By Lucas Punkari - Fort Frances Times Online
After returning home to play for the Fort Frances Lakers in the SIJHL last season, local hockey product Jordan Larson is moving on.
The 17-year-old centre was traded to the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the CCHL on Friday afternoon, in exchange for a player development fee.
“It’s obviously pretty exciting for me to head down there,” Larson enthused.
“Pembroke is a great organization and I’m looking forward to getting started down there,” he added.
“I think it’s going to be a good year.”
While Larson is excited about the chance to play in a new league, the Lakers are losing the player who would have been their highest returning scorer from last season’s squad that reached the SIJHL final.
Larson collected 69 points in 56 games to finish second in team scoring while winning to league’s rookie-of-the-year award.
“It is hard to lose a player of Jordan’s ability,” conceded Lakers’ head coach and general manager Wayne Strachan.
“In the end, Jordan was honest about what he wanted to do with his development and where he would like to play, and as an organization we have always worked with our players to help them reach their goals and dreams,” Strachan noted.
“It is tough to see him go, for sure, but he is going to a great organization and we wish him the best of luck.”
In giving up Larson, the Lakers received a player development fee from the Lumber Kings, which is when a team is compensated for the development of the player that is dealt in the time spent with them.
“There are two ways to work trades in junior hockey, either by moving players or a player development fee,” Strachan explained.
“Usually, we announce this kind of trade as future considerations, but the question also comes up as to when those futures are coming,” he remarked.
The trade had been in the works for the last couple of weeks. Larson and his family had visited a couple of teams in the CCHL last month, including the Lumber Kings and the Smiths Falls Bears.
“After my visits, I thought that Pembroke would be my best opportunity for this year,” Larson said.
“They won the Royal Bank Cup [the national Junior ‘A’ championship] two years ago, and up until last year they had won five-straight league title, so they have a pretty good track record,” he added.
After Larson made up his mind that he would like to suit up for the Lumber Kings this fall, both Pembroke and Fort Frances went to work making the deal for the forward’s rights.
“A lot of credit has to be given to the Lakers’ organization in supporting him in his move, and to leaving it to him to find a place that he was comfortable with and to arrange to have his rights moved,” said Lumber Kings’ head coach and general manager Sheldon Keefe.
“Jordan is at a point in time where he is looking to take that next step into his development into becoming a Division 1 hockey players, and we are pleased that Pembroke was the place that he felt was the best fit for him.”
While Larson was chosen by the Soo Greyhounds in the 2011 OHL priority selection, he’s elected to pursue the U.S. college hockey route, which was a key factor in looking to the CCHL, a 12-team circuit based in eastern Ontario.
“It’s a pretty good league that gets a lot of publicity, and you have a lot of college teams and NHL scouts looking at the players there,” Larson noted.
“I have made up my mind to go to the NCAA, and when you look at all of the guys that have moved on from that league, their track record is just awesome and you can’t compete with that,” he reasoned.
One of the most recent examples of a player using the CCHL as a springboard to his career comes from the Lumber Kings’ organization.
Forward Matthew Peca was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL draft, and was one of the top freshman scorers in the country for Quinnipiac University last season.
Peca also was a member of the Lumber Kings’ RBC Cup-winning team in 2011, the majority of which have now graduated from the junior ranks.
“We’re in somewhat of a rebuilding mode here,” admitted Keefe. “And we are well aware that if you bring in some talented pieces like Jordan, it allows you to stay competitive while rebuilding.
“We are really excited to bring Jordan in as he’s a player who has had a lot of success offensively in his young career, and we are a team that is in need of an offensive boost.
“He really fits the bill in a lot of ways for our team,” Keefe added.
Keefe had a chance to see Larson first-hand during the CJHL’s top prospects game in Langley, B.C. last November. He was the coach of Team East that fell to Larson’s Team West squad.
“As I was preparing for the event and learning about the players on both teams, his stats at the time for a 16-year-old player were unheard of at this level,” Keefe stressed.
“He also scored in both games, so I remembered him very well because of that. And since then, I’ve had the chance to go back and watch him in some different clips, along with seeing him in person at a prospects tournament in Toronto in May.
“I expect him to hit the ground running like he did in Fort Frances, and I have no doubts that he will adjust quickly to our league as guys that have his ability and his talent have a knack for producing offensively,” reasoned Keefe.
With a season of Junior ‘A’ hockey already under his belt here, Larson feels he’ll be able to take the lessons learned in the SIJHL when he heads to Pembroke next month for training camp.
“The competition level in the SIJHL is great,” Larson noted. “You have to be strong in this league as you are bound to be hit at sometime, and it’s probably going to be the same thing when I get down there.
“I think that I’m ready for it, though.”
While Larson already has played out-of-town before with the Thunder Bay Kings’ program, he’ll now be playing farther from home than he has in the past, which makes things a little bit different for his family.
“It’s a little farther there than it is from Thunder Bay, so my mom might not like that too much,” he joked.
“But she knows what is best for me, and I’m sure she will enjoy it as much as I do.”
And although he’ll be leaving his hometown again to pursue his hockey dreams, Larson was quick to thank those who helped him out over the past year.
“It’s been great playing here,” he stressed. “Wayne is obviously a great coach, and we had a great team here this year.
“And the fans here were also awesome to play in front of,” he lauded.