Rockets hold firm at deadline

Neither a buyer nor a seller, the Kelowna Rockets stuck with the status quo as Western Hockey League’s trade deadline passed without fanfare on Monday afternoon.

With many of the parts for the future already in place and a team he believes is capable of a meaningful playoff run this spring, Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton chose not to tinker with his 24-man roster.

Besides, with the Western Conference race as a tight as a drum, most teams—including the Rockets—were hesitant to stir the pot.

“It was as quiet a day as I can ever remember,” said Hamilton. “Our division is so tight and there are so many teams still in it, nobody was selling off. There weren’t too many mid-range type players available for a reasonable price, so there just wasn’t much movement.”

At the top of the Rockets wish-list was a big-bodied centre but such a commodity in the WHL is rare and comes at a hefty price.

As far as fielding calls from other GMs, Hamilton said one Kelowna player garnered most of the attention.

“I had calls about (captain) Tyson Barrie when I was in Buffalo for the world juniors, but I made it very clear we weren’t going to make a deal involving him,” Hamilton said. “If you take away your best players, your young guys don’t develop the way they should. (Rookie defenceman) Damon Severson needs Barrie here.

“What we have is what we have and we’re going to go the rest of the way with it.”

With aspirations of hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup, Hamilton has been mindful about protecting his young corps of talent for the future.

As for the present, the Rockets believe their chances of contending in 2010-11 are as realistic as almost any team in the league.

For starters, Kelowna is confident in its goaltending where Adam Brown has, for the most part, been nothing short of spectacular.

“One thing I know is that we have goaltending, and if you have that you have a chance to win every night no matter who you’re playing,” said Hamilton.

Sporting a full and healthy roster, the Rockets displayed a glimpse of their potential in November when they won 10 of 11 games.

They haven’t been nearly as sharp since with eight losses in the last 16 games, but most of those came in the absence of their head coach and three key players who were at the world junior hockey championship in Buffalo.

“Now that Ryan (Huska) is back and we have all our guys back from the world juniors, we gotta have our whole team going every night,” he said.

“It’s going to be a little more competitive in the second half, and we’re going to be fair and straight with the guys. If you take a night off, it doesn’t matter who you are, somebody else will play. We have to have everybody going to be in this thing.”

Rocket Shots…A trio of Rockets forwards were listed in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings for the 2011 NHL entry draft. Shane McColgan was rated 102nd, Zach Franko was 105th, and Jessey Astles was ranked 192nd among North American skaters who are eligible for the draft…The Rockets (22-19-0-0) will host the Portland Winterhawks Friday and the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday.

whenderson@kelownacapnews.com

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