Zak Zborosky was not shocked by the news that he had been traded, but he was pleasantly surprised that he wouldn’t be going to his new team alone.
On Monday morning, Zborosky and fellow 20-year-old forward Matt Alfaro were both dealt to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for forwards Brett Davis and Colton Kroeker, along with second and fourth round selections in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft.
A veritable blockbuster, Zborosky and Alfaro were the Ice’s two leading scorers and have played together for their entire WHL careers, both having joined the Kootenay Ice in the 2013-14 season when they were 17-year-olds.
“I expected a trade, that’s what Jeff [Chynoweth] told me was going to happen this year, [but] I did not expect to go to the exact same place as [Alfaro],” Zborosky said on Monday morning as he was packing up at Western Financial Place. “We’ve been together since day one and we’ve [said] that the goodbye is going to be tough but I guess we’re holding [that] off for a couple more months.”
Alfaro was similarly pleased to get to keep playing with his long-time teammate.
“It was kind of unexpected, you don’t think that two 20-year-olds at the deadline are going to get traded together so it’s pretty special,” Alfaro said. “We’re both happy with it and it’s pretty unique so I’m happy about it.”
As a divisional rival of the Ice, the duo has seen a lot of the Hurricanes. In 19 career games against the ‘Canes, Zborosky has put up 8 goals and 7 assists is 19, including both a hat-trick and a two-goal night in four games this year. In 21 games, Alfaro has 5 goals and 15 assists.
Now, the Hurricanes will expect them to be able to have that sort of production for their team.
“We’re going to a good team and I think we’ve got a good chance this year and I’m pretty excited,” Zborosky said of his new club. “[The Hurricanes] have got a lot of offensive power and they like to play a fast-paced, run-and-gun style. I feel like I can contribute to that [because] that’s how I like to play.”
“They’re a very skilled team [and] very fast,” Alfaro added. “Being a bigger guy and [being] pretty physical I know I can be the two-way centerman that I think they need.”
Although they’re looking forward to spending the final chapter of their WHL careers with a team that will be competing for a league championship, both Alfaro and Zborosky admitted the move was bitter-sweet.
“[I’ll miss] the small city [atmosphere],” Zborosky said. “All the guys [here] get together all the time and [you’re] always at someone’s house hanging out [so] that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
“This is all I’ve known for my whole junior career, my billets have been great [and] I’ve got nothing bad to say about this organization,” he said. “They’ve been phenomenal [so] I’ll miss everything.”
When it came to the team, there were a lot of people that the pair said helped them become the players and people they are today.
“It’s got to start with Jeff [Chynoweth], he brought us in — [Alfaro] wasn’t even drafted, just a listed guy and I was kind of a later-round guy — and he signed us,” Zborosky said. “[Former coach] Ryan McGill taught us a lot during his two years and it switched over to Luke [Pierce] and we took over with a more mature role with him.
“And then the trainers, Cory Cameron was amazing to me and [Alfaro], and then when he stepped aside Darcy [Ewanchuk’s] been great […] everyone [is amazing]. It’s just a great organization.”
“Our skills coach Wayne Dougherty [has been important] to me,” Alfaro said. “Jay Henderson, Ryan McGill and then Gord [Burnett] and Luke [Pierce] and Roman [Vopat], they’ve all been really special to me [too] and have helped me get where I am, so I’d like to thank them.”
As for the future of the Kootenay Ice, while the two departed players were alternate captains, Zborosky is certain that there are guys in the locker room who will be more than capable of filling bigger leadership roles.
“Austin Wellsby has been here for awhile and so has Vince [Loschiavo], and back-end guys like Dallas Hines [have all] shown signs of leadership,” he said. “Now that we’re gone, I hope they take on that role.”
Alfaro and Zborosky will make their first return trip to Cranbrook as members of the Hurricanes on February 12, one of three remaining matches between the two teams.
“It’ll be a little bit weird [facing the Ice] but you just have to treat it like any other hockey game,” Zborosky said. “Hopefully it’s going to be a special night and we’ll get a lot of support from the fans.”