Sean Donaldson says he could not have asked for a better B.C. Hockey League team to get traded to, and the feeling is mutual. The Prince George Spruce Kings are glad to have him.
Picked up two weeks ago in a deal that sent 18-year-old winger Lane Sniher and future considerations to the Trail Smoke Eaters, Donaldson joined his new teammates on the road in Langley, not far from his Vancouver home.
For Donaldson, a 17-year-old right winger, it was like rejoining his hockey family. He's the eighth Burnaby Winter Club alumni to play for the Spruce Kings this season.
"That makes it a lot easier when you come to a new team and you're already best friends with five or six of the guys," said Donaldson. "I played with Nick Poisson, Tyler Schleppe and Nick Bochen last year and I know Ben Poisson, Liam Watson-Brawn and Bradley Cooper (as well as Nolan Welsh). They're all from BWC. It's a great place to develop and it's great that a bunch of us ended up here."
Donaldson comes highly touted, having already locked up an NCAA scholarship with the University of Connecticut in 2020. He earned a reputation as a goal-scorer in his two seasons with the BWC. Last year with the Prep team he scored 36 times and had 30 assists for 66 points in 34 games. The year before that on the BWC Elite 15s he turned in a 20-goal, 37-point season.
"He has a real good knack for the net and that's what we need, we need guys who can step up offensively and he certainly has that nose to go to areas where the puck goes," said Spruce Kings head coach Adam Maglio. "I think has a good level of compete, too, and when he's pushed he takes his game to the next level, so we've been happy with him and it will be nice to have him back Saturday."
The 17-year-old Donaldson played two games in his first week as a Spruce King and spent the following week practicing, then got back on the road for an Interior Division tour that started in Trail. He scored against his old team in a 5-2 win and collected his second goal as a Spruce King the following night in a 4-1 win in Wenatchee, but drew a four-game suspension in that game for high hit into the boards on Wild defenceman Chad Sasaki and hasn't played since.
Donaldson will serve out his sentence when he sits out tonight's game at Rolling Mix Concrete against the Langley Rivermen. He'll draw back into the lineup for the rematch against the Rivermen on Saturday.
"I think it was a good start for me and I want to keep building off that, it all starts in the defensive zone for me," said Donaldson. "I bring energy and compete to my game and I'm a little on the offensive side but I play a 200-foot game."
He had a goal and four assists and 14 penalty minutes in 13 games with the Smoke Eaters before he requested the trade.
"It just wasn't the place for me, I kind of felt out of place there so I asked for a trade and we went home for a couple days and I couldn't be happier here," he said. "I think we have a group here that's going to go really deep (in the playoffs), it's great to win games."
The Spruce Kings have done that often this season, compiling a 14-6-0-1 record which leaves them five points behind the first-overall Chilliwack Chiefs (17-7-0-0), having played three fewer games than the Mainland Division leaders.
Donaldson says his suspension served as a reminder what not to do on the ice in the heat of the moment.
"I was just going in hard and finished my check on the numbers and I learned from it," he said. "They're pretty tight on checking from behind so that's four games. It's been tough but there's always some positives from that.
"The coaches said to me I can always work on stuff while they're playing and get in better shape with extra workouts and you can watch the game and learn. You can sit here and dread on it for two weeks or get better. I'll be ready for Saturday."
The Spruce Kings beat the Rivermen 2-1 on Oct. 20 in Langley, the last time the teams met. Prince George also scored a 4-3 win in Langley on Sept. 29.
"They work hard, they're a hard forechecking team and they finish their hits," said Maglio. "You have to be on your toes, they try and create turnovers on the forecheck and capitalize on that. They've struggled a bit offensively but they have real good goaltending, (Braedon) Fleming's been really good for them. You have to get bodies in front of him and find loose pucks, he's been good against us for two years now."
The Kings have had to adjust their lineup slightly with winger Corey Cunningham out with a concussion he sustained last Saturday in the game against Penticton. The Kings learned winger Spencer Chapman will need hip surgery and is out for the season. Defenceman Brennan Malgunas - out since the start of the season with an undisclosed illness - has been practicing with the Kings.