Adam Wheeldon’s rookie British Columbia Hockey League season has been filled with adversity, but the Trail Smoke Eaters have slotted the gritty forward in as an important part of the team’s future.
“I absolutely love the kid,” said Smoke Eaters head coach Bill Birks. “He is great in the room, he is working hard and he is improving every day. He is a very valuable piece of this team. The kid will probably wear a letter for me one day.”
It’s been a horrible start for the Smoke Eaters this season. Battling injuries and spotty goaltending, Trail currently sits last in the BCHL’s Interior Conference.
“We’re playing really good hockey, we just haven’t had the results that these kids deserve with their hard work,” Birks told the Star. “We are a young team and it’s a process. Everyone in the dressing room is on board and spirits are high.”
Wheeldon scored his first Junior A goal last week in a 9-3 loss to the Penticton Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Unlike his days as a Nelson Minor Hockey rep standout, points have been hard to come by for Wheeldon so far this season. His goal was only his second point of the season, but Birks said offensive output is not the focus for the rookie.
“You are a go-to guy all the way through minor hockey, then you get to this level you have a little bit to learn on the other side of the puck,” said Birks. “He knows that and he does so many good things well that most people don’t see with the naked eye. He may not be putting points on the board, there are so many other things he does that are invaluable.”
Like he did with the Nelson Junior Leafs last season as a 16-year-old, Wheeledon has been playing regularly on the pentalty kill.
Wheeldon is currently out of the line-up with an upper body injury and also missed several games earlier this season when he had to undergo emergency appendix surgery.
Trail’s next action is a home-and-home with Westside. The home side of the set is in Trail on Saturday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.