The Kelowna Rockets continue to tinker with its roster as the Western Hockey League regular season approaches this weekend.
After adding two twenty-year-old players late last week, the Rockets traded a pair of its younger players to the Vancouver Giants on Monday, in exchange for draft picks.
Forward Tanner Moar and defenceman Stewart Coyle were sent to Vancouver in exchange for a fourth round bantam draft pick in 2014 and a sixth rounder in 2015.
“We had too many players and we are happy that we could find a place for Tanner and Stewart to play,” said Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton.
On Saturday night, newly acquired WHL veterans J.T. Barnett and Dylen McKinlay both hit the ice at Prospera Place for the first time as members of the Kelowna Rockets and landed with a splash in the Rockets final preseason game.
Barnett, 20, scored on his first shift and added two more goals for a hat trick while McKinlay also scored and added two assists in their Rockets debuts. Barnett was picked up off waivers while McKinlay only cost the Rockets a 5th round bantam pick.
“Both of those guys wanted to come in here and prove what they could do and I thought they both played extremely well,” said Rockets’ assistant coach Dan Lambert. “They showed us they want to be here and they belong in the league and maybe a fresh start is what both those guys needed.”
The goals came in an 8-1 win over Tri-City at Prospera Place as the Rockets closed out the WHL preseason with a 2-2-0-2 record. This weekend Kelowna opens the regular season with a home and home series against Kamloops, playing in Kamloops on Friday night before hosting its home opener on Saturday at Prospera Place.
It’s a tough opening schedule for the Rockets as they will follow this weekend’s double-hearer against Kamloops with two games in Portland the following weekend, opening the season against two teams expected to be contenders in the WHL Western Conference.
Lambert says the focus of practice this week is making sure all the players understand the way the Rockets want to play.
“We want to make sure we are all on the same page and touch up on everything this week,” said Lambert. “We want to make sure we play the right way. We don’t have an easy start but we just want our guys to play the right way and worry about our own team.”