Sep 12, 2012 / 5:00 am
The Kelowna Rockets blueline just got bigger - a lot bigger after 17-year-old defenceman Mitchell Wheaton signed on with the club.
Wheaton, 6' 5", 225 pounds, played last season with the Spruce Grove Saints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
He was selected by the Rockets with the 207th pick in the 2010 Bantam Draft.
If he is able to stick with the club Wheaton would become the third defenceman from that draft class to to patrol the blueline joining Jesse Lees (1st round) and Madison Bowey (2nd round).
Wheaton attended the Rockets main camp but returned to Spruce Grove to contemplate scholarship offers from several US colleges.
"I had some interest from a few schools but my family and I discussed it and we thought the best thing for me was going to play in Kelowna," says Wheaton.
"It was the organization they have and the history the have of past young defencemen."
The Rockets have become known around the CHL as a defenceman factory, producing such NHL'ers as Shea Weber, Josh Gorges, Luke Schenn, Tyler Myers, Duncan Keith, Alex Edler and Scott Hannan.
Wheaton joins al already crowded Rockets defence which already features seven veterans in Myles Bell, Mitchell Chapman, Bowey, Lees, MacKenzie Johnston, Colton Martin and Damon Severson along with promising rookies Riley Stadel and Stewart Coyle.
Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton was impressed with Wheaton during training camp.
"We're thrilled that he has chosen Kelowna as the place he wants to play. He was excellent in training camp and we're looking forward to having him join us."
Wheaton had seven goals and seven assists in 45 games while playing in Spruce Grove as a 16-year-old last season.
He is expected to arrive in Kelowna Wednesday and will practice with the team as the Rockets get ready for their final two pre-season games Thursday in Spokane and Saturday at home to the Tri-City Americans.
With 10 defenceman now on the Roster, Hamilton may be in a position to move someone in exchange for a 20-year-old forward.
With the loss of Spencer Main to recurring concussion issues, the Rockets have just one 20-year-old on the roster.
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