Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Whalers move up in Import Draft, deal Cooper

The Plymouth Whalers announced the acquisition of the third overall pick in today’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in exchange for veteran center Vern Cooper and the sixth overall selection in today’s Import Draft.

Plymouth also acquires 18-year-old defenseman Kevin Albers in the trade. Albers, from Lake Orion, was originally drafted by Sault Ste. Marie in the 12th round (233rd overall) of the 2007 Ontario Hockey League draft. Albers played last season for Green Bay of the United States Hockey League, scoring two goals with five assists for seven points, 71 penalty minutes and was plus-28 in 46 games for the Gamblers.

Cooper was originally selected by Plymouth in the first round (13th overall) of the 2006 OHL draft and played three seasons for the Whalers. He enjoyed his best offensive season last year for Plymouth, scoring 17 goals with 20 assists for 37 points. In all, Cooper scored 44 goals with 48 assists for 92 points in 189 games for the Whalers.

“This move gives Cooper (from Sudbury, Ont.) a chance to play closer to home,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said.

Yesterday, Vellucci acquired the sixth pick overall from the Kingston Frontenacs in exchange for overage right wing Kaine Geldart and third- and fifth-round selections in the 2011 OHL draft.

The Whalers also have the 39th and 102nd selections in today’s Import Draft. CHL teams can play two imports. Plymouth has veteran defensemen Michal Jordan (a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick).

The Whalers dropped Jan Látal today from the active roster to make room for the third pick.

Geldart, who turns 20 in August, has an opportunity to play his overage season in his hometown of Kingston, Ont. Originally selected by Plymouth in the 12th round (229th overall) of the 2005 OHL draft, Geldart developed into a fan favorite for the Whalers and was awarded the team’s Labatt Blue Collar Player of the Year in 2007-08 for his in-your-face, hard forechecking checking style of play. In three years in Plymouth, Geldart scored 30 goals with 52 assists for 82 points, 280 PIMs and was +3 in 178 games.

Geldart’s trade also brings Plymouth to three overage players and frees up a spot on the roster for returning overagers Joe Gaynor, Ryan Hayes and Leo Jenner. OHL teams can play three overage players at one time.

“We made a commitment to Joe, Ryan and Leo to play this season as our overages and this trade gives Kaine a chance to play at home,” Vellucci said. “Geldy was a wonderful player for the Whalers, so we decided to do things right and let him finish his OHL career in his hometown.”

Vellucci’s acquisition of the third pick in today’s Import Draft gives the Whalers their highest selection ever in the Import Draft. Plymouth’s previous highest selection in the Import Draft came in 1996 when Sergei Fedotov was taken fourth overall. The CHL started the Import Draft in 1992.

Photo by Walt Dmoch

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