Howe from the Victoria Grizzlies and defenceman Joey Berkopec from Merritt.
The acquisition of goalie Howe was made out of necessity as starter Clay Stevenson, who has posted the best numbers in the BCHL, won’t be available for playoffs. Stevenson’s 21st birthday falls on Mar. 3 and, as a Dartmouth commit, an obscure NCAA rule says if he plays for the Express after March 3, Stevenson will lose a year of eligibility and be left with only three years of eligibility to play for the school, short of the four years he would require to also earn a business degree there.
Stevenson has a league best 26 wins and two losses this season, with a 1.70 goals-against average, three shutouts and a .937 save percentage.
The 21-17-1-1 Vernon Vipers currently sit in fifth place in the Interior Division and made moves to improve their team ahead of the playoffs. The Vipers acquired forward Max Bulawka from the Warriors in exchange for Elan Bar-lev-wise.
Bulawka is an 18 year old forward from Kelowna in his third BCHL season. He has 15 goals and 24 points in 37 games played this season, compared to one goal and nine points for Bar-lev-wise.
“Max is an experienced player who has the ability to put up points,” says Head Coach and GM of the Vipers Jason McKee. “His experience within the division is a big bonus.”
The Vipers added Karki to compliment Reilly Herbst in net, after Vernon lost goalie James Porter Jr. to the WHL last month.
The Centennials and Warriors are battling for the 16th and final playoff spot, and were the most active traders, although, both teams unloaded some of their top players prior to deadline.
The Cents announced the trade of top defenceman Olson Werenka to the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League on Wednesday. Werenka was a huge presence on the Cents blueline, but in a classy move, Merritt opted to trade the Calgary native to the AJHL contender in hopes he could finish out his junior career with a lengthy playoff run.
The Warriors made five separate deals over the course of the past few days involving nine players. It’s been a chaotic year for West Kelowna, and the struggling team saw the outright departure of three players, including forward Lucas Cullen and defenceman Spencer Hora who left for personal reasons.
“Lucas and Spencer will be missed,” said team president Chris Laurie. “But ultimately their personal well being takes precedence over hockey”.
Defenceman Andrew Viggars is heading back to the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen after the club re-signed him. Viggars leaves the club after amassing two goals and two assists in 20 games.
In addition to Bulawka, defencemen Chorney and Head, the team also moved goaltender Brock Baier, sending him to London in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League for future considerations.
To replace Baier, the Warriors signed 19-year-old Arizona native Riley Morgan. He spent last season in the Manitoba Junior League last year before taking the first half of this season off to deal with a family matter.
Thanks to a two-goal game from Braden Costello and a 43 save performance by Logan Terness, the Smoke Eaters beat the Penticton Vees Friday night 4-3 at home, and play the Vees tonight in the second half of the home-and-home.