When the Kelowna Rockets acquired him this month from the Kamloops Blazers, it represented, in many ways, a homecoming for Jake Kryski.
The 18-year-old Vancouver native not only played with the B.C. Major Midget League’s Okanagan Rockets in 2012-13, but has spent the last three summers living in Kelowna with his family.
So when word came earlier this month that he had been dealt to Kelowna for defencemen Joe and Danny Gatenby, it felt like a comfortable fit for the 5-foot-11, 188-pound forward.
“I’m pretty excited to be coming to such a great organization,” said Kryski. “Now that I’m living in Kelowna during the summers, it really will be like playing at home.
“It’s pretty big knowing my way around town, I’m familiar with most things, so I won’t need to use Google maps anymore,” he added with a laugh.
With the graduation of the high-scoring Tyson Baillie and the likely departures of Rourke Chartier and Justin Kirkland to the pro ranks—a trio which combined for 99 goals last season—the Rockets were in need of some reinforcement at forward this season.
In two years with the Blazers, Kryski showed some offensive potential with 23 goals and 40 assists in 132 games.
Now, as an 18-year-old heading into this third season, assistant GM Lorne Frey expects Kryski to be a key contributor for the Rockets.
“We’re certainly hoping he brings us some offense,” Frey said of Kryski. “He’s a skilled player, he’s got great speed and good vision. He’s gives us some much-needed depth up front.
“We think he’s going to continue to improve,” Frey said. “We’re hoping a change of environment will help him grow and develop.”
Kryski admitted to needing a change of scenery after two years with the Blazers and plans to make the most of his newest chapter of his junior career.
“Some of the guys leaving here were really good leaders and good scorers, so I hope I can add some scoring,” he said. “I just want to bring some energy and do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Highly-touted coming out of midget hockey with the Okanagan Rockets, Kryski was somewhat disappointed this past summer when he was passed over the NHL entry draft.
He’s already using that omission as motivation for the 2016-17 season.
“I was a little disappointed, I guess I didn’t quite have the year I needed to (in 2015-16) so that contributed to it a little bit,” Kryski said. “That motivated me and from the draft on I’ve worked a lot harder at my game. I hope to have a better year this year and get some eyes watching.”
Frey said Kryski will help bolster a forward group led this season by the likes of veterans Nick Merkley (expected back from injury in October), Dillon Dube, Calvin Thurkauf, Tomas Soustal, Rodney Southam and Kole Lind.
Competition for remaining jobs up front is stiff, with Jack Cowell, 17, and Nolan Foote, 16, among the newcomers who are in the running to crack the roster.
Frey said success on offence this season would could well hinge on a scoring-by-committee approach.
“We haven’t had early picks in the (bantam) draft the last few years, so we haven’t been able to land a high-end forward,” said Frey. “We’re going to have to rely on everybody to pick it up as a group. We’ll need everyone contributing.”