Cowichan Caps make big splash at deadline

Getting older came at a price for the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Getting older came at a price for the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

The Caps added a pair of veteran forwards from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the B.C. Hockey League trade deadline on Tuesday, but in order to make the deal, they had to surrender a popular home-grown player.

Mitch Skapski and Haydn Hopkins are joining the Caps, with forwards Ryan Hogg and Trevor Ayre going the other way. Hogg grew up in Duncan and came up through the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey system before joining the Caps in the fall of 2014, before his 16th birthday. Ayre spent just a portion of the current season with the Caps.

“Obviously Ryan was a fixture, and he’s a great kid,” Capitals head coach Bob Beatty said. “Ayre is a great kid too, although he was just here a short time. The guys on the team have mixed feelings, but it’s an opportunity for Ryan to get a new adventure and spread his wings a bit.”

Hogg has improved steadily since reaching the BCHL two and a half years ago.

“He has come a long way, and we feel that he has great potential,” Beatty acknowledged.

In 41 games with Cowichan this season, Hogg crushed his previous career highs in all offensive categories with five goals, 16 assists and 21 points. He finishes his Capitals career with eight goals, 30 assists and 38 points over 122  contests. Ayre came to the Caps in a trade earlier this season with the Langley Rivermen and had four goals and three helpers in 20 appearances with Cowichan.

The goal of the trade was to add some older bodies ahead of the playoffs.

“We were looking to get more experienced up front,” Beatty explained. “We didn’t make that a secret, since last deadline even. We made it work for both teams.”

Skapski, a 1996 forward, and Hopkins, born in 1997, both come to Cowichan with major junior experience. Mitch Skapski, who was the Silverbacks’ captain, joins his younger brother, defenceman Marshall, who was acquired by the Caps earlier this season. The Skapskis also have an older brother, Mackenzie, a goalie in the New York Rangers system who made two NHL appearances in 2014-15.

“Mitch is excited about finishing his junior career alongside his brother Marshall who was acquired in late November from the Merritt Centennials,” Beatty said. “Haydn is originally from Victoria and is pleased to get back closer to home. Both will be relied on heavily in the stretch run and playoffs.”

Mitch Skapski had 36 points (14 goals and 22 assists) and 33 penalty minutes in 38 games with Salmon Arm this season, and immediately becomes the Caps’ third leading scorer behind Max Newton and Jared Domin. In 124 BCHL games with Chilliwack and Salmon Arm since 2011-12, Skapski has 28 goals and 37 assists for 65 points. He has also played 143 games in the Western Hockey League with the Everett Silvertips, Victoria Royals and Saskatoon Blades, compiling 19 points on six goals and 13 helpers.

The Silverbacks sit at the bottom of the Interior Division standings, but are still in the running for a playoff berth, so Beatty wasn’t expecting them to trade their veteran players so willingly.

“We would have tried to pry [Mitch Skapski] out of Salmon Arm anyway,” Beatty said. “But we were a little surprised when they unloaded their 20-year-olds. He was someone we looked at as a possibility after we acquired Marshall. I know they’re excited to play together, and that motivated Mitch to come this direction.”

Hopkins had 15 points (four goals and 11 assists) and 20 penalty minutes in 25 games with the Silverbacks. His BCHL experience before this season included two games as an affiliate with the Victoria Grizzlies, but he has also played 53 games in the WHL with Saskatoon, the Prince George Cougars and the Vancouver Giants, and 33 games in the Ontario Hockey League with the Erie Otters, helping that team go deep into the OHL playoffs.

“He’s a Victoria kid,” Beatty pointed out. “He’s excited to get closer to home, and his family is excited, too.”

The Caps are heading off on the road this weekend to visit the Coquitlam Express on Friday, the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday and the West Kelowna Warriors on Sunday. They play the Grizzlies in Victoria on Jan. 19 and in Duncan on Jan. 20.