No fewer than six times during a five-minute chat Thursday did Kale Kessy speak about wanting to make a deep playoff run with his new team.
The Kamloops Blazers are hoping he will play a big part in making that happen.
Kessy, a 20-year-old forward, joined his new teammates on Thursday, a day after the Blazers had acquired him from the Vancouver Giants. Going to Vancouver was 18-year-old forward Rob Trzonkowski and a fifth-round pick in the 2015 WHL bantam draft.
The Blazers' newest forward will debut Friday night, when the Seattle Thunderbirds visit Interior Savings Centre for a 7 o'clock start. Trzonkowski and the Giants are in Red Deer to play the Rebels.
Going from Vancouver, which sits last in the WHL with a 10-28-0 record, to Kamloops (27-10-4), which has the league's fourth-best winning percentage, is like going from the proverbial outhouse to the penthouse.
Kessy certainly is excited.
"Vancouver is a younger team, but a first-class organization and I can't thank them enough," said the native of Shaunavon, Sask. "They're going to be good two or three years down the road.
"But the Blazers are talented right now, and I want to help them go far. This is my last year — I want to win a championship."
Kessy fills the third 20-year-old spot on the Blazers' roster, something unlikely to change before Thursday's WHL trade deadline. Brendan Ranford and Dylan Willick, both forwards, are the others.
Kessy is the Blazers' third attempt at filling the third spot. Forward Jordan DePape started the season there, but injured a shoulder and won't return. Kamloops then traded for forward Charles Inglis, who lasted only 11 games before the Blazers released him after a Dec. 12 game in Edmonton.
Kessy is a much more physical presence than DePape or Inglis — it’s what the Blazers felt they needed to help make a playoff run.
“If we got a little bit of experience from last year’s playoffs, and what the league is now . . . all the teams are big,” said Blazers head coach Guy Charron. “The bigger forwards, their durability when it comes to playoff time makes it a lot easier.”
Kessy, a 6-foot-3, 202-pounder, has played in 222 games for the Giants and Medicine Hat Tigers, with whom he played parts of five seasons. He has scored 34 goals and assisted on 53 others over that period, and has accumulated 467 penalty minutes.
Kessy also has been suspended seven times for a total of 26 games. His latest suspension was a 12-gamer for a check to the head of Lethbridge Hurricanes defenceman Ryan Pilon on Sept. 22.
The name of Kessy’s game is physicality and, although he’s trying to avoid the dangerous hits — four of his prior suspensions were for checks from behind, with another coming after a major for boarding — he hasn’t stopped using his body.
“It’s a fine line, but I think I’ve adjusted well since the suspension,” Kessy said. “I’ve been playing well. I’m a hard-working, in-your-face player, and I can’t change that — it’s my style.”
The Phoenix Coyotes liked that style enough to select Kessy in the fourth-round of the 2011 NHL draft. He’s planning to stick with it, although he has found the net nine times in 29 games this season.
“(The Blazers) are skilled . . . they probably have all the offence they need,” he said. “I’m a bigger body up front. I’m physical and I’m hard-working.”
The trade was confirmed not long after the Blazers had beaten the Giants 4-2 in Vancouver on Wednesday.
Although the Blazers rode home on their bus, Kessy drove to Kamloops on Thursday morning.
“After the game, I was jumping in the shower and the trainer said the coaches wanted to talk to me,” Kessy said. “The (Giants’) general manager, Scott Bonner, told me.
“I’m really excited to get started here. They have a really good team here and I’m looking forward to going far in the playoffs.”
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The Blazers will be without forward Aspen Sterzer again tonight.
Sterzer, 18, sat out Wednesday’s game with what Charron called an “upper-body injury.”
“He’ll be a while,” Charron added.
Defenceman Tyler Hansen, who was ill and sat out Wednesday, practised Thursday and is expected to be back Friday night.
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After tonight, the Blazers won’t play again until Wednesday, when the Tri-City Americans visit.
On that night, Kamloops could have defencemen Marek Hrbas and Jordan Thomson in the lineup. Forward JC Lipon, however, may be out.
Lipon is with Canada at the world junior hockey championship in Ufa, Russia, where Hrbas is with the Czech Republic. Thomson wrapped up the U17 world hockey challenge in Quebec on Thursday.
“Marek said that he’d be back for Wednesday’s game,” Charron said. “As far as (Lipon), after the game Saturday, he’ll probably fly home (to Regina) and spend a couple days there.
“We probably don’t expect him for Wednesday or Thursday, but hopefully the weekend (Jan. 11-13).”
Forward Nick Chyzowski, a second-round selection by the Blazers in the 2012 bantam draft, is expected to make his WHL debut tonight. He is the son of former Blazers F Dave Chyzowski (1987-90), who now is the team’s director of sales and marketing.
Nick plays for the major midget Thompson Blazers.