Kamloops Blazers’ general manager Matt Bardsley called it a pure hockey trade, with both teams involved patching holes on their rosters while parting with valued assets.
The Blazers shipped 18-year-old forward Jackson Shepard to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Tuesday in exchange for 19-year-old forward Zane Franklin and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.
Kamloops had a glut of 2000-born players and was thin in the 1999-born category, while Lethbridge was looking to add an 18-year-old up front. The Blazers were heavy on left-shot forwards.
Hurricanes’ head coach Brent Kisio became familiar with Shepard at the 2017 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in the Czech Republic, where Canada knocked off the hosts 4-1 to win gold.
Kisio, who coached Canada at the tournament, used Shepard in a fourth-line energy role and it appears he liked what he saw.
“You have to give up quality to get quality,” Bardsley said. “I like the way Jackson plays. I certainly didn’t want to move him, but you have to make a decision on that. Jackson was a key part for them.
“I’ve got a lot of forwards and true left-wingers. He was basically one of four, when you have [Jermaine] Loewen, [Brodi] Stuart, Martin Lang and Jackson.”
Shepard said he was not shocked to hear the news and thanked the Blazers and fans in Kamloops for their support.
“It’s sad to say bye to the boys, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter,” said Shepard, noting he has a friend in Lethbridge in star forward Jordy Bellerive, a fellow North Shore Winter Club product.
Kamloops nabbed Shepard 23rd overall in Round 2 of the 2015 WHL Draft. He played in 115 regular-season games with the Blazers, recording 12 goals and 34 points, and was held off the scoresheet in three playoff contests.
Franklin racked up 14 goals and 38 points in 67 games with the Canes last season, improving on the five goals and 14 points he tallied in 2016-2017.
“He’s got the flexibility, a right-shot forward that can play both sides, a complete player with good puck skills who thinks the game really well,” Bardsley said.
The 5-foot-10, 182-pound forward has four goals and eight points in 30 playoff games.
“That’s real valuable to a team,” Bardsley said of Franklin’s post-season experience. “We don’t just want to make the playoffs. We want to be in the playoffs and make a bit of a run.”
Franklin, an alternate captain for Lethbridge last season, is from Marwayne, Alta. Orrin Centazzo, whom the Blazers acquired in a blockbuster deadline deal with Everett in January, is also from Marwayne, a hamlet with a population of about 500.
Centazzo and Franklin are second cousins.
“You want to have good balance with your age groups throughout your lineup,” Bardsley said. “I thought we were little bit lean at the 99 age group.
“Zane will be a real good option for us as a 20 year-old when it does come to the Memorial Cup bid, but that didn’t factor into the move at all.”