The Chilliwack Chiefs landed one of the best players in the British Columbia Hockey Thursday in a major trade that signals the club's intention to take a serious run at the Royal Bank Cup this year.
The Chiefs acquired Philip Zielonka from the Coquitlam Express in exchange for young forward Garrett Forster, defenceman Ben Israel and future considerations.
Zielonka, 19, has scored 20 goals in just 24 games for the Express this year. He began the season with Omaha of the United States Hockey League.
Zielonka won't be in Chilliwack long—the five-foot-11 sniper has already committed to play university hockey for Harvard next year (as has new teammate Luke Esposito on the Crimson). But head coach Harvey Smyl hopes he will add more scoring punch to a deep forward corps.
"Philip is a real competitive and intelligent player who has very good hands," Smyl said in a news release. "He is a real offensive threat every time he is on the ice."
The move also allows the Chiefs to keep pace with the Surrey Eagles, who acquired star Adam Tambellini prior to the trade deadline, which occurred at midnight on Thursday.
The Chiefs and the Eagles are currently separated by just two points in the race for first place in the Mainland Division, with Surrey ahead but having played one more game.
The Express, meanwhile, are last in the division. With their other main offensive threat Alex Kerfoot out for the season with a shoulder injury, Thursday's deal is meant to bolster the team for the future.
Zielonka won't be the only new face in the lineup when the Chiefs take on the Prince George Spruce Kings Friday night.
On Tuesday, Smyl added power forward Tanner Burns to the Chiefs roster. Burns is six-foot-three and has been playing—and scoring frequently—for the North Okanagan Kings of the Junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Burns has 23 goals, 16 assists and 39 points in 34 games for the Kings.
"Tanner is a big-bodied, physical forward who has skill and can play both centre and wing," Smyl said.
The Chiefs host the Spruce Kings Friday at 7 p.m. They then hit the road to take on the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday at 7:15 p.m. and Cowichan Capitals Sunday at 4 p.m.