The Trail Smoke Eaters will have a name on the 2011-12 roster familiar to Nelson hockey fans. After a hard fought pre-season, forward Adam Wheeldon has cracked the BCHL line-up.
“To be honest with you, every little thing he does impresses me,” says Smoke Eaters head coach Bill Birks who took over the team’s top job this past spring. “He works hard which is number one, but he is a good character kid. He does all the little things that most people don’t see in a game. He is one of those valuable kids that is going to be a big piece of the puzzle.”
Wheeldon was a rookie with the Nelson Junior Leafs last season where he registered nine points in a primarily checking role. The gritty centre also compiled 78 minutes in penalties.
Wheeldon played minor hockey in Nelson starting atom and helped the Bantam reps to a provincial title in 2009. Before joining the Leafs as a 16-year-old rookie, Wheeldon played one season with the Kootenay Ice in the BC Major Midget league.
Many of the same qualities local hockey fans have seen on display at the Nelson and District Community Complex over the years is what caught Birks’ eye since training camp opened in August.
“In pre-season he was the guy that had the most hits, blocked the most shots, drawn the most penalties,” said Birks. “He does so many things right that it’s hard not to keep him. He’s a great kid and fits into the room well, as a 17-year-old I already see him being a leader on this team.”
Luke Bertolucci, who is from Trail and played on the Kootenay Ice midget team last season, also cracked the Smoke Eaters roster for the upcoming season. Former Nelson Junior Leafs goaltender Matt Larose is entering his second season with the Smoke Eaters between pipes.
Trail opens its regular season this weekend with a pair of home games against the Westside Warriors.
The Westside roster includes former Nelson Junior Leafs Shaun Hochhausen, Brett Mackinnon and Brayden Sherbinin.
Both games start at 7:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
Another former Nelson Minor Hockey product has also embarked on his second season of tier II junior A.
Troy Petrick is playing with the Dawson Creek Rage of the North American Hockey League. Petrick — who also played for the Midget Ice — has registered three assists in the team’s four games.
Last season Petrick scored five goals and added 11 assists in his rookie season with the Rage.