The Kootenay Ice forward core has been beefed up ahead of the opening of training camp.
Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager of the Ice, announced the acquisition of 6-foot-3, 212-pound forward Barrett Sheen from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Monday, shipping off 5-foot-8, 154-pound winger Jesse Zaharichuk in exchange.
“He’s a big body — we’re not the biggest team in the Western Hockey League,” Chynoweth said Monday afternoon. “He provides us with some size and some potential. He put up some good numbers in midget and now he’s got to translate that into success at the WHL level, which isn’t always easy.
“But I think from the face-off dots down, he can be a very effective player in an age group that we haven’t really had anybody step up in and be a dominant forward. It’s an excellent opportunity for him to come in and earn a more advanced role with our hockey club.”
The 17-year-old Sheen, who turns 18 on Sept. 20, completed his Western Hockey League rookie campaign with the Hurricanes in 2015-16, tallying four goals, 12 points and 44 penalty minutes in 46 games.
Prior to beginning his WHL career, the native of Airdrie, Alta., skated in 34 games with the UFA Midget AAA Bisons of the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League during the 2014-15 season, registering 11 goals and 27 points. Sheen added another 10 goals and 21 points in 13 post-season games that year with the Bisons.
Zaharichuk departs Cranbrook after splitting the 2015-16 WHL slate between the Ice and the Kamloops Blazers.
“Between Jesse and his agent, he had requested a change of scenery in May,” Chynoweth said. “We tried to accommodate that and it takes time. It’s an opportunity for him to go to an excellent organization, from top to bottom, and for him to hopefully be a key contributor to the Hurricanes success this year.”
The product of Sherwood Park, Alta., came to the Ice in a mid-season trade with the Blazers, collecting eight goals and 28 points over 43 games in the East Kootenay. In total, Zaharichuk posted 12 goals and 41 points through 60 WHL games this past season, finishing third on the Ice in scoring.
“You’re hoping some of the younger players can step up,” Chynoweth said of replacing Zaharichuk’s offense. “A lot of guys have now played a year in the Western Hockey League. That’s the beauty of our league — you just never know who is going to step up and surprise. We’re hoping a few players do that for us. If we’re going to have any success, we’re going to need that to happen.
“It’ll be a group effort. Obviously Jesse was a skilled player for our hockey club, but he didn’t want to be here, so we tried to accommodate his requests and at the same time get an asset for our hockey club.”
Over a 108-game WHL career, the pint-sized winger has 15 goals and 56 points to his name.
Zaharichuk proved a relative bargain buy for the Ice last season, as the ever savvy Chynoweth sent a 2018 fifth-round bantam draft pick to Kamloops in exchange for the peppy forward.
After his arrival from the B.C. Division, Zaharichuk quickly established chemistry with Matt Alfaro and Zak Zborosky atop the unofficial No. 1 unit for head coach Luke Pierce.
With added time as the pivot-man on the power play, Zaharichuk worked his way to career highs in all major offensive categories, easily eclipsing the benchmarks he set in 2014-15 with Kamloops (3-12-15 in 48 games).
In Lethbridge, Zaharichuk joins a club boasting enviable depth at forward, including overage captain Tyler Wong (43-46-89), top-three scorer Brayden Burke (27-82-109), Buffalo Sabres prospect Giorgio Estephan (30-44-74) and Russian speedster Egor Babenko (29-40-69), amongst others.
Sheen will join his new Kootenay Ice teammates this Sunday as the club reports for fitness testing.
Kootenay Ice training camp officially opens Monday, Aug. 29 (9 a.m.) at Western Financial Place.
Ice Chips: Former Kootenay Ice defenceman Aaron Rome is back in the WHL after he was introduced as an assistant coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings on Thursday. Rome, 32, played 86 games with the Ice (2000-01 to 2001-02) before going on to an 11-year professional career that included 226 NHL games (Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars). Rome joins newly anointed Wheat Kings head coach David Anning behind the bench in Brandon. Taking over from Kelly McCrimmon, who was hired as assistant general manager by the NHL’s fledgling Las Vegas franchise, the 30-year-old Anning becomes the youngest coach in the WHL…