When asked about a week ago on the record of what I thought the Capitals could use at the trade deadline, I told Nanaimo Clippers play by play announcer Dan Marshall that it wouldn’t hurt for the Caps to get another scoring forward. Adding to my point that, while those types of players are bound to be coveted by teams ahead of the trade deadline, you have to consider just what you’d need to give up to get a sought-after forward.
Well, we found out, when the Capitals and Salmon Arm Silverbacks pulled off the biggest deal around the league on Jan 10, ahead of the BCHL’s trade deadline. Turns out Cowichan would add not one but two forwards: Mitchell Skapski (96), and Haydn Hopkins (97). These acquisitions cost the Caps a pair of 18-year-old forwards: Duncan’s Ryan Hogg, and Trevor Ayre, as well as future considerations.
Skapski was the Silverbacks’ captain until this point, and both he and Hopkins have experience playing major junior. Leadership is a given with these veteran forwards, and these two players were a big part of Salmon Arm’s club this season: average-sized forwards who play with grit and can create offense, and contributors on special teams.
The incoming situation with these two players appears to be a good fit for not only the team, but the players acquired as well… Hopkins is from Victoria, and now will get to play close to home while also having a chance to really stand out in a Caps uniform. For Skapski, it’s a unique position with his younger brother Marshall also a Capital. Mitch and Marshall played against each other in the Interior Division for the first half of the season, when Marshall was still a member of the Merritt Centennials. Who would’ve thought they’d wind up as teammates on Vancouver Island?
Skapski (back to Mitch) has 36 points in 38 games; he joins the Caps now third in points and tied for third in goals (14). Last season, he had 11 goals and 21 points in 54 total games between the Chilliwack Chiefs and Silverbacks. That was also his first full season played in the BCHL, after spending parts of three years in the WHL where he played 143 games. It’s safe to say that this year he’s broken out offensively in the junior ranks, although he’s shown very strong offensive numbers in his career previously. In Skapski’s one year of Major Midget with the Fraser Valley Bruins, he totaled 26 goals and 49 points in 40 games. He actually outscored his teammate Jake Virtanen that year, a fellow Abbotsford native and 1996-born player, who had 17 goals and 39 points.
Hopkins, meanwhile, who’s in his first BCHL season and still has next season in the league as well, he has 15 points in 25 games. Hopkins also had a strong offensive output playing Major Midget – his second of two seasons with the South Island Royals, 2013-14, he totaled 17 goals and 48 points in 36 games. He got into 53 WHL games in parts of two seasons, and last year was moved to Dylan Strome’s Erie Otters in the OHL, where he played 31 games last season and all 13 playoff games. He started the 2016-17 season in Erie and played two games there this season. So while a smaller sample size, Hopkins seems to be having a breakout offensive season of junior hockey as well.
And while the two newest players instantly add to the Capitals’ offense, so should the return of forward John Sladic; the 18-year-old who has missed all but five games so far this season. He traveled to Duncan to join the team on Sunday, and is expected to return to game action this Friday at Coquitlam. From Novi, Mich. (the same town as Caps forward Jared Domin), he has four points in those five games. It’s almost like Cowichan received a third player at the deadline here.
I’ve said for a while that Sladic is the best Capitals player the fans haven’t seen yet. Coming off a second long-term upper-body injury of the season, it’ll likely be some time before he gets to 100% game speed, but he’s undoubtedly a welcomed addition to the club.
It’s been interesting to see what moves teams around the league have been making in the past couple weeks – after all, this is my first kick at the can to take it all in as someone involved in the BC Hockey League. Most have tried to bolster their roster one way or another, and every Island Division team has been no exception.
All five clubs on the Island acquired the playing rights to at least one veteran player (19 or 20-year-old) in the past week and a half. Prior to the afternoon of Jan 10, all those teams but the Capitals had finalized some sort of transaction in that time frame. But the Capitals, as proven, didn’t go quietly. Both Cowichan and Salmon Arm are bound to benefit from this trade – and the ‘Backs are getting two quality players and people in Hogg and Ayre.
One thing clear on the Island is that all five clubs expect nothing less than clinching a playoff spot this season. Should be a fun go of things between now and Feb 26.
Skapski will will number 9 for the Caps, Hopkins number 15.