Monday, November 14, 2011

Daily News Sports Editor
Brock Balson has come home.
Balson, 18, was added to the Kamloops Blazers’ roster Monday afternoon, after the WHL team dealt right-winger J.T. Barnett, 19, to the Everett Silvertips for a third-round selection in the 2013 bantam draft.
“I’m pretty excited,” Balson said Monday, shortly after arriving at his family’s home. “It’s good to be back in the league and with the team I grew up watching in my hometown . . . that’s even better.”
And it’s even better to be back at home with family.
“Yeah, my family is pretty excited to have me home,” he said, referring to mom and dad, Sandy and Mark. “It’ll be weird for the first bit.”
Balson played his minor hockey here, moving up through the ranks to play for the bantam AAA Jardine’s Blazers and the major midget Thompson Blazers.
He was selected by the Prince Albert Raiders in the third round, 61st overall, of the 2008 bantam draft. Last season, he had three points, including one goal, in 48 games with the Raiders. They dropped him prior to this season, with general manager Bruno Campese saying some of the Raiders’ younger players had passed Balson on the depth chart.
Unable to trade Balson’s rights, the Raiders then deleted him from their protected list. Thus, the Blazers were able to add him without giving up anything.
“It just fell apart there,” Balson said of his Prince Albert experience. “I was always on the fourth line . . . never playing with any confidence, kind of in and out of the lineup all year.”
This season, Balson said, he went to training camp wanting to “start fresh.”
“I thought I had a good camp but they had some younger guys they thought could do what I did. So . . .,” he said.
So he ended up with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm SilverBacks, for whom he put up 19 points, including 10 goals, in 20 games.
After things turned sour in Prince Albert, Balson said he wanted to go to Salmon Arm, clear his mind, play some hockey and have some fun.
“That’s exactly what I did,” he said. “I wanted to . . . get back to playing my game. I wanted to find my stride and get some confidence. It helps when you’re playing a lot and getting power-play time and all that.”
Balson, 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds, is expected to practise with the Blazers today and should be in their lineup for road games Friday (Spokane Chiefs) and Saturday (Tri-City Americans). The Blazers next play at home on Nov. 23 when the Kootenay Ice comes calling.
Balson is good friends with winger Ryan Hanes, the only other Kamloops product on the Blazers’ roster. Hanes is 19, meaning the two played minor hockey together every second season.
“We’re pretty good friends,” Balson said, adding that they are offseason training partners.
Barnett, meanwhile, also appears in need of a fresh start.
The Blazers acquired him after he scored 21 goals as a 17-year-old with the Vancouver Giants. Barnett, from Scottsdale, Ariz., scored 17 goals last season, and set up 30 others; however, his offence all but disappeared this season. He had six points, four of them goals, in 16 games, after missing the first three games with a knee injury suffered in camp with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. He scored three of his goals in a three-game stretch during a swing into Alberta last month, but is pointless in his last seven games.
Barnett played a handful of games alongside left-winger Brendan Ranford and centre Chase Schaber, but that unit was dismantled after the three were a combined minus-8 — Barnett was minus-2 — in a 5-3 loss to the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Friday night.
On Saturday, Barnett was playing alongside Schaber and Matt Needham in a 5-2 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. The three were, at best, nondescript.
The Silvertips (5-14-3) are doing some reworking in their forward ranks. Last week, they sent veteran Tyler Maxwell, 20, home to await a trade. He is the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer. And, on Sunday, they acquired forward Teal Burns, 19, from Prince Albert for a 2013 sixth-round bantam draft pick.
JUST NOTES: Barnett’s departure leaves F Chase Souto, 17, as the lone American on the Blazers’ roster. The club traded D Brandon Underwood, who is from San Marcos, Calif., to the Regina Pats over the summer. . . . Souto is from Yorba Linda, Calif. . . . The Blazers are carrying 23 players, including two goaltenders and eight defencemen. That doesn’t include RW Jordan DePape, who is on the long-term injury list after undergoing shoulder surgery on Nov. 4.
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