Almost a year ago the Vees and Silverbacks got together for a key trade. The Vees sent Garrett Hendrickson and Shane Hanna to the ‘Backs for Bryce Gervais in mid-November 2011. Gervais went on to be a key member upfront, playing alongside Joey Benik and Steven Fogarty as part of the infamous “grey line.” Gervais scored one of the biggest goals of the season in late May as well. In the final of the RBC Cup against Woodstock, Gervais tied the game in the third period as he shoveled in a puck at the goal-line; Gervais’s one and only goal of the tournament. The Vees would go on to win the RBC Cup on last-minute heroics by Joey Benik.
Fast-forward almost a year later and the Vees acquire another veteran from Salmon Arm. Today the Vees officially announced the acquisition of Brock Balson (93) for Evan Anderson (94) and Mitch Ferguson (94). Balson has played nine games for the Silverbacks, picking up two goals and eight points. Last year Balson spent the majority of the season with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. Balson did start that season with the Silverbacks, picking up 10 goals and 20 points in 10 games before the Blazers came calling. Balson is a natural fit for the Vees for two reasons. One, Balson is a natural centerman, something the Vees wanted to add to their top six. With Rebry among four others at the WJAC, the Vees were playing with two natural centerman in Alex Jewell and Cody DePourcq. Ryan Gropp has been playing in the middle recently and has been quite good but the insertion of Balson will allow Gropp to go back to the wing when the Vees are back to full strength. Secondly, Balson has the ability to supply secondary scoring, something the Vees wanted to bolster on their roster. Balson has been a point-per-game guy in the BCHL, compiling 28 points in 29 career games,in two seasons with the Silverbacks. Balson acquisition also will free up Sam Mellor and give him a chance to score more. Balson will move to the middle between Mellor and Brad McClure and this should cause headaches for the opposition. Balson can be a facilitator between two shoot-first guys in Mellor and McClure; I’m sure both are anxious to welcome Balson.
By no means is Balson a “saviour” but a piece to the puzzle and will be challenged by the coaching staff to bust his hump. Balson does have plenty of WHL experience but as you heard Fred Harbinson say, that doesn’t mean a thing coming into Penticton. Balson can’t just show up but will have to compete and be hard to play against from the start. The one knock against Balson in the past is his compete level and that won’t be tolerated in Penticton. Playing between two fierce competitors in Mellor and McClure will bring the best out of Balson, so too the fact he will be playing for a first place team that’s pushing to get back to the BCHL finals and defend their championship; this should light a fire underneath of him.
Brayden Park is a nice surprise in the sense his development is ahead of where many would have pegged him at this point. No question he’s a bright prospect on the blue-line but there was thought he would have some struggles going from Midget to Jr. ‘B’ but that isn’t the case. In 14 games with the Osoyoos Coyotes Park had 10 assists and was a physical force playing a regular shift-as a 16 year-old no less. Park had been an AP since the start of the season and played his first game this past weekend against Chilliwack. Park has that physical, gritty element the Vees wanted to add to the back-end, as 16 year-old never passes up a hit. Park will push others to be better as he will push for a spot in the line-up every night.
The Vees roster has a noticeable change to it but the driving force to both moves today is to add depth to the roster. It’s only November but you win with your depth upfront and on the back-end; just look to last year’s playoff run.