Defence was high on the Penticton Vees agenda as the clock wound down on the Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline Thursday.
In the end the Penticton Vees head coach and general manger added a pair of strong defencemen in Evan McIntyre and 1999-born defenceman Jonathan Smart from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs along with stellar forward Ty Pochipinski.
The move to get 2000-born defenceman McIntyre from the USHL’s Cedar Rapids Roughriders was in exchange for future considerations and acquiring 1998-born forward Pochipinski from the Cowichan Valley Capitals was a four-team deal that sees Vees defenceman Kenny Johnson go to the Victoria Grizzlies.
To acquire Pochipinski, the Vees swung a four-team trade that breaks down as follows; Penticton traded Johnson to Victoria in exchange for forward Lach Hadley and defenceman Jarrin Sutton. Sutton was then moved to the AJHL’s Grand Prairie Storm in exchange for forward Cruz Cote. Cote and Hadley were then traded to Cowichan for Pochipinski.
“Our hand was forced,” said Harbinson about having to trade Johnson. “But we’re very fortunate we pick up a defenceman like MacIntyre, so I think our back end with our two goaltenders and our overall eight defencemen is going to be as strong as we’ve ever had.
“Evan is an elite skater with strong vision and play making ability. He has a strong track record of producing points over his career.”
McIntyre comes to Penticton with an NCAA Division I scholarship to Merrimack College. He will make his Vees debut Friday when the Powell River Kings visit the South Okanagan Events Centre for a 7 p.m. start.
Pochipinski’s dad, Trevor, was a member of the Penticton Knights in the 1985-86 season recording 30 points in 42 games and helping the Knights win the national championship.
“The whole piece of it is a great story (dad being a Vees alum)” said Harbinson. “Ty is a player that, quite honestly, we tried to go after last year at deadline and couldn’t get him.
“Ty is a strong two-way centre who will be a great fit into our locker room and will bolster the depth of our lineup, which will be essential for a long playoff run.
He added with the loss of Jackson Niedermayer and Drew Elser for the season, when completely healthy the club would have had just 11 forwards leaving him no choice but to move a defenceman which meant either Johnson or James Miller both 20 year olds.
“The fact that Kenny is a 20 year old created a situation where he was the odd man out. This was by far the most difficult trade in my 12 years in Penticton, but it was a hockey trade that needed to be made. Kenny fortunately will land in a great spot in Victoria as he finishes his junior career.
“It was hard giving up a kid like Kenny who’s been here for a few years, he’s a hard-nosed kid, a loved kid in the locker room and loved by staff and we’ll always have a great relationship with him”
In addition to Friday’s game, the Vees will host the Nanaimo Clippers in a 6 p.m. start Saturday at the SOEC.