(Josh McEwan and Mitch Kaufmann)
The Trail Smoke Eaters made a couple of roster moves today leading into their home games against Cowichan Valley and Prince George this weekend. They traded 1989 born forward Colin Lidster to Grande Prairie of the AJHL for 1991 born defenceman Mitch Kaufmann and future considerations. Trail also added 1991 born forward Josh McEwan to their roster. He spent last season with the Langley Chiefs. To make room for McEwan the Smokies released 1989 born forward Riley Loyst. I'll have more details coming up shortly.
EDIT: So what does this move mean for the Smoke Eaters? First of all it creates a log jam on the back end. There are now nine defencemen on the roster. It also means the Smokies now have a third veteran on the blue line. Kaufmann may only be 18 years old but he has a year under his belt on a top team in the AJHL. As a rookie Kaufmann got ice time on a championship team throughout their playoff run. He only has one point in his Junior A career so I don't expect him to walk in to Trail and run the power play. That being said, I'm told he has a very good shot. He also had 15 points in 36 games with the Red Deer Optimist Rebels as a 16 year old in Midget AAA.
I don't think anyone should expect Kaufmann to walk in here and completely re-shape the back end. I would expect a solid player with some experience who can help calm things down in the Trail zone. That's the way he was described in an article on Kaufmann's try out with the WHL's Red Deer Rebels this fall:
“I think Mitch has played well. He’s been steady,” said (Rebels Head Coach Jesse) Wallin. “He’s got some junior A experience so he’s come in here and played with confidence because of that. He’s a steady guy. He doesn’t do anything real flashy but he’s solid in his own zone, he makes a good first pass and doesn’t get himself in much trouble. As a result, he’s certainly garnered some attention that way and he’ll get a longer look.”That's the kind of player the Smokies could use right now. Smart, simple and effective play. I know Kaufmann is excited to be coming to Trail and should be in town in time for this weekend's home games against Cowichan Valley and Prince George.
As for the addition of Josh McEewan, he is another player who should make a difference with his two-way game. Josh had a goal and a couple of assists last season with the Langley Chiefs. McEwan also made a very tough Fernie Ghostriders squad when he was 16 years old. He only had 11 points in the regular season, but Josh upped his game in a big way with 9 points in 19 playoff games as Fernie won the KIJHL Championship. He also had 119 penalty minutes that season and 90 last year with Langley. McEwan has been skating with the Smokies for over a week now without any promises. He came in to prove himself and show the organization that he has what it takes to wear the orange and black. Coach Ingram says he's exactly the kind of player he likes and a guy who has told the coach that he will do anything and play whatever role it takes to get onto the roster. That kind of attitude and determination is exactly the kind of way to get Ingram's attention. Now we'll see how Josh can do if all the paperwork gets taken care of before the games this weekend.
As for the departures, it is always tough to see anyone go. Riley Loyst was a guy who always worked hard and played a very determined game. He battled back from two broken jaws and always busted his butt. I hope Riley can land somewhere to finish off his junior hockey career in style.
We know where Colin Lidster is going to go. The big man will now have a chance to show his stuff on the defending AJHL champions. Colin came to Trail to try and show that he could be a top 6 player and put up some big points in his 20 year old season. The performance of some of the new Smokies forwards like Lewis, Mellor and Wilkins made that less likely. Rather than play out his final season here on the bottom 6 we'll see if Lidster can head to Alberta and make a loud impression with a perennial power house in that league. He's a guy with a great stride and good shot on a huge frame... if he can put it all together the Storm may reap the rewards.
I certainly wish both Loyst and Lidster the best.
With their departure and the previous release of Devon Murtagh the Smokies also find themselves with three free 20 year old slots. Does that mean they'll fill those spots? Not necessarily. However, it does give Coach Ingram the flexibility to add a few more veterans should the opportunity present itself. I suspect there are still some moves to be made. For now we'll get our first look at the new additions tomorrow night against Cowichan Valley and Saturday night against Prince George. The Smokies are tough to beat at the Cominco Arena, especially if we get another great crowd like last Saturday night.
...With the departure of Colin Lidster there was an opening for another alternate captain. Second year defenceman Graeme Strukoff will now have an 'A' on his jersey for the Smokies. Congratulations to Strukoff who is a first class citizen on and off the ice. I talk often to his father and I can see where it comes from. The "bull in a china shop" is one of two 18 year old members of Trail's leadership team with Justin Brown. Hopefully they will both be big parts of the team for the remainder of their junior careers.
...My condolences to the Vernon Vipers and the family of Wayne Buck. The former Vipers PA announcer passed away recently. He was the man behind the mic for 15 years.
...What kinds of things would make your Christmas time experience at a BCHL hockey game a little more exciting? Let me know via e-mail email@example.com
...Some BCHL broadcasters got together today for what I believe is the first broadcasters pool. There are 8 of us in there and I'll keep you up to date as the season goes on. That is unless I find myself at the bottom of the standings! I've got Ovechkin on my team so I've at least got that going for me.
...Tomorrow's game by the way is another chapter in the mentor vs. student battle between Capitals Coach Scott Robinson and Smokies Coach Jim Ingram. Ingram was at one point Robinson's assistant in Cowichan Valley. The Caps beat Trail in the only match-up between the two teams last year. Both squads are struggling in the standings and will be playing desperate hockey. It should be entertaining.