Three days before hitting the ice in their WHL regular-season opener, the Kamloops Blazers added some experience to their lineup.
The Blazers acquired left-winger Tyson Ness from the Red Deer Rebels on Tuesday. In return for the 20-year-old native of Grande Prairie, Alta., Kamloops sent Red Deer a third-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft.
It was Kamloops general manager Craig Bonner’s third trade in the past two weeks — he picked up 19-year-old goaltender Bolton Pouliot from the Rebels for a 2016 sixth-round pick on Sept. 9, after picking up 19-year-old left-winger Tristan Sieben from the Vancouver Giants for a 2016 seventh-rounder on Sept. 5.
The moves to acquire Sieben and Ness were meant to add some needed experience to the Blazers’ forward ranks. Kamloops still has 16 forwards, but only eight, including Sieben and Ness, have played more than a full season in the WHL.
Ness has played three full seasons in the WHL. Over 210 career games, he has 87 points, including 46 goals, along with 60 penalty minutes. In 72 games last season, he scored 19 goals and assisted on 20 others.
“He’s a guy who’s been in our league for (three) years now, and he’s put up 39 goals over the last two years,” said Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak. “We felt that bringing in a guy who has some veteran experience and a presence can help out our top-six.
“He’s a guy who has proven he can score goals — it was important that we made this trade as we were down one 20-year-old anyway.”
Kamloops is scheduled to open the regular season against the Kelowna Rockets on Friday, 7 p.m., at Interior Savings Centre. The teams will play Saturday in Kelowna.
The trade appears to solve the 20-year-old conundrum for the Blazers and Rebels, who now have three 1993-born players apiece.
The Rebels’ 20-year-olds are forwards Lukas Sutter and Rhyse Dieno, who played 16 games with the Blazers in 2009-10, along with goaltender Patrik Bartosak. Ness, defenceman Sam Grist and forward Joe Kornelsen are the Blazers’ 20-year-olds.
Ness, who stands 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, will be expected to fill a role on one of Kamloops’ top two lines, along with, perhaps more importantly, providing leadership on and off the ice.
“With the leadership he brings to the team, it’s real important that he’s a good mentor,”
Hunchak said. “All reports are he’s an excellent leader, a good person. The big thing for us is making sure these older guys show our young guys the right way of doing things.”
* * *
With the exception of Ness, the Blazers had all hands on deck for Tuesday’s practice.
The team is healthy two days before the season starts. Centre Matt Needham, who was limited in practice last week, returned for the Blazers’ last preseason game, a 6-1 loss to the Cougars in Prince George on Saturday, and scored the lone Kamloops goal.
* * *
It was a busy day for moves in the WHL, with the Saskatoon Blades acquiring goaltender Troy Trombley.
Trombley, 19, was a third-round pick of the Blazers in the 2009 bantam draft and played a game with Kamloops in 2010. He also has played for the Everett Silvertips, and appeared in 16 regular-season games with the Americans last season.
The Blades sent a 2014 fifth-round bantam draft pick to the Americans.
Tri-City also reassigned defenceman Brodie Clowes to the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines. Clowes, 17, played in two WHL games with the Americans last season.
The Prince Albert Raiders and Lethbridge Hurricanes swapped forwards, with the Raiders picking up Craig Leverton, 18, and the Hurricanes getting 17-year-old Spencer Meyer.
The Moose Jaw Warriors sent goaltender Daniel Wapple, 18, to the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for a couple of draft picks. The Warriors got a fourth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft along with a conditional ninth-round pick in 2016.
* * *
Shaw TV released its schedule for the 2013-14 season, and the Blazers will be featured in four games after Christmas.
Kamloops will be shown Jan. 28, when the Spokane Chiefs visit ISC, and Feb. 14, with the Portland Winterhawks in town. The Blazers also will be on TV on Feb. 28, when they visit the Calgary Hitmen, and March 7, when they take on the Royals in Victoria.