Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spruce Kings Clean House, Pickering Traded

A couple of days ago I suggested that the Prince George Spruce Kings were likely sellers at the deadline... and they were. However, what I didn't count on was how little they would actually do to help other BCHL clubs.

The Spruce Kings instead made 4 of their 5 deals with teams in the AJHL. All of the deals saw Prince George pick up future considerations in return. Next year's team could be an interesting one as a result. The only BCHL club to benefit from the Prince George house cleaning is the Surrey Eagles who add veteran defenceman Josh Pineiro. Pineiro is a very solid vet, but his production has tailed off after a start that had him on a point per game pace. He should help Surrey at both ends of the ice.

Prince George also moved Brooks Robinson back to Alberta as the son of former Caps Coach Scott Robinson is now a member of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Goaltender Steve Papciak also returns to the Alberta league, but this time with Canmore. As far as I can tell Papciak was the only goalie with a winning record for Prince George this season as they've kind of had a revolving door between the pipes. Talented Forward Marcus Watson's stay with PG was a short one as he is now off to join the Grande Prairie Storm.

As much as all of those guys could be key additions for the teams they find themselves with, I would say that Wes McLeod is likely the biggest fish leaving the Spruce Kings. I heard speculation all around the BCHL about who could get him. There were even people in Trail last night telling me the Smokies should go after him. Trust me when I say the price was way too high for a team with as much young talent as Trail. A lot of that talent would be in Spruce Kings colours next season if that was the move they made. There was talk that everyone from Vernon to Salmon Arm to Flin Flon wanted to take a crack at McLeod. Who won the sweepstakes? The Spruce Grove Saints.

Why is McLeod so valuable? Anyone who has seen him play doesn't need me to answer that question. He's a point per game guy from the back end who is very solid in all aspects. He played for Team Canada West and is a multiple time All-Star. He's also only 19 and as such doesn't take up a 20 year old spot. Why should we care that he's going to Spruce Grove? The Saints are the best team in Alberta and may in fact be the best team in Canada. They've only lost 3 times in regular all season. Now a team that good can add a player of McLeod's status... not paying the price to get him could end up coming back to haunt whichever team wins the BCHL championship and has to face Spruce Grove in the Doyle Cup.

It looks like (at least for now) Prince George Captain Sam Muchalla is staying put. The 1990 born forward could have fetched a huge price on the open market. However, he is a Prince George native and I bet the Spruce Kings wanted to keep him in their uniform before he heads off to school next year. The Sprucies also kept the likes of Zac Rasmussen, Joe Morgan and Brad Bourke who could have been key additions for contending clubs. While it certainly looks like Prince George is throwing in the towel on this season, they do still have some significant talent. The reason I say that is because I'm sure some fans in Trail, Merritt and Quesnel just got a little more comfortable with their playoff spot. Don't count on it yet! Ed Dempsey's club isn't going to go out without a fight. Sometimes a house cleaning of veteran talent like this can motivate guys and create an "us against the world" environment.

They've got nothing to lose so don't start making playoff reservations yet.


Former Smoke Eater Andrew Pickering is on the move again. After starting his career with Victoria he has now seen stops in Trail, Prince George, Merritt and now Penticton. As Brian reported over at Making Cents, Pickering apparently asked to be moved to a contender. His wish has been granted. There are few if any teams more poised to make a run for it all than the Vees.

In return the Cents will add the services of Sam Gemmell. Gemmell's stay with the Vees was a short one, but there should be an opportunity to prove himself with the Cents. The other good thing for Merritt fans is that Gemmell is only a 1990 born forward so he could return next season while Pickering is in his final year of junior.

I also heard about this deal from a couple of other sources earlier today but they were holding off reporting it until the league approved the deal. Where does Pickering fit in Penticton? I suspect there's an opportunity for him to see some offensive ice with Eric Filiou on the shelf. However, there is a lot of depth on that Vees forward group. He'll have to play and produce consistently to get the kind of ice time he's had in his previous stops. Andrew is a very skilled hockey player who sees the ice very well. It'll be interesting to see how he fits in with the Vees.


There were a couple of other small moves. Vernon sent 19 year old defenceman Nils Erik Soderlund to Winkler of the MJHL for futures. Soderlund is a big and talented defenceman who just didn't get enough of a chance to play in Vernon. They have a deep club and Soderlund found himself in the stands more often than not. Now that he'll get a chance to play more I expect he'll turn some heads. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up back in this league next season. Now everyone is wondering if the move clears the way for Sahir Gill to return from the USHL.

Quesnel sent Defenceman Matt Hutchinson to the OCN Blizzard of the MJHL for future considerations. He looked solid in the games I saw him in but apparently wasn't in Quesnel's plans.

Is there more to come? Probably. A lot of these deals don't get reported until a full day later sometimes. Stay tuned for more including an update on the KIJHL. Also don't forget that teams can still add "free agents" if they have available cards. This isn't over just yet.

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