Kimberley Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks continues to preach patience despite the busy activity swirling around the Eddie Mountain Division this past week.
The Nitros acquisition of forward Braden Saretsky in exchange for Tyson Klingspohn is just one of a handful of significant moves to have gone down in the Eddie Mountain Division since Nov. 25.
Creston Valley Thunder Cats head coach/general manager Jeff Dubois went out and bolstered his lineup with the acquisition of over-age forward Kyle Richter from the Westshore Wolves of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) on Nov. 25.
In 21 games with the Wolves, the 5-foot-10 native of Victoria tallied 14 goals and 32 points. Since landing in the Creston Valley, he’s already provided a boost to the Thunder Cats, registering three goals in two games this past weekend.
While Richter’s addition provides some added punch for the Thunder Cats, it was the Fernie Ghostriders making the biggest splash, acquiring a pair of 19-year-olds — defenceman Will Lightfoot and forward Doan Smith.
Ghostriders head coach/GM Craig Mohr acquired Lightfoot from the Princeton Posse for future considerations Nov. 29. The native of Cranbrook has yet to suit up in a KIJHL game this season after starting the campaign with the La Ronge Ice Wolves of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
The 6-foot-1 rearguard spent the entire 2013-14 campaign in the SJHL, getting into 46 games with the Notre Dame Hounds.
“We were definitely looking to shore up some of the toughness on our team,” Mohr told Sara Moulton of the Fernie Free Press. “I thought we needed some more grit, a guy who is not afraid to drop the gloves when he has to.”
Lightfoot is already familiar with Fernie, having dressed in 39 games with the Ghostriders during the 2012-13 season.
Mohr wasn’t finished after solidifying his blue-line. Monday afternoon, he went out and acquired Doan Smith from the Columbia Valley Rockies in exchange for forward Kale Johnston (1995) and defenceman Ty Rebelato (1995).
According to Moulton, Mohr said he was contacted by the Rockies regarding the availability of their then-leading scorer.
Smith is fourth in KIJHL scoring with 22 goals and 39 points as of Tuesday afternoon, providing a significant influx of offense to a strong Ghostriders club that already boasts the likes of Josh McCulloch (22-9-31), Cole Keebler (16-15-31), Sam Plaquin (9-18-27) and Joel Burgess (12-14-26).
With the acquisitions made by both Fernie and Creston Valley, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion there is immediate pressure on teams like the Golden Rockets and Kimberley Dynamiters to bolster their respective lineups in order to keep pace. Bancks isn’t convinced it’s that clear.
“It does and doesn’t [put the pressure on],” Bancks said Monday afternoon. “I’ll be honest, we have to be patient. Philosophically, when I took over this team, it was my desire to stay young and to develop players. With that comes some growing pains as you go throughout the year.”
“The league gets tougher as you move along and some of our younger guys are struggling in terms of goals and assists right now, but they are developing. [Developing] is what we stand for here.”
The Dynamiters bench boss remains committed to that philosophy, suggesting the recent performance of players like Trevor Van Steinburg and Coy Prevost are just a couple examples of how it pays to be patient in the KIJHL rather than panic and go looking to buy up available assets.
Van Steinburg, 17, started the season as a forward, but has been transitioned back to the blue-line in recent weeks.
“He’s physically fairly strong and I like his mobility,” Bancks said of the decision to slide the Cranbrook native back to the point. “It’s hard to go from forward to [defense]. It’s way easier to go from [defense] to forward, so there were definitely some issues at the start.
“He’s getting more confident in terms of when to join the rush and carry the puck. We’d like to see him do more of that, but he’s heading in the right direction.”
As for Prevost, the 17-year-old Saskatoon Blades prospect was singled out by Bancks as arguably the best player for the Nitros in the last two meetings against a tough Fernie Ghostriders squad.
While Bancks’ commitment to developing players as opposed to purchasing them via the trade market remains true, it doesn’t mean the Dynamiters will completely avoid the trade market prior to the Jan. 10 roster deadline. It just means there will be patience in the approach.
“I’m thrilled with where we’re at,” Bancks said. “We’re not done. We’re like any team, we’re not done [in regards to the trade market]. But I am thrilled with how some of these kids are developing.”
All KIJHL teams must have their rosters down to 23 players by Jan. 10, 2015. As it stands, the Dynamiters are carrying 22 players, including two goaltenders, seven defencemen and 13 forwards.