Friday April 18, 2014

Blazers swap forwards with Cougars

With the Western Hockey League on a five-day hiatus, Kamloops Blazers general manager Craig Bonner elected to make a change to his team Tuesday, sending 18-year-old forward Aaron Macklin to the Prince George Cougars in exchange for forward Carson Bolduc.

Bolduc, 17, is in his second season in the WHL and suited up for 77 games with the Cougars, including 17 games this season, in which he has scored two goals. He played a season of bantam with the Kamloops Jardine's Blazers. In that season, 2010-11, he played alongside current WHLers Joe Hicketts, Ryan Gropp and Chad Butcher.

"We obviously had an opportunity to watch him a lot in bantam when he played for the Kamloops bantam team with Hicketts and Gropp and those guys," Bonner said.

"We think there's some potential there. He's from Salmon Arm, kind of a local kid, so he was worth taking a chance on."

Bonner pointed to Bolduc's 2010-11 bantam season as an indication of the potential the Blazers believe he has. Bonner said Bolduc had close to 100 points that season and while that hasn't translated to the WHL yet, they hope to be able to bring out the best in him.

"I think, as with most young players, they don't realize how good the league is until they're in it," Bonner said. "The big thing with him is he's going to have to compete harder and get to those dirty areas to score goals, whereas in bantam you can get away with playing on the perimeter at times and having success."

"It all comes down to work," echoed Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak. "There's a lot of good hockey players in the Western Hockey League, there's a lot of good players in the NHL, what separates the good players is how hard they want to work and compete.

"There's no questioning his talent," Hunchak continued. "It's all about your compete and your work and how much you're willing to sacrifice to become a good hockey player."

Bonner said it's now up to the Blazers organization to develop these younger players they've acquired - like Bolduc and forward Colin Shirley, who came to the Blazers as part of the Tim Bozon deal. The Blazers will be looking for Bolduc to produce and hope he can bring some on-ice and off-ice changes to the team.

"Obviously we're struggling to score goals right now, so if he can pitch in that would be great," Bonner said. "With Aaron it was more of a case where we not only had to change the look of our team a little bit on the ice but off the ice as well and I think change will be good for everybody."

Hunchak echoed that on-ice the Blazers needed more from the position Macklin was playing in. Off-ice, Hunchak said there weren't major concerns with Macklin, but there were things "from a standards perspective that he wasn't meeting."

With the move, the Blazers' roster remains the same, with 14 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders (including defenceman Jordan Thomson, who left the team and is home in Manitoba). But, with the WHL trade deadline approaching on Jan. 10, there may be more deals on the horizon.

"When you're in our situation you're always looking at things and ways to improve for now and in the future," Bonner said. "Up until the deadline we'll be talking to everybody."

Kamloops will next play Friday, 7 p.m., at Interior Savings Centre against the Kelowna Rockets.

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