The last time Trail Smoke Eater fans saw Carter Cochrane he was scoring the winning goal for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in a 6-3 ‘Backs victory at the Cominco Arena on Friday.
With an untimely injury to Trail Smoke Eaters defenceman Mitch Stapley in that same game, and the trade deadline looming on Tuesday, there was a hole on the Smoke Eater blueline that needed to be filled. So the Smoke Eaters made a deal with Salmon Arm, bringing 20-year-old defenceman Cochrane to Trail in exchange for futures.
“Carter was a player we wanted to acquire especially with Mitch Stapley injured until playoffs, we needed to fill that hole on the backend,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Cam Keith. “We needed some experience, and, Carter, we look at as an x-factor for us making a run in the playoffs, he’s potentially the best defenceman in the league.”
The Kamloops native is coming to a Smokies team fighting for a top-four position in the Interior division, and says he looks forward to joining fellow Kamloops natives Connor Brown-Maloski and Mitchell Barker.
“I’m excited,” said Cochrane, as he travelled to Trail on Wednesday. “I had an idea that this was something that could happen, and I know a few of the guys on Trail. They’re a team in a good spot in the playoffs and can make a good run, and hopefully I can come in and contribute and extend our season.”
The five-foot 11, 195-pound defenceman scored nine goals and 16 points in 25 games with the Silverbacks this season, and is a veteran of 100 BCHL games, playing for the Chilliwack Chiefs in 2013-14 before jumping to the Western Hockey League for a season with the Everett Silvertips and Tri-City Americans.
The Smoke Eaters acquired Cochrane from the Cowichan Valley Capitals in June in a trade for Max Newton and Nii Noi Tettei, but then dealt Cochrane to Salmon Arm in exchange for forward Josh Laframboise.
Prior to Tuesday’s deadline, the Smoke Eaters were also on the search for another veteran 20-year-old forward with playoff experience to bolster a young Trail line up.
“Teams that I was targeting were the teams that were trying to unload their older guys,” said Keith. “The tough part was when you do something like that you have to give up valuable futures, and I really like our group of kids so that part was hard and I didn’t really want to give up anything for next year.”
The injury to Stapley made a defensive recruit a priority, and Cochrane fulfills that role threefold, bringing experience, maturity, and a highly skilled repertoire.
“He’s really dynamic, brings the game-breaker element to his game, and can change the outcome just by what he does individually,” said Keith.
The Smoke Eaters hold down third place in the Interior Division and have shown that they can compete with the best teams in the league, so the urgency of making a block-buster deal just wasn’t there, added Keith.
“That’s why I didn’t feel like I had to make a huge turnover deal. If we couldn’t make a deal at all I would have been pretty happy with what we have … These are great character kids, and as people in Trail know, they come to work every night.”
Salmon Arm was one of the most active teams at the trade deadline. After making the playoffs last season, the ‘Backs got out to a slow start this year and are currently in sixth and last place in the Interior Division. In addition to trading Cochrane, the Silverbacks also sent 20-year-old forward Mitch Skapski and 19-year-old forward Haydn Hopkins to Cowichan Valley for Trevor Ayre, 18, and Ryan Hogg, 18, and then shipped Josh Blanchard, 20, to Nanaimo for futures.
“I think we (Salmon Arm) underachieved a little bit,” said Cochrane. “But we were starting to grow as our season went on and overall as an organization they just wanted to get a bit younger and start building for the future.”
Cochrane brings even more stability to a much improved Smokie blue line, and his offensive skills should soften the blow of losing an adept playmaker like Stapley who leads the team in assists with 24. And once Stapley returns, the combination should make a good Smokies team better at the right time.
“I’m really excited to play in the playoffs,” said Cochrane. “I haven’t been able to do that since I was 16, just due to injuries and the teams I’ve played on. Being able to be part of a playoff calibre team and one that can make a good run, and being able to contribute to that in a big way is something I’m excited for.”
Cochrane plays his first game with the Smoke Eaters on Friday when they host the Langley Rivermen at 7:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
BCHL Jan. 10 Transactions:
The trade deadline ended Tuesday, and was fairly uneventful with the Surrey Eagles trading Michael Botiz Nick Minerva and Tyler Cooper to various teams in exchange for futures. The Eagles added Dominic Massellis to the roster for futures in a deal with Coquitlam.
Prince George traded Trent Huitema, 18, to the Humboldt Broncos in exchange for forward Tim Vanstone, 20.
Following last weeks injury to Trail native Riley Brandt (broken thumb) and the exit of Christian Cakebread to fulfill a scholarship at Niagara University, the Vernon Vipers added two forwards to the lineup signing forwards Brody Dale, 17, from the KIJHL Kelowna Chiefs, and Simon Sagissor, 19, of Stillwater, Minn.