The criss-crossing paths in hockey are many.
Former Victoria Royals forwards Dino Kambeitz and D-Jay Jerome return to Blanshard Street tonight in the colours of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“You become tight on a team. So whenever it happens that you face a former teammate, it’s like playing against brothers almost,” said Royals forward Kaid Oliver.
“Dino and I are good buddies and D-Jay and I were linemates last season. But you realize this is a business as well as a game and sometimes players have to move on. But you never want them to beat you. This is for bragging rights.”
Jerome has nine goals and 18 points in 21 games for Lethbridge after recording 23 goals and 42 points in 68 games last Western Hockey League season in Victoria and no points in 13 games the season before after coming across from the Prince Albert Raiders.
Jerome had one WHL career goal when arriving in Victoria.
“D-Jay spread his wings here last season,” said Royals GM Cameron Hope.
But as a returning over-ager, Jerome got caught in the numbers game as a 20-year-old. There are only three overage slots available on a WHL roster. He was dealt in June to his hometown Hurricanes for conditional WHL bantam draft picks in 2021 and 2022.
Jerome might have stayed on Blanshard as it turned out. At the time of his trade, the Royals had just acquired 20-year-old defenceman Will Warm from the Edmonton Oil Kings and 20-year-old goaltender Shane Farkas from the Portland Winterhawks, the latter to replace graduating Griffen Outhouse. The third over-age slot was expected to go to veteran Royals defenceman and former Montreal Canadiens-prospect Scott Walford. But then circumstances came about in which Walford, at his request, was dealt to the Saskatoon Blades. That came as a surprise to media and fans. With Jerome already gone, the Royals basically replaced him with 20-year-old, 31-goal forward Gary Haden from Saskatoon in the Walford deal.
Kambeitz had 20 goals and 43 points in 138 regular-season games and five goals and eight points in 13 playoff games for Victoria over two seasons. He also got caught up in the numbers web but in a different manner. The Royals this season are loaded with 19-year-old forwards. So Kambeitz, who has six goals and 13 points in 21 games for Lethbridge, was sent to the Hurricanes for 18-year-old defenceman Nolan Jones.
“That not only helped us fill a hole on defence, but with a player [Jones] who is a year younger, and who will be around for a season longer,” said Hope.
Kambeitz was taken by Victoria in the same WHL bantam draft as Royals defenceman Matthew Smith and broke into the team together.
“Dino and I are good friends and we talk to each other a lot,” said Smith.
“But when the puck drops, all that is forgotten for the next 60 minutes. And D-Jay has such great hands. I am looking forward to shutting both of them [Jerome and Kambeitz] down.”
Hope noted the many interconnections in hockey.
“We hope Dino and D-Jay have great games all season, except for [tonight],” he quipped.
The starriest Hurricane, however, is six-foot-three forward Dylan Cozens from Whitehorse, Yukon. The high 2019 NHL draft pick, selected seventh overall in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres, has 13 goals and 28 points in 19 games and will almost certainly be on the Canadian team for the 2020 world junior championship in the Czech Republic.
“Cozens is one of the great players in the league and you have to be careful when he is out there,” said Royals rearguard Smith.
Cozens was playing on Team WHL against the Russian junior team Thursday night in Prince Albert. His availability for tonight is not known but Hope said he expects to see Cozens in the Lethbridge lineup on Blanshard.
Cozens and company have the Hurricanes off to a strong 13-5-3 start. The Royals have won three consecutive games, all on the road, and are 9-7-1.