Bruce Hamilton is all smiles these days.
With a gold medal in hand and one of the world’s best 19-year-old forwards now in his stable, it easy to see why.
The Kelowna Rockets’ president and GM returned home from the world junior hockey championship Tuesday afternoon, landing at the Kelowna International Airport just minutes after the club’s latest acquisition, Leon Draisaitl.
Earlier in the day, the Rockets made official the long-rumoured trade which saw them acquire the German-born Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders for forward Kris Schmidli, defenceman Dalton Yorke and three bantam draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2015.
Draisaitl, one of the top 19-year-old players in the world, spent the first half of the season with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers where he had two goals and nine points in 37 games.
While Draisaitl was initially disappointed with the thought of returning to junior, he said there’s a big silver lining in landing with a potential Memorial Cup contender.
“It’s never easy if you get sent down, obviously it’s my dream to play in the NHL,” Draisaitl said. “So I wanted to play for a team that’s most likely going to be good and going far into playoffs, so that’s something I wanted and I’m happy it happened.”
Just last month, the Rockets picked up one of the junior game’s elite defenceman in Josh Morrissey, a close friend and teammate of Draisaitl’s in Prince Allbert.
While the trades came at a cost, Hamilton said the Rockets did what they believe gives them the best chance to celebrate a championship come this spring.
“The opportunity to get Leon in the mix was a great deal for our hockey club,” said Hamilton. “(Draisaitl) is a great big centreman who is going to add tremendous depth to our team.
“We gave up five real good players overall and draft picks to get these guys, I honestly believe they give us a real good chance to win, that’s what it’s all about here right now.
Draisaitl will make his Rockets debut Wednesday night at Prospera Place against the Vancouver Giants.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was part of Team Canada’s management committee for the world junior hockey championship in Toronto and Montreal.
Canada’s six-year gold medal drought ended Monday night with a thrilling 5-4 victory over Russia at the Air Canada Centre.
Hamilton, who also served with national junior management group last year, said it was a pleasure to work with Team Canada from day one.
“It was a great experience and a wonderful group of players and the staff was just fabulous,” said Hamilton. “We never lost faith, (Monday) night we had a little adversity, we hadn’t had much through the tournament, and in true Canadian form they stood their ground and got it done. It was just a thrill and magical moment to be on the ice (Monday night).”