The Trail Smoke Eaters have added 1992 born forward Mike Betz to their line-up. Betz played parts of this and last season with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Last year in 30 games as a 16 year old he had 2 points and was a +3 player. The Chiefs then sent him down to Sicamous in the KIJHL where he made a huge impression with 17 points in 13 games. This is a player that has a very imrpessive skill set. So much so that he was Spokane's 1rst round draft pick in the 2007 WHL Bantam draft. Betz went 12th overall. He'll join the Smokies with an eye to getting more playing time and developing his game as the Chiefs still believe he will become a full time fixture on their roster in seasons to come. It certainly doesn't hurt for Trail to develop a relationship with Spokane for similar situations in the future. In the meantime though he will bring his bag of tricks to Trail's line-up which includes some terrific puck skills, an excellent reach and a very good shot. He gives the Smokies another valuable right handed shot (EDIT: while the WHL website lists him as a right handed shot pictures I've since found show him shooting left so my apologies for the mistake), and with a 6'2, 215 pound frame he might be ideal to stick in front of the net on the power play. Betz is in practice this week and will likely make his Smokies debut this weekend on the road in Vernon on Friday and Saturday nights. As always yuo can hear those games on Mountain FM with Nelson Ford Trail Smoke Eaters play by play at 104.1 FM in Trail.
Unfortunately this addition also meant that someone had to go. Trail released defencemen David Piccard and Marc-Antoine Chaput to make room for Betz and to clear space heading into the December 1rst cut down date. By then the number of players on your roster and cards you have left to use can't exceed 25. Now the Smokies will have 22 players on the roster with 3 cards left to use. Depending on whether they make any moves before December 1rst that could leave them in a pretty strong position to make some moves before the January trade deadline. Of course there is always a lot of activity heading into that December 1rst cut down day so you never know what could come before then.
I do want to say a quick word about each player. I think both Piccard and Chaput absolutely have the ability to be impact players in Junior A. Piccard thinks the game well and rarely makes one of those big mistakes out there. He's solid, smart and effective. David wasn't going to make a huge offensive contribution at this level, but given time to continue developing he really is a guy you could count on in your own end. He showed what he could do in helping Nelson to a KIJHL championship last season and again really upped his game over the last month here in Trail. He is also a very classy and respectful young man who I'm sure will find success at whatever it is he chooses to do now.
Chaput took a couple of weeks to adjust to the move to Trail after coming all the way out from Quebec to play for Surrey. He has very good puck skills and the instinct of an offensive defenceman. That showed in his ability to make a transition to playing forward when called upon. In fact he even put up 3 points in a single game when he was playing up front against Quesnel. He's not a big player but he's willing to battle hard in the corners. He also thinks the game well and works hard. I suspect this is absolutely not the last we've seen of him at this level whether it's here or somewhere else in Canada.
Both players can make a contribution to this or another Junior A club. Unfortunately it was a numbers game. After the addition of Tommy Rizzardo (who had been injured in training camp) and Mitch Kaufmann the Smokies had 9 defencemen. That was never going to last. Injures to Graeme Strukoff and Justin Brown delayed the decision and gave some guys a chance to show what they could do. I'm sad to see both Piccard and Chaput go, but it's not a reflection of their inability to get the job done in my view as much as it is just the reality of having so many inexperienced guys on one team. They could have easily fit with anyone as a 5th or 6th guy this year but Trail had too many of those guys as rookies and needed to make a couple of moves to change that.
I wish them both well and am looking forward to seeing Betz in action. Every scouting report I've heard so far has been extremely positive. The first step for him in the orange and black again will likely be on Friday night in Vernon against the defending national champions. Talking about walking right into the fire! Should be a heck of an introduction to the BCHL for him.
If Betz turns out to be a forward with say "top 6" skills the Smokies are putting themselves in an excellent position when it comes to forward depth. With the emergence of Darnell Dyck, the return of Justin Brown from injury and the forthcoming return of Matt Wilkins from his injury the forward depth is looking very good. We could easily see 3 very good scoring lines here in Trail as things shape up over the next couple of weeks.
I'll have an interview with Smokies Coach Jim Ingram about the move tomorrow night on Mountain FM's Overtime between 6pm and 10pom again at 104.1 FM in Trail or on our website. The interview will be on the blog later on. I'll also try to track down the coaches in Spokane to get their view on Betz and what we can expect from him here in Trail.
...The Smoke Eaters also moved the rights of F Adam Gummer (89) to Spruce Grove of the AJHL for the rights of D Ryan Stanton (89). Stanton is in his fourth year with the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors. He's got 18 points in 18 games and is very likely going to finish his junior career in the WHL. This is just a matter of making a deal that will allow Gummer to continue his hockey career after not reporting to Trail's camp in August. This should make it clear to those who were calling for his rights to be used to acquire a 20 year old veteran defenceman that no such deal was even close to being out there. Hopefully Gummer gets his game back with Spruce Grove. He was Drayton Valley's leading scorer at the time that Trail picked him up for Skyler Smutek last year.
...Ryan Pinder's Vees blog reported today that Penticton made a move sending F Adam Zamec (89) to the Welington Dukes of the CCHL for future considerations. That leaves the Vees with one extra 20 year old slot for any additions between now and the January trade deadline.
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