There’s absolutely nothing Colton Sissons would accept as a trade for his three seasons in a Kelowna Rockets’ uniform.
Still, the 19-year-old centre from North Vancouver is more than ready to get on with the next phase of his hockey life.
Sissons will leave early next week for the camp of the NHL’s Nashville Predators where he will officially launch his long-awaited career in the pro ranks.
For Sissons, who served two seasons as Rockets’ captain, it’s been a summer of mixed emotions.
“It’s going to be weird not coming back to Kelowna, a bit of a strange feeling in my stomach knowing I’m not going to be playing here this year,” said Sissons, who attended the start of Rockets training camp this week. “At the same time, it’s really exciting what lies ahead, I’m ready to move on and take the next step for sure.”
The ultimate goal for Sissons, a second-round draft pick of the Predators in the 2012 draft, will be to stick with NHL club for the 2013-14 campaign. If not, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound centre is prepared to fine-tune his game with the Predators’ AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.
“It’s great, the Predators have treated me really well and they give their players an opportunity to play for them, that’s what they want to develop their draft picks,” said Sissons, who turns 20 in November. “They don’t rush you, they groom you well and I’ll my spend days in the minors if they need me to. I’ll really work hard and amp game up to that next level and be ready to play when the call comes. I’m just going to work hard and be patient.”
At just 17, Sissons took over the reins as Rockets captain for the start of the 2011-12 season. And as the young centre grew and matured, so did the team in general as the Rockets won a club record 52 games last season, while racking up a 23 home-ice unbeaten streak.
However, late last season, in an unlucky twist of fate, Sissons’ junior career ended prematurely when suffered a broken collarbone, preventing him from leading the Rockets into the 2013 playoffs.
Still, Sissons is proud of the considerable progress the team made while he wore the C.
“Unfortunately we didn’t win any big championships or titles while I was here, but we did manage to have some success,” said Sissons. “When I was 17, even to last season the turnaround that we made was really positive, we made some great strides. We really got that compete and passion back into the Rockets’ jersey and hopefully that will continue.”
As for his contribution to the Rockets’ organization over the last three seasons, club president and GM Bruce Hamilton said players’ of Sissons’ substance and value are few and far between.
“He’s been a tremendous leader for us,” said Hamilton. “He took over as the youngest captain ever and what he did with this hockey club last year to get us turned around, a belief in the players, in the coaching staff that they could be better than they thought they could, and his work ethic was amazing. All the things you need to be an exceptional player, he is.
“More importantly he’s a quality person, a pleasure to have with our organization,” Hamilton added. “I look forward to watching him play with the Nashville Predators soon.”
From Sissons’ perspective his time spent in Kelowna was much more than a career-altering experience.
“I’m completely changed, I came here a boy and I’m leaving here a man,” Sissons. “I’ve built some great bonds with my billets, my teammates that I’m going to be friends with for life, all the coaches, Bruce (Hamilton) and everyone in the organization. This is as good as it gets, it’s been unbelievable and I’m going to miss it.”
In three seasons in Kelowna, Sissons had 71 goals and 149 points in 182 games.
While it’s pretty much an open-and-shut case that Sissons won’t return to Kelowna, one other Rocket with a chance to stick in the pros this season is fellow 20-year-old forward Myles Bell.
One of nine Kelowna players headed for NHL training camps next week, Bell will travel to Newark, New Jersey for Devils’ rookie camp, with the goal of making Jersey’s AHL affiliate roster in Albany, N.Y.
“I definitely want to earn my spot in Albany but if not, coming back here to play as a 20-year-old with the team we’re going to have is a pretty good plan B,” said Bell who led the Rockets in scoring last season with 38 goals and 93 points. “I’m not going to be too disappointed either way, but I would definitely like to continue pursuing my dream of playing pro hockey.”
Rocket Shots…The Rockets wrapped up their four-day training camp on Thursday night…The exhibition schedule begins Friday when the Rockets host Kamloops, 7:05 p.m. at Prospera Place…On Saturday, Kelowna visits the Vancouver Giants…Nine members of the Rockets will attend NHL training camps beginning next week.