Vees add much-needed pieces

Vees add veteran players to roster but lose key pieces to RBC Cup championship team in process

Grant Nicholson

Grant Nicholson

Four players remain from the Penticton Vees’ 2012 RBC Cup championship team following a Tuesday afternoon trade.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson dealt Grant Nicholson and DJ Jones to bolster his forward and defensive groups. The deal was among two that included six teams and eight players.

Nicholson, son of Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, was dealt to the Cowichan Valley Capitals for 20-year-old defenceman Djordje Laposavic. Harbinson then moved Jones, who will join former Vees teammate Zach Urban with the Victoria Grizzlies, for 20-year-old forward Alex Holland. Harbinson then dealt Holland and Laposavic to the Trail Smoke Eaters for 19-year-old forward Sam Mellor, who just left the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“Grant is a great kid and I care about him,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson, who spoke to Nicholson earlier this month to discuss his future. “He was looking for a bigger role. I think he was concerned he might be in the same type of role. He did everything asked of him and worked hard.”

Desiring a top-six forward role, Harbinson allowed Nicholson to decide where he wanted to be traded since Harbinson was unsure, said Nicholson, if he would play on the top two lines. Listening to what Harbinson planned for the 2012-13 season, Nicholson sensed it would be a challenge to earn that role.

“With the Vees, they have so much firepower up front every year it would be tough for me to crack the first or second line,” said Nicholson, who played on the fourth line with Cody DePourcq. “Just for my hockey personally, I think I will be able to play a bigger role now. I think it’s good too for the Penticton Vees. They obviously got some good players out of it. It was good for both of us.”

Playing last season with the Vees fulfilled a dream for Nicholson that began with his father playing for the Broncos. Nicholson said making the team last season was the perfect year.

“It was a dream team that we played on,” said Nicholson, who thanked the organization for everything they did for him. “It was pretty incredible.”

Moving Jones was a difficult decision for Harbinson.

“We had to give up two very good kids; two character kids in the process,” said Harbinson. “Both DJ and Grant will now have the opportunity for a larger role under two very well-respected coaches in Victoria and Cowichan Valley.”

Mellor was part of a potent offensive line alongside former Vees forward Travis St. Denis and Scott Jacklin with the Smoke Eaters. Adding Mellor helps the Vees with their offence, as he has 61 goals in 104 BCHL games. He also added 69 assists. In 33 National Collegiate Athletic Association games, he scored four goals and added five assists. Harbinson said acquiring Mellor, “kind of came out of left field.”

“Sam decided to make a change with NCAA school,” said Harbinson. “He decided he wanted to go to a different school. For him to do that he has to come back to junior hockey.”

From there he talked to Trail about coming back, but looking at a different spot. Playing for Penticton was one of the teams that interested him.

Mellor spoke to St. Denis, who said he loved playing for the Vees, and  suggested it would be a good place for him to go.

“I’m excited. It’s a winning team, and I want  to help to do what I can so team team can repeat.”

In another move, Harbinson acquired Robert Mann from the Markham Waxers. The Vees sent future considerations to the Nanaimo Clippers for defenceman Ryan Wells and the Drayton Valley Thunder for goalie Curtis Martinu, respectively. Both players were then dealt to Markham for Mann.

Harbinson described Mann, six-foot-four, 215 pound defenceman as an imposing force and who can skate.

“Rob is really excited about being here,” said Harbinson, adding it was important to get a veteran defenceman at this time of year. “We learned a lot last year that having mobile guys with some good size can go a long way. Rob is obviously one of those kids that has good character and can skate well with that size. It’s a great combination to have.”

On July 26, the Vees added another piece to strengthen their defence core.

Detroit Red Wings draft pick James De Haas (sixth round, 170th overall) was acquired for the rights to forward Mike Sones.

De Haas played 45 games in 2011-2012 for Toronto Lakeshore Patriots where he collected 10 goals and 29 points along with 32 penalty-minutes. In 21 playoff games, the six-foot-three, 200-pound blueliner accumulated five goals and 12 points, helping the Patriots to a conference championship appearance. The 18-year-old is committed for Clarkson University for 2013.

Harbinson has targeted De Haas for a while.

“We’ve been hard at work on this deal for quite some time. James has all the tools, size, quick feet and smart puck moving ability,” said Harbinson. “We are very fortunate to add a player with James skill set and determination.”

Vees fans will get their first glimpse of De Haas during main camp on Aug. 23 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

In other Vees news, Wade Murphy has been named an assistant captain for his final season before departing for Merrimack College in 2013. The 19 year-old collected 14 goals and 29 points in 22 games with the Vees last season after he was acquired on the Jan. 10 deadline from the Grizzlies. In the post-season, Murphy scored 14 goals and collected 27 points in 26 games, en route to being named team co-playoff MVP.

“It’s an honour to be put into a leadership role with the Vees,” said Murphy in a release. “I wanted to take on more responsibility this year and welcome the challenge. This will help me mature as a player and person and better me for college after this year in Penticton.”