Invermere goaltender Brody Nelson

KIJHL: Trades brings new faces to Columbia Valley Rockies

There’s been a big turnover on the bench of the Columbia Valley Rockies

There’s been a big turnover on the bench of the Columbia Valley Rockies who have had a tough season so far, earning just 14 points after 30 games.

Earlier in December, the team parted with Ryan Lawson and Doan Smith — two of the team’s top forwards. Smith was sent to the Fernie Ghostriders and and Ryan Lawson was traded to his hometown of Kelowna. In return, the Rockies received Tyler Rebelato and Kale Johnston from Fernie, and Nick Evdokimoff from Kelowna.

“There was an opportunity to move them (Smith and Lawson) forward, potentially help them out; and help our team become younger,” said Rockies general manager Ross Bidinger.

Rebelato is a “puck-moving defenceman with good skill,” Bidinger said.

Johnston, a year younger than Smith, achieved a similar number of points with the Ghostriders last year as Smith scored for the Rockies.

“He fell down on the depth chart in Fernie, where he’ll be a first-liner (on the Rockies),” said Bidinger.

Evdokimoff is “a big kid,” whose size brings solidity to the defensive unit, he added.

Bidinger said the major trades had to happen because the team was missing heart and leadership.

“The culture in dressing room and effort in games needed to change,” he said.

While they managed to find success offensively this season, it was mostly offset by poor defence.

“They’re producing, but not shutting guys down,” said Bidinger.

Another top Rockies performer, Carter Melynk, is expected to move in the near future, Bidinger said.

Also leaving the Rockies are Dondre Watson and Alan MacPherson, who both advanced to Junior A leagues in Alberta.

And hometown goaltender Brody Nelson will be finishing his season with Ryan Lawson in Kelowna.

“Whenever anybody moves ahead, it’s always good,” said Bidinger.

The trades come just before the deadline. Smith and Lawson, who will both be 20 next year, are still eligible to play one final year with the Rockies