Shane McColgan will get a second chance at winning a Memorial Cup next May. It just won’t be with the Kelowna Rockets.
On Thursday, the Rockets traded McColgan and fellow forward Jessey Astles to the Saskatoon Blades in a swap that landed Kelowna an 18-year-old forward in Ryan Olsen and a pair of 2012 bantam draft picks that the team used on Thursday. Next year, Saskatoon will play host to the Memorial Cup, May 17-26.
McColgan, who led Kelowna in scoring the past two seasons, joined the Rockets in 2008-09, appearing in four regular-season games and four playoff games in what was his 15-year-old season. That season, Kelowna came close to winning the Memorial Cup, but fell in the final, losing 4-1 to the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Now 19, McColgan says being traded was expected, and the idea of joining a Memorial Cup contender is exciting.
“To be honest, the trade wasn’t surprising,” said McColgan, who tallied 18 goals and 64 points in 70 games last season. The season prior, the 5-foot-9 right-winger from Manhattan Beach, Calif., had 21 goals and 66 points in 67 games.
“It was either between Saskatoon or Portland, and it was Saskatoon and I’m happy it was because they have the Memorial Cup,” continued McColgan. “This, hopefully, being my last season of junior hockey, I want to win a Memorial Cup, and going to Saskatoon will be my best chance. I’m looking forward to going there in August.”
After a disappointing 2011-12 in which Kelowna placed sixth in Western Conference standings and was quickly booted from the playoffs by Portland with a first-round, four-game sweep, the Rockets promised there’d be change. On Thursday, they began delivering on that statement.
“In losing Shane, we’re losing our leading scorer,” Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton said in a press release. “I think a fresh start will be good for him. With Jessey, we have a number of guys that play like him and that allowed us to move him. We wish both players all the best.”
Both McColgan and Astles played three seasons in the Okanagan. Astles, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-winger from Coquitlam, had two goals and seven points in 42 games last season.
In Olsen, the Rockets acquired a B.C. product, as the 6-foot-2 centre hails from Tsawwassen. In 135 games during two seasons, Olsen has 22 goals and 24 assists for 46 points, plus 105 penalty minutes. Last season, the sophomore tallied 15 goals and 32 points in 67 games, along with 64 PIMs.
“We were looking for a big forward and Ryan has good size,” said Hamilton. “We wanted to add size and this trade also addresses our needs at this draft. We now have a second-round pick and we think Ryan is going to be a great addition.”
Contacted while eating a meal at his dad’s restaurant in California, with plans to hit the beach later in the day, McColgan used one word in describing Kelowna’s past injury-filled season: Frustrating.
“It was frustrating,” said McColgan, who was selected in the fifth round, 134th overall, of the 2011 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. “When I got to Kelowna after going to New York, I was really excited. The team had to battle through some injuries, and things like that, and it got to be frustrating. I think everyone in the locker-room will attest to that, including the coaching staff. It was a year to forget.”
Looking ahead, McColgan should be a great addition for Saskatoon, which was surprisingly swept by Medicine Hat in the first round. Normally, teams that host the Memorial Cup the following year make some noise in the playoffs. That the Blades didn’t this spring meant something had to change.
“I see a core group of guys who want to win, who take the game seriously and have a chance to do some special things,” said McColgan. “I looked at the roster, and it looks like they’ll only lose a few guys from this past season. I see a good playoff-contending team. Obviously, we’re hosting the Memorial Cup, but I think we’ll be able to do something special during the regular season as well.”
Asked what he thinks it’ll be like slipping on a different jersey for the first time in his WHL career, McColgan said “I think it’ll definitely be weird. The emotions were kinda flying high this morning when I got the call from Kelowna about the trade. It’ll definitely be a weird change, but I’m looking forward to it. Getting traded, I think it helps prepare you for life by getting used to see what life throws at you. This is certainly bittersweet. I love Kelowna and it’s my second home, but I’m going to go to Saskatoon and do my best.”
Looking back, McColgan clearly remembers Kelowna’s trip to Rimouski, Que., site of the 2009 Memorial Cup. Kelowna’s team, arguably one of the WHL’s best teams the past decade, included several future NHLers in Tyler Myers, Jamie Benn, Tyson Barrie, Cody Almond, Brandon McMillan and Mikael Backlund. McColgan was a healthy scratch for all four of Kelowna’s games.
“It was great to be around guys like Benn and Myers,” said McColgan. “And I actually talked to Benn today; he congratulated me and said best of luck. But being there and learning, I have that much more playoff experience and I’m really looking forward to playing in it again.”