With a big grin, 17-year-old Ryan Pouliot emerges from the Kootenay Ice dressing room.
Having come to Cranbrook via the Luke Philp blockbuster deal with the Red Deer Rebels, the native of North Vancouver is looking forward to a fresh start and the opportunity to build some special with his new team.
“I was excited — this team is in a rebuild right now and I’m a younger guy,” Pouliot said prior to practice Thursday at Western Financial Place. “They told me, ‘You’re going to get more opportunity here than in Red Deer.'”
The opportunity will be there if the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Pouliot is willing to work for it and based on what he had to say Thursday, that shouldn’t be an issue.
“It’s pretty early to tell where exactly he will fit in with our group but he seems like a great kid, very respectful,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice.
“He’s going to get an opportunity to play. He’ll play [Friday] night for sure and between him, Jason Wenzel and Dallas Hines, it’s an opportunity for someone in that group to really step up and take the bull by the horns, so to speak.
“I think he’s excited just to get a chance to play.”
A former 11th-round selection (228th overall) of the Saskatoon Blades at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Pouliot is in his rookie campaign, having skated in 14 games with the Rebels prior to being traded to the Ice.
While a change of scenery can be refreshing for a player, Pouliot elicited a good chuckle from members of the media in the basement of Western Financial Place when he talked about the adversity he’s faced in making the move to the East Kootenay.
“The biggest challenge is probably the snow,” Pouliot said with a laugh, showing off his electric smile once again.
The East Kootenay is under heavy snowfall warning with 10 to 15 centimetres expected to hit the area over the course of the next 24 hours, but at least Pouliot made it to town before the storm rolled in so he could meet his new teammates and prepare for Friday’s tilt with the Regina Pats.
“Coming to a new team, you’ve got to meet everyone and it’s a little harder to adjust,” Pouliot said. “But this team has been really good, it’s been easy to adjust.”
With the Regina Pats visiting Cranbrook Friday night, Regina native and alternate captain Zak Zborosky made note of the arrival of Pouliot.
“He’s been fitting in fine, I see him around the dressing room talking with guys and joking around,” Zborosky said. “He seems pretty calm on the ice. He doesn’t seem too nervous out there. I think he’s going to fit in fine.
“You just let him know that everyone’s his friend and we’re going to welcome him.”
The true welcome will come Friday when Pouliot, who is expected to don sweater No. 7, steps onto the ice for the first time as a member of his new club.
Puck drop between the Ice and Pats is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at Western Financial Place.