By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
VICTORIA, British Columbia – Brady Leavold wasn’t planning on pro hockey. But scoring 70 points in your final year of junior has a way of making you reconsider. Leavold, who showed potential as a late-season signing last spring with the Victoria Salmon Kings, will return to the ECHL club for its home opener Friday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Leavold joined the S-Kings following the elimination of his junior Kelowna Rockets in the WHL playoffs. He signed in the Tampa Bay Lightning system over the summer but the Salmon Kings made sure to retain his ECHL rights. That means when he was sent down from Norfolk of the AHL on Tuesday, it was to Victoria and not the Lightning’s ECHL farm team in Augusta, Ga.
“Brady has grit and he can score,” said Salmon Kings GM and head coach Mark Morrison.
Leavold gives the Salmon Kings currently seven NHL or AHL contracted players and the first outside the Vancouver Canucks’ system. Friday’s opponent, the Stockton Thunder of California, swoop into the Memorial Centre with 19 players under contract to the Edmonton Oilers or the AHL Springfield Falcons.
“You are really beginning to notice that NHL teams are using the ECHL as a development league and not just talking about it anymore,” said Morrison, whose club received Canucks-contracted forward Dan Gendur from the AHL Manitoba Moose earlier this week.
“The squeeze is on with the contracted players we’ve been receiving,” said Morrison. “Both Fulton and Schenderling are ECHL-calibre players but it’s becoming a tight squeeze with roster spots being taken up by contracted players.”
Fulton’s second Victoria hockey sojourn lasted just the opening three games of the ECHL season last weekend in Phoenix and was even briefer than his last one. Fulton was traded in BCHL junior by the Vernon Vipers to the Victoria Salsa in 2002-03 for sniper Curtis Fraser but was flipped again the following season to Williams Lake.
Meanwhile, Morrison appears to have filled his fourth and final veteran slot (260 or more games of pro experience) with an old nemesis from the Alaska Aces. Olivier Filion was the complete package over four seasons with the Aces but a move to France this fall didn’t pan out for the 26-year-old graduate of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior League, who recorded 104 points in his final junior season.
With most ECHL clubs having filled their four veteran slots, Filion contacted Morrison, who had left one open for just such an opportune signing.
“Filion impressed me with his play at both ends of the rink for Alaska . . . he brings everything and can do a bit of everything,” said Morrison.