The CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins brought back a familiar face, and added a defenceman, prior to the January 10 SJHL trade deadline.
The Bruins reacquired winger Dylan Smith from the Connecticut Oilers of the U.S. Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL) for future considerations. Smith spent three seasons with the Bruins, and led Estevan in scoring in 2009-10 and 2011-12.
He had 28 points in 25 games this season with Connecticut.
Smith said his team in Connecticut wasn't in position for a playoff run, and he had the option of going to another team in the eastern U.S., or rejoining the Bruins.
“I decided I might as well try to finish where I started, and go on a playoff run here,” said Smith. “If I'm going to get the chance to play in the playoffs, I might as well do it where I started.”
Head coach/GM Keith Cassidy suspected that Smith wanted to return so that Smith could finish his junior career in Estevan.
“When I talked to him on the trade deadline day, you could tell in his voice that he wanted to be here, and from the conversations that he and I had, it felt positive, it felt different, and I'm glad he stepped in here and did what he's done,” said Cassidy.
Smith has paid immediate dividends for a Bruins team that has struggled for offence throughout the season. He scored three minutes into his first game back with the team in a 4-3 loss to the Kindersley Klippers on January 12, and he had an assist and a shootout goal in Estevan's 4-3 win over the Battlefords North Stars the following evening.
In his first home game on January 15, he scored once, and had two assists, in a 4-3 triumph over the Notre Dame Hounds. His first helper was on a goal by long-time linemate Cole Olson.
“In the last couple years, playing with Ollie, I know where he is, and he knows where I am,” said Smith. “We read really well off of each other. (Linemate Alex) Cote has been a nice surprise. He's helped us out a lot.”
Olson greeted Smith's return to the team. He said it didn't feel like they've been apart for the first two-thirds of the season.
“It's definitely nice having a guy back who I played all last year with, and right away we found our chemistry,” said Olson.
But Smith doesn't regret going to Connecticut. It's close to a lot of NCAA Division I programs, and there are more scouts at EJHL games. He has a few NCAA schools watching him.
The Bruins' other pre-deadline trade saw them acquire defenceman Nick Egan from the EJHL's Philadelphia Revolution for future considerations. Egan has spent parts of three seasons with the Revolution, and also has experience with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
"He's a tougher, stay-at-home defenceman, and he plays with a bit of an edge, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other capabilities he has at this point," said Cassidy.
Egan is expected to make his debut during the upcoming northern road trip to Nipawin and Melfort.
The club also released 19-year-old defenceman Tyler Poskus and 20-year-old forward Nick Weiss. Poskus won the team's most improved player award last season, and had six assists in 31 games this season. Weiss was second on the team this year in goals with 12 at the time of his release. Both had been looking for trades.