The retooling of the Wellington Dukes continues.
The 2018 RBC Cup finalists are not getting complacent and general manager Todd Reid has been very active on the trade front in recent months.
Last week, Reid moved top end defender Mason Snell to the Powell River Kings in exchange for defenceman Callum Volpe and forward Nick Abbot.
Snell, a highly regarded blue-chip prospect that’s committed to play for the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2019, came to the Dukes partway through last season and saw his stock rise and rise as the campaign wore on.
Snell was dealt to Wellington from the Whitby Fury for forward Rory Milne in what was one of Wellington’s finest in-season deals in recent memory.
Snell excelled with the Dukes, scoring five goals and adding 11 helpers in 30 games while providing Wellington a second powerplay quarterback to spell of Declan Carlile.
In fact, both players would represent the organization at the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top prospects game in January and both landed on the NHL Entry Draft watch list.
But it was in the playoffs and, particularly in year end tournaments where Snell was a star for the Wellington side.
After picking up a goal and a dozen assists in 25 OJHL playoff games, Snell elevated his game at the Dudley Hewitt Cup and was tabbed as the tournament’s top blueliner.
In Chilliwack at the RBC, Snell was a nominee for top defenceman amongst other defenders on Canada’s best Junior A clubs.
It was while he was playing on the left coast that Snell drew the eye of River Kings Coach and General Manager Tyler Kuntz and the BCHL club made an offer to Reid that couldn’t be turned down.
“There was really high interest in Mason and they were watching him at the RBC and even before with him being on the NHL list,” Reid told the Gazette Wednesday.
In Volpe, Wellington picks up a player with 123 BCHL regular season games to his credit with Powell River, Vernon and Langley.
Entering his final season of Jr. A hockey, the Coquitlam, BC native can offer a the ability to move the puck on the powerplay or play the role of trigger man.
“He’s got a great shot and in our conversations we feel he can be a great leader for this team and bring a strong, positive presence to the dressing room,” Reid said.
Nick Abbott is a Canisus College commit that comes part way back to his hometown in the deal.
The native of Bonavista, NL turned 18 on Monday and played a single season with the River Kings, picking up five points in 25 games.
A mid-season injury limited Abbott somewhat but the 5′ 7”, 170 lbs forward played in 13 of Powell River’s 16 playoff games in 2018.
While the comparisons to graduated Wellington Dukes star Mitch Martan might be unfair at this point, there could be a similar storyline.
After a great minor hockey career Martan came back to Ontario from the BCHL to become one of Wellington’s best point producers and big game players in the past two seasons and Abbott certainly knows where the net is.
Abbott was better than a point-per-game player with the elite Ontario Hockey Academy during his Midget year in 2016-17, scoring 30 goals and adding 24 assist in 45 games.
Wellington has also managed to sign a pair of forwards in recent days.
Former Quinte Red Devil Dalton Bancroft and Ancaster Avalanche grad Ben Woodhouse have signed for the upcoming season.
Bancroft, son of former Belleville Bull standout and AHL veteran Steve Bancroft, suited up for the St. Mary’s Lincolns of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League last season and scored 21 times in 42 games while adding 18 helpers.
An 11th round draft pick of the Saginaw Spirit, Bancroft will attend OHL camp this fall but is committed to Wellington if the Major Junior route doesn’t come to fruition for the Madoc native.
“He’s a big body that can put the puck in the net,” Reid said. “His forecheck is really something that’s developed quickly in the last couple of season and he can really make teams turn the puck over.”
At 6’2”, 200 lbs, Bancroft has quickly shot up in stature as well as play.
“He’s a big body presence that can finish as well,” Reid added.
In Woodhouse, Wellington is getting a player that Reid described as a prototypical Duke.
“His speed is really what sets him apart and he can both move the puck and find the net. He’s tenacious, has a great work ethic and the fans are going to love him,” Reid said.
In other Wellington Dukes news, Anthony Popovich joined the growing ranks of former Dukes that have participated in NHL summer camps.
Following in the foot steps of 2015-16 Wellington Dukes teammate Shaw Boomhower who attended the same camp last summer, Popovich suited up at the 2018 Dallas Stars summer prospects camp in Frisco, Texas last week.
Reid, who coached Popovich during his Minor Pee Wee season in Quinte, was thrilled for the 6’1, 185 lbs netminder that has excelled in Guelph with the OHL’s Storm over the past two seasons.
“He’s a great kid who really got his start when he was coming out to Dukes practices thanks to (former Coach and General Manager) Marty Abrams. He’s kept getting better and better and finding success at the next levels of hockey. He’s supported by a great family who billeted (Wellington players) Dawson Ellis and Keegan Ferguson this season. I’m so happy for the Popovich family and I can’t say enough about the success Anthony has had in his career so far,” Reid said.