Mike Vandekamp made his first big move as the head coach and general manager of the Cowichan Valley Capitals last Friday when he completed a six-player trade with his former team, the Nanaimo Clippers.
Vandekamp acquired 20-year-old defenceman David Melaragni and 19-year-old forwards Preston Brodziak and Lucas Vanroboys from the Clippers, and shipped 18-year-old forward Ethan Scardina and 19-year-old forwards Nicholas Wilson and Jonathan Stein north.
It’s no coincidence that Vandekamp made a big trade with the team he coached for seven years. And just as Vandekamp is well-acquainted with the newcomers to Cowichan, Nanaimo bench boss Darren Naylor knows very well what he’s getting in Scardina, Wilson and Stein.
“I think it was a trade of a whole bunch of players the coaches on both sides were familiar with,” Vandekamp said. “Probably what started the ball rolling was the familiarity of both coaches with the players involved.”
Melaragni comes in with one year of experience in the B.C. Hockey League after playing the previous two seasons with the Philadelphia Revolution of the Eastern Hockey League. Over 58 games with the Clippers in 2017-18, the blueliner scored eight goals and assisted on 24 others for 32 points, the most among Nanaimo defenders, then added a goal and two helpers in six playoff contests.
Listed at six feet and 181 pounds, the Philadelphia native was previously committed to Div. 1 Northeastern University for the 2018-19 season, but that is no longer the case.
“I’ve known David for a year now,” Vandekamp said. “He’s a great kid. He’s a leader by example and he’s consistent. He’s good on both sides of the game. He’s a great defensive player and he has shown some offensive ability.”
Brodziak got into 51 games as a BCHL rookie last season, recording 24 points on 11 goals and 13 assists, and also had one goal and two assists in six postseason games. The six-foot, 185-pound Estevan, Saskatchewan product previously played for the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians in 2016-17.
“I got to know him last year and the year before in midget,” Vandekamp said, noting that Brodziak is a hard-working two-way player.
“He can play in lots of different situations,” the coach added. “He’s versatile; he can play at centre and wing. He’s a good kid, too. He’s another guy who’s respected by everyone in the room.”
Vanroboys also posted 24 points in 51 games as a rookie last year, with 14 goals and 10 assists. Notably, he led the Clippers with 81 penalty minutes in the regular season and 12 in the playoffs. He’s the kind 0f player, Vandekamp acknowledges, that you’d much rather play with than against.
“He can really skate,” the coach said. “He’s got good speed and lots of tenacity. He’s a get-under-your-skin kind of guy. He’s the type of player everyone in the building is mad at early in the game.”
A six-foot-one, 176-pound product of Thamesville, Ontario, who also recorded six points and 24 penalty minutes in five games with the junior B Oceanside Generals last year, Vanroboys has lots of offensive upside that Vandekamp believes will come out well in his second BCHL campaign.
The newcomers’ precise roles with the Caps are still to be determined, Vandekamp said.
“They can all play,” he commented. “They will all be important players on the team.”
Earlier last week, the Caps announced that 18-year-old defenceman William Croteau has committed to play for the team this coming season. The five-foot-nine, 165-pound product of Chandler, Quebec played 65 games for the midget AAA Iowa Wild last season. The Iowa Wild is the same team that defenceman Yuri Davis-Martel played for before he joined the Caps for the 2017-18 season.
Vandekamp was announced as Cowichan’s new head coach on April, which gave him a late start in recruiting players, so trades like last week’s deal with Nanaimo are going to be vital.
“I think we’re just trying to built the team one player at a time,” he said. “We’re recruiting in a pot of players that a lot have already been picked through.
“This team will have to be just that: a good team first. I don’t think we will have the leading scorer in the league on our team. We will have to be a good all-around team every day. These [new additions] are the type of players that will help us accomplish that.”
Vandekamp said there are “absolutely” more deals to come.
“We are still a long ways from where we want to be with it all,” he stated. “It will probably take all the way to training camp to put it all together.”