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BCHL Next Generation: Trail Smoke Eaters

All summer we’ll be going team-by-team to profile new players coming in for the 2019-20 season with recaps of offseason commits and acquisitions. We will also have interviews and scouting reports from the coaches.

Next up is the Trail Smoke Eaters.

After finishing in seventh in the Interior Divison last season, the Smoke Eaters were able to surprise a few teams in the BCHL Playoffs. They upset the second-seeded Merritt Centennials in five games of the first round, then went on to force the eventual league finalist Vernon Vipers to a seventh game in Round 2.

Heading into his second season behind the bench, head coach Jeff Tambellini has already put his stamp on his roster. It usually take two or three years for a coach to feel like a team is really his, but Tambellini believes he’s already accomplished that after one year.

“Pretty much every player on this team is someone I’ve recruited.” said Tambellini. “I’ve built the team that I want. These guys all know the expectations I have for our group, the standards and values we have in Trail for our organization. We have big expectations. It’s going to take a lot of work because we have a lot of new bodies, but we think we have the right people and definitely the right talent level to have a really strong season.”

2019-20 commits

Philippe Lapointe (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Hinsdale, Ill.
  • Previous team: Central Illinois Flying Aces (USHL)
  • Commitment: University of Michigan (2020-21)

Lapointe is the son of former NHLer Martin Lapointe. Last year he put up 39 points in 60 games split between the Flying Aces and the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. He also participated in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup U18 tournament for Team USA in 2018.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“He was our biggest recruit of the offseason. He’s the right guy for our program and where we’re at and what we’re trying to build. He’s an extremely high-character player. He’s very talented and we think he’s going to be a major piece for our team this year.”

Michael Colella (1999, F)

  • Hometown: Turnersville, N.J.
  • Previous team: Lincoln Stars (USHL)
  • Commitment: Colorado College (2020-21)

The 20-year-old played on four different teams last year and produced at every stop. He had a combined 44 points in 64 games split between Lincoln, the Tri-City Storm and the Omaha Lancers of the USHL as well as the P.A.L. Junior Islanders of the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC).

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“He’s a veteran guy at 20 years old and he can really score. He’s dynamic offensively, but he’s always been described as a puck hound, he’s always on the puck. He finds a way to stay in the game and make plays. He’s one of those guys that’s going to bring a lot of energy and we think he’s going to be a very dynamic scorer for us.”

Chase Dafoe (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Beverley, Mass.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Rockets (BCMML)

Dafoe, the son of former NHL goalie Byron Dafoe, captained his major midget team last season and finished as the Rockets’ second-leading scorer with 49 points in 39 games. The 17-year-old also has some BCHL experience, having played seven games for Trail last year as an affiliate, chipping in with two goals and an assist.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“He’s one of the top ‘02s coming into the league this year. He comes into the BCHL and looks like a man. He’s got a pro frame. He’s going to be one of the most dynamic power forwards coming out of our league.”

Colby Elmer (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Kelowna, B.C.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Rockets (BCMML)

In 39 games last year, Elmer led the Rockets in points with 57 and goals with 27. He also played three games for the Smoke Eaters as an affiliate.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“He’s an explosive power forward. He has unique ability to play a power game, but with finesse around the net. He’s coming of a great major midget season and we’re looking for him to continue that level of production in Trail.”

Corey McCann (2001, D)

  • Hometown: Kelowna, B.C.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Rockets (BCMML)

The third from the trio of Okanagan Rockets on our list, McCann led the team in points by defencemen last season with 30 in 40 games. He also played a pair of games with Trail as an affiliate.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“He’s a dynamic offensive defenceman. His vision and ability to escape stand out right away when you watch him play. We see him as a player who will challenge for offensive minutes from the first day of camp.”

Connor Sweeney (2000, F)

  • Hometown: North Andover, Mass.
  • Previous team: Lawrence Academy (USHS-Prep)
  • Commitment: University of New Hampshire

Another player with NHL bloodlines, Sweeney is the son of longtime NHL player Bob Sweeney. Last season at Lawrence Academy, he had 23 points in 28 games.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“He’s tall, but he’s an explosive, powerful skater. He’ll be one of the most elite skaters in the league this year. We’re hoping to develop his game and really maximize his talent. He does some very dynamic things. We’re going to prepare him to play at both ends of the ice and really use his speed to his advantage this year.”

Liam Freeborn (1999, F)

  • Hometown: Calgary, Alta.
  • Previous team: Calgary Mustangs (AJHL)

Freeborn spent the last two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), most recently suiting up for Calgary where he was the team’s third-leading scorer with 53 points in 58 games.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“We were looking for a right-shot forward that had experience and he’s a guy that fits our mold. He’s a big player with a 6-foot-2 frame and he can hang on to the puck and make plays. We think his skillset is going to fit right in with us here.”

Braden Costello (2000, F)

  • Hometown: Grand Forks, N.D.
  • Previous team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
  • Commitment: University of North Dakota (2020-21)

Costello is the third player on our list coming out of the USHL. The 19-year-old spent time with Green Bay as well as the Des Moines Buccaneers, chipping in with 19 points over his two seasons in the league.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“We were looking to get a lot bigger and a lot stronger on the wing. He’s a high-profile kid who was the number-two pick in the USHL draft a couple years back. He’s another guy that we think we can really maximize his skillset and give him an opportunity to play with some really good players. We think we can take his game to a different level this season.”

Walker Erickson (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
  • Previous team: Valley West Giants (BCMML)

The 17-year-old had 38 points in 38 games last year to his major midget team in scoring. He also had one assist in four games playing as an affiliate for Trail last year.

Jordan Hendry (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
  • Previous team: Valley West Giants (BCMML)

Hendry tied for the team lead in points from the blueline last season with 20 in 40 games. He played in one game for the Smoke Eaters as an affiliate last season.

Jackson Murphy-Johnson (2002, D)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BCMML)

Murphy-Johnson played the last two seasons for the Chiefs, chipping in with 27 points in 78 games in his two years there.

Jaden Senkoe (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Westlock, Alta.
  • Previous team: Okanagan Hockey Academy Red Prep (CSSHL)

The 18-year-old led his team in scoring last year with 36 points in 36 games. Over his two seasons at the Okanagan Hockey Academy, he totaled 66 points in 72 games.

Logan Terness (2002, G)

  • Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
  • Previous team: Vancouver NE Chiefs (BCMML)

Terness posted a 2.63 goals-against average in 17 games last season with the Chiefs. He was called up by Trail last year and played in four games as a 16-year-old, including one appearance in the playoffs.

Acquired via trade

Corey Clifton (1999, F)

  • Hometown: Matawan, N.J.
  • Previous team: Surrey Eagles
  • Commitment: Quinnipiac University (2020-21)

Clifton, the brother of Boston Bruins forward Connor Clifton, put up seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 50 games for Surrey last season.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“We think he’s going to be a really dynamic player for us. He played extremely well in the two games he played against us last year, especially in Trail. He does everything on the ice really well. He makes plays, competes, gets to the net, so we think he’s really going to mix well with some of our bigger forwards. We’re expecting big things out of Corey this year.”

Gabriel Waked (1999, G)

  • Hometown: St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que.
  • Previous team: Flin Flon Bombers (SJHL)

Waked started last season playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), but ended up finishing out the year in Flin Flon, where he really shined in the playoffs, posting a .922 save percentage and a 2.51 goals-against average.

Tambellini’s scouting report:

“We were looking for depth at the goaltending position. He played extremely well in Flin Flon last year and he was their MVP in the playoffs. We’re building a team that we want to compete with the best teams in the country this year and we think he’s a great piece in net that’s going to help us win a lot of games.”

Photo credits: Brandon Anderson/USHL Images (Lapointe, Colella), Lorne White/KelownaNow (Elmer), HNIB News (Sweeney), Chad Goddard Photography (Freeborn), Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images (Costello), Garrett James Photography (Clifton)