Kelowna trades 20-year-old Johnston to Prince Albert
The reality of simple math in major junior hockey has added up to a move for MacKenzie Johnston.
With four 20-year-old players on the Kelowna Rockets' roster—and the league's deadline for declaring three over-agers looming on Oct. 15—the 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenceman was the odd man out.
The Rockets dealt Johnston to the Prince Albert Raiders Wednesday for a third-round bantam draft pick in 2015.
Johnston, a Swift Current native who is returning to his home province, was in his fifth season with the Rockets.
The club's remaining 20-year-old players are goalie Jordon Cooke, and forwards Myles Bell and Zach Franko.
With an excess of defencemen (nine) on the roster, Rockets' GM Bruce Hamilton said moving Johnston made the most sense for the hockey club.
At the same time, Hamilton admits it was a difficult decision to part with Johnston, a good teammate and valued member of the organization for the last four-plus years.
"It was very difficult to move a player like MacKenzie Johnson, who has been with us for four full seasons," said Hamilton. "He's been a very special person to have around. He's a very popular guy with our players. I'm glad he's going to a situation where the team has a chance to win and he's going home to his home province."
Because the club carried four 20-year-old players into the new season, Johnston knew there was a strong possibility he wouldn't finish his WHL career in Rockets colours.
Prior to the trade, Johnston expressed his feelings about the prospects of leaving Kelowna.
"Obviously it's going to be tough, if it happens," Johnston told the Capital News on Tuesday. "I've been here for a long time and it's pretty much become my home. It's tough because we're all like brothers. But I know it's a business, too."
Johnston cracked the Rockets lineup as a 16-year-old in 2009-10. He went on to play 233 regular season games with the Rockets, scoring eight goals and adding 26 assists.
Johnston will see his former teammates when the Rockets take the Raiders on Dec. 15 in Prince Albert.
Rocket Shots…The Rockets and defending WHL-champion Portland Winterhawks will meet twice this weekend, Saturday and Sunday at Prospera Place. The teams will play just twice more in the regular season, Dec. 28 and Jan 2 in Portland. The Winterhawks eliminated Kelowna from the playoffs two straight years, in 2011 and 2012…The Rockets will visit the Spokane Chiefs on Tuesday.