Bruce Hamilton isn’t normally a proponent of carrying more than two 16-year-old players on his roster.
But considering his club’s listless start to the 2010-11 WHL campaign, the Kelowna Rockets GM sees an opportunity to invest some time in the club’s future.
The Rockets got just a little bit younger this week when they added Colton Heffley, 16, from his midget team in Swift Current. The Saskatchewan-based Legionnaires have been struggling on the ice and Hamilton believes Heffley—who can play defense or forward—would be better served playing in Kelowna.
The team’s other 16-year-olds are defenceman Damon Severson and forward Jason Siebert.
The Rockets also have six players who are 17.
“I don’t think there’s any panic, but playing the way we are right now, we might as well get our young guys going and get them learning what it’s going to take to play here,” Hamilton said. “I’m not a big believer in having a bunch of young guys around, but if you look at the real picture, we’ve got a lot of older guys who aren’t doing much right now. I’d like to try and get them all into at least 40 games or so.”
With the addition of Heffley, the Rockets’ roster now stands at 25, a number Hamilton expects to pare down by two in the not-too-distant future.
Asked if a trade or two might be in the offing, Hamilton said it’s far too early for a roster shake-up—regardless of whether the Rockets would be a buyer or seller.
Besides, he said, at just 15 games into the season, making knee-jerk decisions is never the best approach.
“As tight as the league is right now, you win three games are you’re right back in the middle of it,” he said. “It’s still early, so we’re not panicking.”
When it comes to trade talk, defenceman of the year Tyson Barrie is, not surprisingly at the top of the wish-list for other WHL clubs.
“I get calls about Tyson and Mitchell Callahan all the time, they’re the only two guys teams are really interested in,” said Hamilton. “I have no intention of trading Tyson, he’s too important for us in the development of our young defencemen, like Severson. Unless a deal blew our socks off, I don’t see doing anything with either of those guys.
“I’m not going to trade an 18-, 19-, or 20-year-old to get an 18-,19-, 20-year-old in return,” he added. “We’d rather get our kids started and get them playing.”
The Rockets are in the midst of a stretch of four games in five nights.
Kelowna will be in Kamloops Wednesday, in Vancouver on Friday, then will return home to play the Chilliwack Bruins on Saturday.