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Trail Smoke Eaters recruit top prospects

Trail Smoke Eaters building for future in 17-year-old defencemen Joel Barton and Chris Kobelka
Joel Barton

The Trail Smoke Eaters introduced their newest recruits this past week.

The Smoke Eaters committed defenceman Joel Barton from the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) and Chris Kobelka from Calgary’s Edge Hockey School.

Although BCHL hockey is currently on hold, the recruitment process for 2021-22 continues, and the Smoke Eaters staff are understandably thrilled with their recent commitments.

“Joel is a mature individual that skates well and plays a consistent and steady game making him a reliable defenceman,” said Smoke Eaters coach and GM Tim Fragle in a Smoke Eaters press release.

“Chris is currently the team captain with his Edge team. He is a mobile puck moving defenceman that plays with intensity and has strong leadership qualities. We are excited to add young men to our team and community for next season.”

The 17-year-old Joel Barton is the brother of 2017-18 Smoke Eaters d-man Seth Barton, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick, who is playing in the NCAA with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

At five-foot-11, and 161 pounds, Joel is strong defensively with an offensive upside. He played in 36 games for OHA in 2019-20 scoring three goals and 17 points in 36 games, and had four points in nine games in this year’s shortened season.

“I am excited for the opportunity to play for the Trail Smoke Eaters,” Joel said in the release. “Trail has consistently checked all the boxes for an amazing hockey club. The hockey history, the culture, the team ownership, the coaching group, the facilities, the city, and the fan support … amazing!

“Thank you to OHA and my family for getting me here. I look forward to wearing the black and orange and doing my part to contribute to the ongoing success of the Smoke Eaters organization.”

Kobelka, 17, is a Calgary native, who has been a part of the Edge program since 2016. Like Barton, the five-10, 178-pound left-shot defenceman brings finesse along with toughness to the Smoke Eaters backend.

In 2019-20, Kobelka contributed five goals and 23 points, along with 40 penalty minutes in 36 games. He also had four points in three games to start the year with the U18 Edge prep program.

The promising defenceman was also added to the WHL Portland Winterhawks protected list, but is looking forward to a run at the BCHL championship Fred Page Cup in Trail.

“When choosing where I wanted to play junior I wanted to find a place that would allow me to develop individually as a player and more importantly compete for a championship,” said Kobelka.

“After spending a month in Trail, training and skating with the team earlier this year I realized that it was the perfect place to accomplish both. I am incredibly excited to get things underway in Trail next season, and look forward to getting to play in a packed Cominco arena.”

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