As a player who filled both a 20-year-old and an import spot on the roster, the odds of Tomas Soustal remaining with the Kelowna Rockets’ this season were already diminished.
So when fellow over-ager Carsen Twarynski returned to the Western Hockey League club on Monday, Soustal officially became the odd man out.
The Rockets traded the Czech-born forward to the Edmonton Oil Kings this week for a fourth-round bantam draft pick in 2018.
With just three 20-year-old spots and a pair of import positions available, Rockets’ GM Bruce Hamilton said there simply wasn’t enough room for Soustal.
“The problem is we had two young Europeans already, (Libor) Zabransky, who has played real well, and (Marek) Skvrne who we want to give a chance to see what he can do,” said Hamilton. “Tomas was a ‘two-spotter’ so it can be tough to find room for those players. With Twarynski back, we had to make a decision and this was the way we decided we had to go.”
Soustal, a 2014 CHL Import Draft pick who was beginning his fourth season in Kelowna, recorded 47 goals and 113 points in 175 regular season games with the Rockets.
Twarynski, along with defencemen Gordie Ballhorn and James Hilsendager, will occupy the club’s 20-year-old spots to start the WHL season.
A 6-foot-2, 200-pound product of Calgary, Twarynski was returned to the Rockets this week from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.
As much as he was intent on launching his pro career this season, Twarynsi said returning to a team of the Rockets’ calibre has certainly softened the blow.
“Obviously it’s a good organization, I had a real good time here and being a 20-year-old in this league is a good time in your life,” said Twarynski, a third-round draft pick of the Flyers in 2016 who turns 20 next month. “To be able to come back to a team like this with the coaching staff, the players here and the city, it’s pretty special.”
Brought in last season add size and grit, Twarynski was acquired prior to the 2017 trade deadline from the Calgary Hitmen.
Hamilton said the 19-year-old power forward will be expected to fill a key role for the Rockets this season.
“He’s got to be more productive, we need a big body who can skate and play with (Dillon) Dube or (Kole) Lind, and we think he can do that,” Hamilton said of Twarynski, who had 27 points in 44 games with the Rockets, regular season and playoffs combined. “He has to bring some bite and keep other teams honest.”
Rockets vs Royals…
An early-season battle of the top two teams in the B.C. Division will take centre stage Wednesday at Prospera Place when the Rockets host the Victoria Royals. Face off is 7:05 p.m.
The Royals (4-0-0) are the Western Conference’s lone undefeated team, while the Rockets sit at 2-0-0-1.
Kelowna is coming off a 4-3 shootout loss Friday at home to the Everett Silvertips.