Jordan Henderson has bounced around the WHL a lot since last September.
The 20-year-old defenceman, who was drafted by the Spokane Chiefs in 2012, was traded to the Saskatoon Blades and then to the Medicine Hat Tigers during the 2016-17 season.
In 61 games between the Chiefs, Blades and Tigers, Henderson had the best season of his career putting up six goals, tallying 21 assists and racking up a +29 rating.
After his strong finish with the Tigers, the Kootenay Ice made a trade to acquire him for a 2019 conditional sixth round pick.
In a phone interview with the Townsman on Wednesday afternoon, Henderson said that he is eager for the upcoming opportunity in Cranbrook.
“I flipped a new page and I’m excited just to go in the room and play a huge role,” he said. “It’s obviously mixed emotions getting traded, meeting 20 new guys, 20 new brothers, but at the same time getting traded to a new team is a new opportunity. I’m really looking forward to it.”
According to Henderson, he can make an impact on the young Ice squad both in games and away from the rink.
“[I’m going to] play my game like I have been my whole career — play simple, jump into the rush, make that first pass and just be a role model for the guys,” he said. “[I’ll] take things step by step, [not] make things too complicated and just be a good teammate.”
While he is impressed by what he has seen from the new-look Kootenay Ice so far and believes that playing in Cranbrook will be “a pretty cool experience”, Henderson is not taking anything for granted.
“I’m excited to get there and meet everybody and get things going,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to do though. Nothing is ever a guarantee, so I’ve just got to go out there and work my tail off.”
Although Kootenay general manager Matt Cockell won’t comment on what 20-year-olds will be in camp in August, there could be some competition for the three overager spots allowed by league rules.
The team acquired 20-year-old goalie Mario Petit from the Everett Silvertips in May and had four other 1997-born players on their roster at the end of last season.
While forward Austin Wellsby signed with BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs during the offseason, forward Colton Kroeker and defencemen Kurtis Rutledge and Troy Murray could join Petit and Henderson in the overager competition at camp.
As last season’s team scoring leader, Kroeker should be expected to make the club, leaving a big potential challenge on defence.
Murray was drafted by the Ice with the tenth overall pick in 2012 and has played a total of 266 regular season games with the team, putting up 60 points over that time.
Rutledge, on the other hand, was acquired by Kootenay from the Tri City Americans last December and ended the season as one of the team’s three alternate captains, along with Wellsby and Vince Loschiavo.
While former Ice head coach Luke Pierce stated at the end of last season that the organization had “let some players know they won’t be returning”, with a turnover in the head coach, general manager and owner positions, those decisions could very well have been reversed.
The Ice’s training camp is expected to take place at the end of August, and for Henderson, he’d like to have a little more stability this season.
After a roller coaster ride in 2016-17, he’s putting in the work during the off-season to prove himself to the Ice.
“It’s always nice to know that you are at home and staying in one spot, but at the end of the day I just have to go out there and work hard,” he said. “I’ve been skating a lot in the month of July and August, [and also] have been training off the ice, doing a lot of plyometrics and speed explosives and [other] stuff off the ice.
“So far, everything has been working out for me really well.”