Travis Walton scored his first WHL goal on Saturday. On Monday, he signed his first WHL contract.
Walton, a native of Abbotsford, joined the Kamloops Blazers in time to play in a 6-3 loss to the visiting Kelowna Rockets. He scored the Blazers’ second goal, a power-play score at 7:44 of the third period, doing some nifty stickhandling and
then sliding the puck through goaltender Brodan Salmond’s legs.
Walton, who has been on the Blazers’ protected list for two years, had been expected to play this season with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs. However, he had a change of heart and called Kamloops general manager Stu MacGregor on Thursday night to say he wanted to join the Blazers.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder brings some size to the Blazers’ forward ranks. A left-hand shot, he had 26 points, 17 of them goals, with the midget prep team at the Yale Hockey Academy last season.
Walton is likely to get more playing time on Friday as the Blazers (1-3-0) conclude their exhibition schedule in Prince George against the Cougars (3-4-0).
Kamloops is scheduled to open the regular season by going home-and-home with the Kelowna Rockets. They are to play here on Sept. 23 and in Kelowna on Sept. 24.
Before then, the Blazers will have nine players leave to attend NHL camps — G Connor Ingram (Tampa Bay Lightning), F Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals), F Deven Sideroff (Anaheim Ducks), F Jermaine Loewen and F Rudolfs Balcers (both San Jose Sharks), F Collin Shirley and D Dallas Valentine (both Edmonton Oilers), D Dawson Davidson (Pittsburgh Penguins), D Ondrej Vala (Dallas Stars). Loewen, Shirley, Valentine, Davidson and Vala are free-agent invitees; the others are drafted players.
It remains to be seen how many of those players will be back in Kamloops by Sept. 23. When NHL teams open their main training camps, most of them still will have players participating in the World Cup of Hockey. Thus, it is impossible to say how many juniors, if any, will be held over, if only to fill training camp rosters.