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NHL season shouldn't affect Rockets

The Kelowna Rockets don't expect to feel the impact when the National Hockey League begins its season.

The league, embroiled in a lockout for 113 days, is expected to get back to work within the next several days after the two sides finally came to a tentative agreement on a new contract over the weekend.

Once that deal is ratified by both sides later this week, teams will go through a shortened training camp before the season starts up again, likely Saturday, January 19.

While a number of NHL clubs will take the opportunity to look at players who have been playing on Canadian Hockey League clubs this season, Rockets President/GM, Bruce Hamilton, doesn't expect any of his players to be part of that group.

"I think only the early first round picks from the last two years probably would be guys that they would consider," says Hamilton.

"Not knocking our guys at all but I don't think anybody here is in that position."

Rockets captain Colton Sissons (Nashville) and defenceman Damon Severson (New Jersey) were both selected in the second round of last June's entry draft while Ryan Olsen was a sixth round pick of the Winnipeg Jets.

While Hamilton doesn't expect the resumption of the NHL season to have any affect on his roster, the January 10 roster/trade deadline will.

Hamilton has to make at least one move prior to Thursday's deadline involving one of the club's four 20-year-old's.

Teams are only able to keep three overage skaters but, with defenceman Mitchell Chapman on the shelf all season with an ankle injury, the club was able to add a fourth.

With Chapman on the injured list, the Rockets have been utilizing forwards Cody Fowlie, JT Barnett and Dylen McKinlay in the overage slots.

That luxury will come to an end on Thursday.

"By tomorrow (Tuesday) we'll have to make a decision on  him (Chapman). He's going through one more medical thing today and then we'll decide," says Hamilton.

"He hasn't skated really so he's a long way away still. Unfortunately, in his case, it would have been better if he broke his ankle -- it would have been healed and ready to go by now."

Chapman has a high ankle sprain that Hamilton says just hasn't gone away.

Hamilton, who was busy making moves during the off-season and early in the season says he doesn't expect to do much, if anything, prior to the deadline.

The Rockets added Olsen (McColgan trade with Saskatoon) and McKinlay (Kootenay) via the trade route and plucked Barnett and Fowlie off waivers.

"I would obviously like to add another experienced defenceman just to give us some more depth but I think there are a lot of teams trying to do that so I don't foresee that happening," says Hamilton.

"And, I'm not prepared to give up a lot of our young guys. I think this team is built for a pretty good run this year and a real good run next year."

Hamilton says he believes his club, tied for top spot with the Kamloops Blazers atop of the BC Division, is one of four or five teams in the mix in the Western Hockey Leagues Western Conference.

He feels the Rockets, Portland, Kamloops, Spokane and Victoria all have a chance to make some noise down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Hamilton says the difference between the Rockets and Winterhawks is along the blueline.

"Portland has got four real solid defenceman and I don't think we have four guys at their level simply because our guys are so young," adds Hamilton.

He says Kamloops is very strong up front and will get a boost with the return of JC Lipon from the World Junior squad.

The Rockets, who have not lost since returning from the holiday break will put their 15-game home ice winning streak on the line this week when they entertain Victoria Wednesday and Tri-City Friday.



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