The first major trade of the Western Hockey League season was consummated on Tuesday and the buyer was a bit of a surprise.
The Kootenay Ice made a statement loud and clear that they plan to be players in what appears to be a wide-open Eastern Conference, adding high-scoring forward Tim Bozon and veteran defenceman Landon Cross of Brandon in a blockbuster deal with the faltering Kamloops Blazers.
With a 6-5-2-0 mark this season, the Ice haven’t exactly looked like world-beaters, but they do have one of the WHL’s top players in Sam Reinhart — a candidate to be chosen first overall in next year’s National Hockey League draft — and the addition of Bozon gives him another running mate.
Chosen in the third round of last year’s NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens, Bozon, 19, had 91 points for the Blazers last season and totalled 72 goals over 140 games in his first two WHL campaigns. But he has only seven points this fall as the Blazers have gone 4-9-0-0.
“We just felt that goals are hard to come by and if we can add one of the premier goal-scorers in the league to play with Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau, then that gives us more depth, and probably gives us two good lines that can score, not just one,” Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth told Trevor Crawley of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.
Interestingly, while Bozon is the centrepiece of the deal, Chynoweth said it was his interest in adding Cross that started the proceedings. A third-year WHLer, Cross has a goal, an assist and a plus/minus of -2 in 13 games this season after posting 16 points and a +24 rating in 2012-13 and Chynoweth expects the 19-year-old to play in Kootenay’s top four.
“We had enquired about Landon Cross right from the get-go just because we made no secret, we were trying to improve our back end,” Chynoweth told the Townsman, “And just checking around, it went from Landon Cross to adding Tim Bozon and making the package bigger.”
The package going the Blazers’ way is big indeed. Kamloops gets forward Collin Shirley — a 17-year-old who was a first-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft but has yet to find his scoring touch in the WHL — as well as 18-year-old defenceman Matt Thomas, plus a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft and first- and fifth-rounders in 2015.
The move gives the Ice two Westman players on their blue-line. Virden’s Landon Peel, 19, has played 10 of the club’s 13 games this season, with a goal and three assists and a plus/minus of -2.
AROUND THE WHL: Portland C Nicolas Petan is the WHL’s player of the week. He had two goals and five assists in three games for the Winterhawks last week … Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province reports that the Giants have “parted ways” with goalie coach Paul Fricker. Last in the WHL in 2012-13, Vancouver (2-7-1-1) is last in the Western Conference again this season and has the league’s worst team save percentage, at .869 … Spokane RW Mitch Holmberg has points in all 13 of the Chiefs’ games this season. The WHL’s leading scorer has 16 goals and 16 assists.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 23, 2013