The Trail Smoke Eaters acquired Spokane Chiefs’ defenceman Luke Gallagher. Photographer Jenn Small took this photo of Gallagher in action last month in Spokane when the Chiefs hosted the Everett Silvertips. Jenn Small photo.

Smoke Eaters announce deal as trade deadline looms

The Trail Smoke Eaters bolster blue line, acquire defenceman Luke Gallagher from the Spokane Chiefs

With the BCHL Jan. 10 trade deadline looming, the Trail Smoke Eaters made a move.

The Smoke Eaters added 18-year-old defenceman Luke Gallagher to the blue line on Tuesday, and, in a separate deal, sent Michael Hodge to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for futures.

Gallagher, a five-foot-eight, 165 pound Mead, Wa. native, played the past two seasons with the WHL Spokane Chiefs, and was a teammate of Smoke Eaters forward Carter Jones when the pair played for the KIJHL Spokane Braves in 2016-17.

The Chiefs deemed Gallagher expendable with the return of top d-men Ty Smith, Team Canada, and Filip Kral, Czech Republic, from the World Junior Championships.

“With our numbers on defence following the return of our players, it was clear that we needed to make a move,” said Chiefs General Manager Scott Carter. “This will allow Luke to get more ice time and play a bigger role. We expect to bring him back as an ‘AP’ for the playoffs.”

Gallagher will remain on the Chiefs’ 50-man protected list and be eligible to return to the Chiefs as an Affiliate Player following the conclusion of the Smoke Eaters’ season.

“We look forward to watching Luke continue to develop and wish him the best in Trail this season.”

Prior to the deal, Smokies defenceman Trevor Isaksson had suffered an ankle injury and was placed on the injury reserve list, making the addition of another defenceman for the final stretch almost a necessity. But with 16 of 17 BCHL teams guaranteed a playoff spot, GMs have been hesitant to make deals, so the Smoke Eaters went shopping outside the box.

“Every General Manager is looking to make the team better, but it always takes two people to do a deal, so we’re going to see what’s out there,” said Smokies coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “It’s actually been extremely quiet. When you have 16 teams make the playoffs it’s hard, and this is a year where there is no really dominant team … it’s a year where everyone thinks they have a chance.”

With Gallagher, the Smokies add an undersized but quick and mobile d-man who owns a big offensive upside to his game.

Gallagher tallied a goal and six assists for seven points in 66 career Western Hockey League games including a pair of assists this season in 22 contests. He collected 13 goals and 37 points in 45 games with the Spokane Braves.

Hodge scored five goals and 12 points in 35 regular season games with the Smoke Eaters after playing with the Calgary Midget AAA Flames last season.

As of the Times’ press deadline Wednesday afternoon, no more transactions have been made, but the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s absolute deadline for all trades is today (Thursday) at 3 p.m. After this deadline has passed, no transactions will be approved until June 1.

“We’re going to try and get better if we can, but we’re not going to leverage our whole future to do it,” said Tambellini.

Despite the injury to Isaksson, the Smokies received some good news on the injury front. Veteran d-man Kyle Chernenkoff returned to action last weekend, and Tambellini expects forward Mack Byers to be on the ice on Friday when the Smokies host the Nanaimo Clippers. Byers has been out since Dec. 1 when he suffered a concussion in a game against the Penticton Vees.

“His (Byers’) work ethic is so contagious so to get him back in our group, we’re just so much stronger up front, because he brings it on both sides of the puck,” said Tambellini. “He’s the emotional driver of our group, and brings better energy and physicality to our team down the stretch.”

The Smokies play Nanaimo at 7 p.m. on Friday and face the Victoria Grizzlies at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Cominco Arena.

Smoke Signals: The Smoke Eaters had two players up for consideration for the BCHL Player of the Week. Trail defenceman Trevor Zins had a huge weekend scoring three goals and adding four assists, while earning second and third star in wins over Surrey, 4-3, and West Kelowna, 8-4.

Rookie forward Kent Johnson also received honourable mention after a six-point weekend. The 16-year-old Port Moody native netted a hat trick against the Warriors, added three assists, a first star and Fortis Energy Player of the Game.

Former Smoke Eaters forward Levi Glasman also received consideration with four goals and seven points and two game-winning-goals for Powell River, as well as a first and second star.

Victoria defenceman Carter Berger was named BCHL PoW, scoring two goals in three straight games, and earning first-star nods in all three matches.

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