As the Nelson Junior Leafs head into the second half of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season, the coaching staff has shuffled the deck.
On Sunday head coach and general manager Frank Maida pulled the trigger on his second trade in a week, shipping veteran defenceman Riley Henderson to Golden in exchange for Marc Lepine.
“It was a gap we needed to fill in the front end,” says Maida. “We had eight defenceman and needed to get a forward.”
Henderson has been injured for half of the 2011-12 season and only recently returned to the line-up. The 6’3” rearguard has scored three goals and added 12 assists in his 17 games so far this season.
“Riley was an important part of our team,” says Maida. “But we have a situation where he was a player that was being asked about by other teams. To get something you have to give up something and a lot of the teams wanted Riley and it was him that we moved on.”
In Lepine the Leafs are getting grit. The 18-year-old Edmonton native has scored one goal and added two assists in his 22 appearances with the Golden Rockets.
“He is going to be sandpaper kind of a player,” Maida says. “He will be finishing checks and mucking it up. He will create turnovers and create chances for some of our goal scoring.”
The deal for Lepine was the second in a week for the Leafs. California native Taylor Carriveau was dealt to the Fernie Ghostriders late last week in a cash deal. Like the trade involving Henderson, Maida says it was made possible by the fact the Leafs’ blueline corps are finally getting healthy.
“I think Taylor will get an opportunity to play more in Fernie and they were looking for somebody in that position,” says Maida.
Also helping with the recent defense decisions is the play of two recent additions, Eric Spring and J.J. Beitel.
“The two of them have become a great shutdown pair which has given us some flexibility,” says Maida. “They are going to be a big part of our team for the rest of the season.”