Giants trying to nose ahead with new Cheek up front
WHL team acquires over-age power forward Trevor Cheek from Hitmen
Rather than turn the other cheek, the stumbling Vancouver Giants added one to their roster Wednesday.
Giants general manager Scott Bonner acquired 6-foot-2, 198-pound forward Trevor Cheek from the Calgary Hitmen for a fourth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft and a fifth-round pick in 2014. Cheek, 20 in December, fills the Giants’ vacant third slot for an overage player after Taylor Makin was dispatched to Junior A last weekend.
The Giants decided this is not the season to be in a wholesale rebuild. With the Vancouver Canucks locked out, they understand there will be more focus on their product. A bad team is not good for business. They have already lost their first two regular-season games, 6-4 and 3-2, to the Victoria Royals.
“We have a captive market and we want to make sure we don’t lay eggs,” Bonner said. “We were very close in both weekend games and, hopefully, a player here or there makes a big difference.”
Cheek is essentially the replacement for Jordan Martinook, who scored 40 times in 2011-12 and managed to get himself drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in the second round of the NHL entry draft. The Giants had been hoping Phoenix would assign Martinook back to them.
“We were waiting to see how things were going to shake out with Marty,” explained Bonner. “As soon as it looked like he was going to stay in pro, we just felt, in the current state of our team, we needed a 20-year-old who had a resume of scoring some goals.
“We’ve been talking to Calgary for a while. We knew they had four quality 20-year-olds so it was just a matter of which one Kelly Kisio (Hitmen GM) was going to move. He took his time deciding.”
WHL teams can carry more than three 20-year-olds until Oct. 12 and then must cut down to the limit. The Giants are now at the limit with defencemen Wes Vannieuwenhuizen and John Niebrandt.
Cheek, a native of Vancouver, Wash., has two full WHL campaigns under his belt. He scored 23 times last season after netting 10 in his rookie year. He is expected to be in the lineup Friday night when the Giants entertain the Everett Silvertips at the Pacific Coliseum.
According to Bonner, Cheek can play all three forward positions. The Giants’ top two offensive threats, Marek Tvrdon and Cain Franson, both play the left side so coach Don Hay may have to find another spot for Cheek, who is also listed as a left-winger. Hay admitted Wednesday he was not particularly familiar with Cheek.
“I know he’s played in the league and that he’s a top-six forward,” Hay said. “We thought we had to make an upgrade on Taylor Makin and Scott was able to do that. Now we have to fit Cheek into our group and try to find a position where he’s going to be effective.”
Hay is also trying to figure out where to deploy 19-year-old Czech import Ales Kilnar. The latter did not dress for either of the first two games but will play Friday against Everett. For WHL teams to be successful, they need meaningful contributions from their 20-year-olds and imports.
“Kilnar has shown well in spurts but I think there are other guys ahead of him right now,” Hay explained. “Last weekend, the big thing for us was to evaluate people who were comparable to him. I’m planning to use him this Friday and he’s going to get his opportunity. He’s 19 and it’s not like he’s competing against a 16- or 17-year-old (for ice time). He’s competing against a 19- and 20-year-old player. Part of his responsibility is to establish himself among that group.”
Inside the dressing room, team captain Vannieuwenhuizen says the mood is still good despite the rough start and third-year vet Matt Bellerive wanting out – traded Monday to Red Deer – after being scratched for the home opener.
“I don’t think the guys have been moping around or anything like that,” said WesVan. “It’s a long season and you can turn it around really fast. Sure you want to win the first two games and set the tone for the season but, once you haven’t won them, it starts with practice. As captain, that’s what you stress.”
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