The Nelson Junior B Leafs and Castlegar Rebels completed a player swap earlier this week of rare proportions in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
On Tuesday, Leafs head coach and general manager Frank Maida announced that the team had traded for Rebels’ snipers Jamie Vlanich and Travis Wellman in exchange for Dallon Stoddart, James Sorrey and Seth Schmidt.
“I think we made it work for both teams and I think it’s a good trade,” Maida said of the rare trade involving a pair of Neil Murdoch Division rivals.
Maida said the deal had been in the works for almost six weeks and last week all the pieces fell into place.
The Rebels won the KIJHL Championship last season and were the league’s representative in the Cyclone Taylor Cup which determines the provinces Junior B champion. This spring Nelson will host the championship and are guaranteed a spot in the tournament.
“It made sense to bring in some experience, two guys who have played in the Cyclone Taylor,” said Maida. “And it improves our scoring.”
Vlanich grew up in Trail and is a three-season KIJHL veteran. Last season with the Rebels he scored 19 goals and added 32 assists to finish second in team scoring. Vlanich was second in team playoff scoring with 21 points.
Wellman is from Calgary and last season was his first in the KIJHL. In an injury shortened season he only played in 11 regular season games, accumulating 13 points. The speedy forward showed his value in the playoffs where he also amassed 21 points in the Rebels’ run.
Both players are 20-years-old and in their final junior season.
“I wanted to get some guys in the dressing room that have gone all the way and know what it takes to win in the playoffs,” said Maida.
To get something, you have to give up something and that was the hard part for the Leafs.
Stoddart grew up in Nelson and is heading into his fourth and final season of junior hockey. Dealing a local player was not easy for Maida.
“It was very difficult, but Dallon was the key to the trade for Castlegar,” said Maida. “They wanted some experience and leadership, so we had to make that decision.”
Schmidt is also a big unknown factor in the trade. The Creston-raised defenceman lead the Leafs blueliners in scoring last season and is still only 18-years-old.
The Leafs open training camp on August 30 at the Nelson and District Community Complex. The team’s first exhibition game is September 3 against Beaver Valley. The season opener is on September 13 in Castlegar against the Rebels.