Canada’s second best junior A hockey team just got better.
Hours before extending their BCHL-best win streak to 15 games, the Penticton Vees acquired forward Nicholas Jones from the Sherwood Park Crusaders in a three-team deal that included the Flin Flon Bombers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
To get Jones, the Vees sent forward Jason Lavallee and future considerations to the Bombers for the playing rights of defenceman Joel Webb. The Vees then flipped Webb, plus future considerations, to the Crusaders for Jones’ rights.
Jones, 19, was in his sophomore season at Ohio State University in the Big Ten Conference. The Edmonton, Alta, native played in 29 games for the Buckeyes over parts of two seasons, scoring once and collecting five assists. Prior to joining Ohio State, Jones finished third in AJHL scoring in 2013-14 with 72 points in 52 games and his 41 goals was tops in the league. He also had a league-best 16 power-play goals. That season, Jones was a unanimous selection to the AJHL’s North Division All-League Team. In two seasons in the AJHL, Jones compiled 52 goals and 96 points in 100 career games.
“We are definitely a better team today than we were a week ago,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson.
Harbinson’s wheeling and dealing to land Jones began on Oct. 19 when he received a call from Jones’ family advisor as the forward was looking to leave the Buckeyes.
“We get a kid that played on Canada West,” he said. “We see it sometimes, a kid that maybe went a year early to school and didn’t get the opportunity behind certain guys. We’ve seen what a restart has done for Scott Conway coming back from school. Hopefully we will see the same for Nick Jones.”
The five-foot-11, 180-pound forward sees this new chapter as a great opportunity to re-establish himself and be part of a great team. Going to the Buckeyes as a true freshman, Jones said he grinded through Big Ten Conference play last season collecting a goal and six points in 26 games.
“I just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for me. I felt that I had to come back to junior and develop a little bit more and try somewhere else, get back to college in two years,” said Jones.
Jones said he can be a great 200-foot player, who contributes on the specialty teams and offensively. While his first practice was a bit rough, he was just looking to get his feet going. He’s impressed by what he sees from the Vees.
“There is a lot of skill on the ice,” said Jones, who also noticed the strong chemistry in the locker room.
Vees forward Scott Conway and goalie Anthony Brodeur like the addition.
“He’s a good kid so far. On the ice he works hard, has a good shot, a good skater,” said Conway. “I look forward to having him on our team.”
“He’s a good player. He can shoot the puck and he can definitely bear down in front of the net,” said Brodeur. “I think it’s just depth. You can never have too much depth on forward.”
On the Vees’ Vancouver Island road trip, they shutout the Powell River Kings 3-0. Brodeur turned aside 24 shots. Scorers were Easton Brodzinski, with the winner, Owen Sillinger and Tyson Jost. Against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, Brodeur made 18 saves in a 5-3 win. Chris Gerrie, who scored twice, netted the winner on the power-play at 8:12 of the third period. Also scoring were Conway with two and Brodzinski.
“It was a real gutsy effort by our team. We didn’t have many players playing, especially our D-core playing five guys, it’s never easy,” said Brodeur.
The Vees goalie, who faced a familiar counterpart in Storm Phaneuf, said the Capitals were a good team that came at them hard.
“I think their goalie played pretty well for them,” he said. “It’s always fun having the other goalie playing well. The biggest thing is making the saves you need to.”
Harbinson said the players worked hard and the special teams were good. In the two games, the Vees power-play struck four times on 12 chances. The penalty-kill was perfect, going eight-for-eight.
“Our compete level was off the charts,” said Harbinson, adding the defence was “unreal.”