The Trail Smoke Eaters had a productive weekend, wrapping up a promising Spring Camp on Sunday and completing a deal for Trail native Craig Martin from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday.
Martin, 19, is on his way back to the Smoke Eaters after playing for Vernon and Alberni Valley the last two seasons. The former Beaver Valley Nitehawk was acquired as part of the Jan. 10 deal that involved the Smoke Eaters obtaining the playing rights of Jackson Elynuik from Alberni Valley for Jake Kauppila along with futures.
It was the final piece of the future-considerations puzzle that would also see Castlegar native Jesse Knowler, Trail’s leading point scorer last season, sent to Alberni in exchange for Martin.
Smokies coach Nick Deschenes said, “It was tough to give up someone like Knowler, but in deals like that you have to give up something to get something of value in return.”
Martin played for the Smoke Eaters in 2011-12 as a 16-year-old affiliate player. In nine games with the Smoke Eaters he had five goals and two assists.
In Vernon, Martin tallied seven goals and nine assists in 37 games in an injury riddled 2012-13 season. He started the 2013-14 season with Vernon but was traded in October to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. He played nine games with Vernon scoring three goals and collecting four assists then completed the season with Alberni playing 41 games scoring 10 goals and adding 13 assists. Martin has committed to the NCAA Div. 1 Quinnipiac Bobcats.
As for the Camp, about 70 players from ages 16-19 were split into five teams for a weekend of scrimmages, while 50 Bantam age players were playing in a 4-on-4 tournament on the small ice.
“I was happy with it,” said Deschenes. “For the first one, we had a lot of talented players . . . and there is a lot of up-and-coming local talent that will continue in the same way as the Scotty Davidson’s and Craig Martins.”
The Smoke Eaters have not yet announced any commitments, however, Deschenes says they are pursuing various players, but will have to wait and see what unfolds.
Trail used a variety of KIJHL players as AP’s last year, such as the Nitehawks Sheldon Hubbard, Riley Brandt, and Braden Fuller, Creston Valley’s Colby Livingstone, and Castlegar’s Seth Schmidt and Jared Marchi, and there is a good chance a few will be in the orange and black next season.
While relationships between the Smokies and certain KIJHL teams have not always been smooth as ice, Deschenes realizes that a good working relationship with all local Junior B teams is mutually beneficial in developing young players and improving both the BCHL and KIJHL teams.
“We want to be kind of the United Nations of junior hockey,” said Deschenes. “Not just with Beaver Valley but with all the teams in the area.”