The boys are back in town. After a two-week Christmas break, the Kelowna Rockets will return to action on Friday night.
At practice Thursday, in amongst the regulars who were skating off their holiday indulgence, is new face and a new number.
That new face is Alex Swetlikoff, wearing number 17.
Back in early December, Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton announced that the team had made a trade for Swetlikoff’s WHL rights.
“Obviously we think he’s a pretty good player and would give us some depth” Hamilton said at the time.
The trade was a bit of a gamble, but one that paid off. Swetlikoff, who was born and raised a in Kelowna, grew up cheering for the Rockets and signed almost immediately with the team.
“I just thought I needed better development. Obviously in the WHL, you are playing better players, a lot faster, more competitive and I just felt I needed to develop right now. And this is the place that is going to get me to the next level,” Swetikoff said.
And with the Kelowna Rockets hosting the Memorial Cup next season, it would have been hard for Swetlikoff to say no.
“I’m super excited for that. Obviously that’s a benefit, but you know that isn’t the reason I signed. But next year, it will be an honor to play for Kelowna in the Memorial Cup,” Swetlikoff said.
The big center had been playing just up the road in Vernon for the Vipers. But on Boxing day, he swapped his Vipers jersey for a Rockets jersey.
The question now is how will he handle the transition from junior A to major junior, where it’s bigger, faster and stronger?
“I think it’s going to take me a little bit of time. Yesterday was a little bit tough, you know, first practice, the guys, but I think everyday I am getting better and today was a little bit easier,” Swetlikoff said.
So what will Swetlikoff bring to his new WHL team?
“I’m a big 200-foot center. I’ll use my speed and size to take pucks to the net,” Swetlikoff said.
Swetlikoff will get his chance to do exactly that Friday night in Kamloops when the Rockets start the second half of the season against the Blazers.