Kelowna Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton shifted more pieces on the chess board late Thursday by acquiring Seattle Thunderbirds captain Matthew Wedman for a package of draft picks.
In a separate move, and to make room on the roster, Kelowna traded 20-year-old forward Leif Mattson to the Spokane Chiefs.
“We feel that we’ve really strengthened our hockey club with Matthew Wedman and Jadon Joseph down the middle,” said Hamilton.
Joseph came to the Rockets from the Moose Jaw Warriors on Nov. 24.
For Wedman, the Rockets gave up a first-round pick in 2023, a second-round pick in 2022 and a fifth-round pick in 2020.
Mattson goes to the Spokane Chiefs for a third-round pick in 2020.
“We’ve been pursuing Wedman for six weeks,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a long grind of negotiations, and we knew it was going to cost picks. He’s going to elevate our team in leadership and scoring.
“He’s the captain of the Thunderbirds, he brings leadership and a big physical presence. He scored 40 goals last season. We’re looking for him to add some offence to our team and help him pursue his career to become a pro player.”
The Florida Panthers selected Wedman during the seventh round (199th overall) of this spring’s NHL draft in Vancouver.
The six-foot-three, 209-pound centreman has appeared in 19 games for the T-Birds this season, posting 17 points (6G, 11A) and 41 penalty minutes.
He has suited up for 275 regular-season games over the last five WHL seasons, collecting 175 points (75G, 100A) and 286 penalty minutes.
Last season, Wedman set career highs across the board racking up 40 goals and 37 assists in 66 games, earning a Western Conference second all-star team honour.
Wedman, from Edmonton, was a member of the T-Birds’ 2017 WHL championship team.
Mattson played 203 regular-season games for the Rockets, collecting 155 points (61G, 94A). He had five goals and 13 assists in 25 games this season.
“Any time you make a move with over-age (players), unfortunately, someone is moving,” Hamilton said. “Leif has been a great player for us. He competed hard and is a solid person. We’ve made a move that I think will be good for him. He’ll fit in well in Spokane. I think if there's a place to go, this is a great place. He’s going to slot right into their top-six. We want to thank Leif for everything he has done for the Rockets and wish him well in the future.”
Spokane’s draft is through the Regina Pats, so “there’s a chance that it will be an early third-round pick that will help us significantly,” Hamilton said.
Wedman is expected to join the Rockets in Prince Albert tonight.