Christmas came early for the Kelowna Rockets when the WHL team traded for all-star defenceman Josh Morrissey.
Rockets’ president/GM Bruce Hamilton has also supplied Rocket fans with a New Year’s gift, with the acquisition of German-born forward Leon Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders.
In what was a poorly-kept secret throughout the world junior hockey championship – where Hamilton served on Team Canada’s management committee – the Rockets landed the Edmonton Oilers’ first round-draft pick in exchange for a first-round bantam draft pick in 2015, Swiss-born forward Kris Schmidli and defenceman Dalton Yorke.
The trade also involves two fourth-round WHL bantam picks going Prince Albert’s way, one guaranteed in 2016.
The highly-skilled 6-foot-2, 215-pound forward spent the first half of the NHL season with the Oilers, scoring two goals and adding five assists in 37 games.
The Oilers, who chose Draisaitl third overall in the 2014 NHL entry draft, reassigned him this week to the Raiders, who promptly dealt him to Kelowna.
Last season in Prince Albert, Draisaitl, a native of Cologne, Germany, had 37 goals and 105 points in 64 games.
If there was a piece of the Memorial Cup puzzle left to put into place for the Rockets, many believe Draisaitl is it.
“We’re excited to add a player of Leon’s ability to our roster,” said Hamilton. “We gave up a lot to acquire him. I’d like to thank Kris and Dalton for everything they have done for the Rockets organization while they have been here.”
Draisaitl will make his Rockets’ debut tonight at Prospera Place against the Vancouver Giants.
Schmidli was in his second season with the Rockets, having attended this year’s world juniors as a member of Team Switzerland. Schmidli recorded five goals and 12 assists in 33 games this year.
A defenceman, Yorke was also in his second season with the Rockets having played in 26 games this season. He hails from Maple Ridge.