Brodan Salmond was fully prepared to spend the remainder of the 2015-16 season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Then the Kelowna Rockets came calling.
In need of a goaltender to provide support for starter Michael Herringer, the Rockets promoted Salmond this week from the Camrose Kodiaks for the balance of the season.
While the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Calgary native said he never expected to be making a trip to Kelowna in early February, he’s thrilled with the reason behind it.
“I was maybe a little surprised, you always hope it will happen, so I was really excited when I found out,” Salmond, 17, said Wednesday after arriving in Kelowna. “The WHL has been my goal, it’s a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to helping the team out.”
With 20-year-old Jackson Whistle’s return to the Rockets’ lineup still unclear due to an injury, Kelowna needed another goaltender to spell off Herringer, who has made 13 consecutive starts.
Since Jan. 1, Brady Lenardon of the Kelowna junior B Chiefs has been the backup but hasn’t played a minute.
A 10th round bantam pick of the Rockets in 2013, Salmond was solid for the Kodiaks this season, posting an 11-6-0-0 record and 3.02 goals against average.
With the step up to major junior sure to present some challenges, Rockets’ goaltending coach Travis Crickard hopes to make Salmond’s transition as smooth as possible.
“First and foremost will be to develop a relationship with him, I tend to think of the players as people first, so that’s what will be most important to start,” Crickard said. “Then we’ll get to work on helping him be a better goaltender, just getting him up to speed and getting him ready to play in some games if necessary.”
“He comes from a high quality program in Camrose where he’s played well, so he already has a head start.”
If Whistle continues to be sidelined over the long term, Crickard said it won’t be long before Salmond makes his WHL debut.
“I know Michael (Herringer) would say he’s fine, he wants to play in every game and that’s normal for a goalie to say,” Crickard said. “But he’s played a lot of hockey and I’m a big believer of management of games…we don’t want to burn him out. We’ve got another stretch of four games in five nights, so we’re going to do our best to have (Brodan) ready.”
The Rockets will host the Spokane Chiefs on Friday, then Calgary Hitmen on Saturday, and the Seattle Thunderbirds on Monday afternoon.