One of the intrigues of the 2016 Western Hockey League bantam draft was whether touted hometown defenceman Jacson Alexander would fall to the Victoria Royals, who were due to select 22nd and last, after winning the Scotty Munro Trophy as 2015-16 regular-season champions.
The Esquimalt-raised Alexander went 17th overall to the Swift Current Broncos. A member of the Edmonton Oil Kings last season, the Racquet Club and Shawnigan Lake School Hockey Academy graduate has made his way to the Royals in a noteworthy trade Monday. Headed to Edmonton is veteran Royals forward Kaid Oliver.
“It’s cool and special to play for your hometown WHL team. Not many players get that chance,” said Alexander. “I was surprised. But I’m excited.”
It’s back to the future in many ways.
“It’s like turning back the clock,” acknowledged Victoria GM Cam Hope.
“There was a lot of talk in the 2016 bantam draft of what a great fit Jacson would have been for us.”
The Royals believe Alexander’s injury-curtailed career can bloom back on his home Island.
Alexander has endured two shoulder surgeries, the latest in February, and also concussions.
“Hopefully the season starts on time,” he said. “I should be ready to go by then.”
Motivation is not an issue.
“Jacson has had a lot struggles and a lot of back luck and feels he has a lot to prove,” said Hope.
Alexander was limited to only 13 games with Edmonton this past season and had a goal and six points. The five-foot-10, 182-pound blue-liner has played in 60 career WHL regular-season games split between the Oil Kings and Broncos and has five goals and 16 points. He began his junior career in the B.C. Hockey League in 2017-18 with three goals and nine points in 29 games for the Victoria Grizzlies before jumping mid-season to Swift Current.
A lot of people around the WHL are intrigued by what a healthy Alexander can do.
“When he is healthy, he is an elite player,” said Hope. “He is a smart and agile puck-moving defenceman. We are looking forward to him showing what he can do as a healthy, veteran player.”
So too is Alexander.
“It’s a clean slate. I feel it’s only going to be upwards from now,” he said.
Alexander played 26 playoff games in 2018 for the Broncos as they captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions.
“He was on a league championship team as a rookie, so he has that experience,” added Hope.
In order to land Alexander, the Royals had to give up Oliver, the team’s scoring leader in 2019-20 and a top-six, core two-way forward for the last three of his four seasons in Victoria with 57 goals and 128 points in 234 career regular-season games.
“It’s always hard when the player leaving has been a big part of the Royals family for so long,” said Hope.
The key factor is that Alexander is going into his 19-year-old season and Oliver his 20-year-old season. The Royals were front-loaded with 10 19-year-old players this past season. Moving Oliver, and veteran defenceman Mitchell Prowse to Lethbridge for 18-year-old forward Nick Dorrington last week, leaves the Royals with eight potential returning 20-year-olds for next season. WHL teams are allowed only three such players.
“We have so many quality guys going into their 20-year-old seasons, it was important to get in return in this trade a quality 19-year-old player,” said Hope.
The addition of Alexander gives the Royals three home-Island defencemen for future seasons. The Royals selected Victoria-raised blue-liners Nolan Bentham and Jason Spizawka, respectively, in the first rounds of the 2018 and 2019 WHL bantam drafts. Bentham completed his rookie season with the Royals, while Spizawka is expected to join the club as a rookie next season.