Blaine Neufeld has been busy.
Over the last two weeks, the Surrey Eagles general manager and his front office staff, including head coach Peter Schaefer, have pulled off a flurry of roster moves, highlighted by a three-team trade Wednesday that saw the team’s second-leading point-getter Eric Linell shipped to the Penticton Vees, with a pair of players – including another goaltender – coming to South Surrey.
In the multi-team deal, which also involved the Nanaimo Clippers, the Birds received 19-year-old forward Brady Lynn and 20-year-old goaltender Kyle Dumba from the Clippers. Dumba – who has experience in the BCHL with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks as well as in the Western Hockey League with a handful of teams – was a recent cut of the WHL’s Regina Pats.
Dumba will join a crowded crease at South Surrey Arena, with longtime netminder Daniel Davidson and recent signee Cayden Bailey still on the roster. And for the time being, that won’t change, according to Neufeld.
The team will make the uncharacteristic move of carrying three goalies for the foreseeable future, he said, in the hopes that it fosters healthy competition.
“We’ll have to figure it out, but at the same time, we’ve got three guys who’ve proven they can win in this league now,” Neufeld told Peace Arch News. “Cayden has come in here of late and got our last two wins and done well, and Davidson got us our first win.
“I think bringing in Dumba, now you have some competition, and there’s going to be accountability for each guy. Now, you gotta be ready to go.”
Dumba will be the fourth goalie to suit up for the Eagles already this season. The team started the year with veteran Seth Eisele between the pipes, but after a rough start, he was released to make way for Bailey, a New York import.
“We’ve gone through a number of goalies in the past number of years, trying to find the right fit,” Neufeld said.
“We wanted to take a cautious approach with this. And if it works with three, great, and if it doesn’t, we’ll have to figure that out when the time comes, but for now, we have three guys now who can play.”
Moving Linell – who was acquired in the summer from Coquitlam and proved to be a strong source of offence for the club in the early weeks of the season – was made in part because the team felt it was dealing from a position of strength, considering Neufeld and company have brought in a slew of players with WHL experience in the last two weeks.
At the end of September, the team signed recent WHL cuts Holden Katzalay and Liam Ryan – both forwards – as well as blue-liner Ryan Miley, and last week added another forward, Delta native Justyn Gurney, who played the last two seasons with the Calgary Hitmen.
Gurney – a former member of the Valley West Hawks – scored two goals in his Eagles debut, leading his new team to a win over Coquitlam Oct. 3. The Eagles now have six players on their roster with major-junior experience.
🚨 EAGLES SCOOOOOOOOOORE! 🚨
Now it's Justyn Gurney's turn to score his first BCHL goal! A beautiful breakaway move makes it 2-0 Eagles! pic.twitter.com/Re6vNpVUBp
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) October 4, 2018
“All these guys guys have proven that they can play significant minutes and have an impact in each game,” Neufeld said of the new additions.
In explaining the roster turnover further, Neufeld pointed out that most of the players on the Eagles’ roster to start the year were brought aboard before Schaefer took over as head coach from Brandon West, who resigned his post a week before the start of the regular season.
“A lot of these guys were guys Brandon looked at in a certain way, and now with an adjustment behind the bench, that perspective changes,” he explained. “It doesn’t mean one way is right and the other wrong – they can both be right – but the coach needs to get the most out of his players, and you need players to fit the coach’s style.
“When you have players who fit your style, you’re going to get more out of them.”
To make room for all the new players, a handful of players have also been moved out. Defenceman Perry Winfree was shipped to the Powell River Kings for future considerations; rookie Jason Chu was also dealt for futures, to the Prince George Spruce Kings, and rookie Matteo Pecchia was released, and signed with the junior ‘B’ North Vancouver Wolfpack.
As well, veteran forward Aaron White – an Ohio native – left the team for the United States Hockey League in order to play closer to home.
“My wife was out of town so I thought I’d keep myself busy,” Neufeld quipped, when asked about the flurry of roster moves.
Though the sample size with the new-look roster is small, Neufeld was nonetheless pleased – he called the Oct. 3 win over the Express “our best game of the year,” – and pointed out that the team had won three of its last five prior to hitting the ice for two games over the Thanksgiving weekend.
”And we probably should have, or could have, won all five of those games,” he continued.
“So we’re headed in the right direction, and we have a team now that we are certain can make some noise deep into the playoffs.”