From Peyton Krebs to Payton Lee, the Kootenay Ice have provided plenty for fans to be excited about since Thursday morning.
After selecting the highly-touted Krebs with the first-overall pick at the WHL Bantam Draft, the Ice announced the acquisition of the hometown kid Lee Monday afternoon, sending a conditional sixth-round pick (2017) to the Edmonton Oil Kings in exchange for the 19-year-old goaltender.
“That was our No. 1 priority heading into the off-season — we felt we had to get some experience at that position with Declan Hobbs,” said Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice, Monday afternoon.
“There’s an overabundance of 1996-born goaltenders available in the Western Hockey League… I know what his character and what his make up is. We thought he would be a great fit for our organization, not only for him to come home and have a chance to finish his WHL career, but also be a leader and mentor for not only Declan Hobbs, but the rest of our group as well.”
Chynoweth’s son, Ryan, a Kootenay Ice alumnus, played minor hockey with Lee growing up in Cranbrook, providing great insight for the Ice GM.
With veteran puckstopper Wyatt Hoflin graduating from the WHL at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season and 17-year-old Hobbs carrying only 26 games of experience and not necessarily ready for the rigours of the full-time starter role, Chynoweth nabbed the 6-foot-1, 191-pound Lee, who comes home for his final WHL sojourn with 169 career regular season games and 10 career post-season contests under his belt.
“Thanks to everyone involved with the @EdmOilKings for all the support last season,” Lee tweeted Monday. “My time in Edmonton is something I’ll never forget!
“With that being said, I couldn’t be more excited about coming home to play with the @WHLKootenayICE, very thankful for the new opportunity!”
After facing the pressure of playing in a major market as a 16-year-old with the Vancouver Giants, Lee now stares down the challenge of taking to the crease in a small market that happens to be his hometown, a place where the magnifying glass is mighty large.
“He’s been away for a long time and I think he knows the pressures involved to play goal in the Western Hockey League, especially in a major market like he did in Vancouver and in Edmonton,” Chynoweth said. “I think he can handle anything that’s thrown at him. It’s a great opportunity for him to finish his WHL career in front of family and friends.”
The conditional sixth-round pick headed to the Oil Kings is a bit of a complicated matter. The selection could become a fifth-round pick based on availability.
The Ice are set to receive a fifth-round pick in 2017 from the Seattle Thunderbirds in exchange for defenceman Bryan Allbee. That deal was struck prior to the 2016 WHL trade deadline. As it stands, the Thunderbirds do not have a fifth-round selection to send to the Ice. Should that change, the Ice will send said fifth to the Oil Kings. If not, the Oil Kings will receive a sixth-round selection from the Ice.
Lee was unavailable for further comment prior to print deadline Monday afternoon.
Turning 20 years old in June, Lee spent the first three seasons of his WHL career with the Giants, who selected him with the 28th-overall pick in the second round of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft.
In 2015-16, the soft-spoken Cranbrook native played 11 games with the Giants before being shipped off to the Oil Kings in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick on Nov. 5, 2015.
Over the course of 39 games split between Vancouver and Edmonton, the 6-foot-1, 191-pound Lee went 12-20-3-1 with a 3.36 goals-against average (GAA), .886 save percentage (SP) and one shutout.
With a career record of 62-86-7-4, he has posted a 3.39 GAA, .884 SP with six shutouts.
Lee previously represented Canada as a member of Team Pacific at the 2013 IIHF World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Quebec, earning a silver medal in the process.
The last local product to suit up for the Kootenay Ice was Ryan Chynoweth (2013-14 to 2014-15), who is in the midst of chasing a national Junior A championship with the RBC Cup host Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Notes: The acquisition of Lee wasn’t the only alteration the Ice made to the active roster in recent days, as F Roman Dymacek (1997), F Austin Gray (1997), D Mario Grman (1997) and D Dylan Overdyk were released Thursday afternoon at the conclusion of the bantam draft… With the release of Dymacek and Grman, the Ice opened up two import slots on the roster and expect to make two selections at the CHL Import Draft (June 28)…