The Blazers dealt Bozon to the Ice in a blockbuster deal. (Larry MacDougal, The Canadian Press)The Kamloops Blazers and Kootenay Ice took steps in opposite directions in a blockbuster trade that saw the Blazers load up for the future and the Ice bolster their roster.
The Blazers dealt a pair of 19-year-olds, winger Tim Bozon and defender Landon Cross, to the Ice in exchange for 17-year-old forward Collin Shirley, 18-year-old blueliner Matt Thomas, a first round 2015 WHL bantam pick, a third round 2014 bantam pick and a fifth round 2015 bantam pick.
The Ice came into the season as a team expected to finish with a lower-seed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This deal should ultimately ensure that they won’t slip out of their conference’s top eight, but it's a long season so it's too early for guarantees.
Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth mentioned the Eastern Conference’s competitiveness in his comments in the media release.
“With as competitive as the Eastern Conference is and with goals being so hard to come by this was an opportunity to add one of the WHL’s premier goal scorers to our line-up,” said Chynoweth. “We are also adding a top four defenceman that will help solidify and give more depth to our blueline group.”
As Kootenay's general manager said, Bozon, who was selected in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Montreal Canadiens, will boost the Ice's offense. Albeit he has gotten off to a slow start this year with three goals and seven points in 13 games, he proved last that he’s an elite talent with a 91-point season. The Switzerland native alongside 2014 draft sensation Sam Reinhart and shifty sniper Jaedon Descheneau gives the Ice one of the best offensive trios in the league.
Cross is essentially an upgrade on the Ice’s blueline over Thomas, who is one year younger. He adds size, standing 6-foot-2, 188-pounds, and a veteran presence.
For the Blazers, the deal shows they are 100-percent dedicated to the rebuild. This is ultimately the right way of doing things in the Dub. The majority of precedents clearly show teams that go all in on rebuilds tend to win championships while clubs that ride the fence often have trouble getting past the second round in the playoffs.
Kamloops is definitely in the running for the post-season this year, but a championship is clearly out of their grasp. So trading Bozon is a smart move because he is expected to turn pro next year. In addition, Blazers general manager Craig Bonner told Kamloops This Week that he thought Bozon was unhappy with his situation in Kamloops.
"I thought he (Bozon) was unhappy and it was pretty evident in his play,” said the Blazers general manager. “It's a good deal for us now and for his future."
Shirley could turn out to be a solid pickup for the Blazers. He has an appealing 6-foot-2, 181-pound frame and showed last year by scoring nine goals and 23 points in 60 games that he has some offensive upside. He seems to have the potential to be a top-six forward in Kamloops next year or the year after, depending on his development curve.
Thomas, meanwhile, will take the place of Cross on the back end. It makes sense for Kamloops to make the Thomas-Cross swap because Thomas could be a solid shutdown defender in two years as an overager when they possibly could be back in the mix as a contender.
“Collin has the potential to be a very good player for our club now and in the future. We look forward to him developing with our young core,” said Bonner in the release. “Matt is a steady defenseman. We think he will fit in well with the age groups we have on defence.”
Draft picks in the WHL are practically magic beans, but in the right hands, one or possibly two of the picks that the Blazers acquired could blossom into players.
This is the second smart long-term trade Bonner has made in the last four months. Back in July, he traded overage goaltender Cole Cheveldave and a 2015 fourth-round bantam pick to the Prince Albert Raiders in exchange for 15-year-old Jake Kryski, who was the 13th overall pick in the 2013 WHL draft, and a 2014 seventh-round bantam pick.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen