The Vernon Vipers have announced that Jojo Tanaka-Campbell (left), a centre from the Shawnigan Lake Prep Academy on Vancouver Island, and a one-time affiliated player with the B.C. Hockey League’s Cowichan Valley Capitals, has committed to the team for 2019-20. (Black Press - file photo)

Vernon Vipers add three defencemen to roster

Head coach/GM Jason McKee brings in three blueliners and forward to team roster

Vernon Vipers new head coach and general manager Jason McKee is keeping busy.

McKee has announced three player signings and an acquisition of a forward via trade for the B.C. Hockey League team, along with naming Connor Marritt the team’s new captain.

Two of the signings are teammates from Shawnigan Lake Prep Academy on Vancouver Island: JoJo Tanaka-Campbell, 18, a smooth skating centre from Mill Bay near Duncan and Shawnigan Lake. He had 15 goals and 55 assists in just 36 games; and Keigo Hachisuka, an 18-year-old defenceman who was raised in San Diego but now makes his home in Texas, and has spent the past two years at Shawnigan Lake.

Tanaka-Campbell believes his best hockey asset is “game sense and vision of the ice. I always look for the best pass option when I have the puck.” He also loves hockey because it’s a team game, similar to another favourite sport: rugby.

“I like the flow of hockey and rugby and the ability to coordinate with teammates,” said Tanaka-Campbell, who was captain at Shawnigan Lake this past season in hockey.

“JoJo is a leader and a really a smart kid,” said Shawnigan head coach Kevin Cooper. “He has all the tools that a centre needs, but controlling the play is his biggest strength.”

Cooper describes Hachisuka as “a fast player with a high skill level and a high hockey IQ. He’s also an extremely good student, so he can go to any college he chooses.”

At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Hachisuka sees himself as an offensive defenceman who enjoys joining the rush. Although he played the point on the power play {and played it very well according to Tanaka-Campbell), almost all of Keigo’s 10 goals this past year were scored on rushes, some of them when he popped in a rebound. He added 24 assists in 36 games.

“I like to cut off the angles and use my stick to dispossess opposing forwards of the puck,” said Hachisuka, who McKee believes will evoke memories of another Viper alumni defenceman from California, Steve Weinstein.

The Vipers shored up their blueline by adding another pair of defencemen.

Christian Felton, 19, from Medina, Ohio, committed to the team for the upcoming season while McKee acquired the playing rights to Nicholas Kent, 18, a Ladera Ranch, Cal. product.

Kent, who has committed to Quinnipiac University, split playing time last year between the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the Ontario Junior A Hockey League, and the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. Kent played 24 games in 2017-18 for the Wenatchee Wild.

“Kent is a very dynamic skater who has an extremely high hockey IQ and makes a fantastic first pass,” said McKee. “We’re extremely excited to have Nick join the Vipers and know he will fit in well on our blueline.”

Felton is a 6-foot-1, 194-pound D-man who has good size and strength, and is also mobile and able to join the rush.

“I try to have an impact at both ends of the ice,” said Felton, who spent the last two years at the Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire. He was team captain there this past season and played with Vipers forward Logan Cash two years ago at the academy. Felton has also accepted a scholarship to Bentley University, where Weinstein played after graduating from the Vipers.

Felton said he chose the Vipers because “the program has a reputation for turning out good players, good people,” and that was confirmed to him on a visit to Vernon during the BCHL playoffs.

“The atmosphere in the building was so cool; the fan support was so strong. I’m looking forward to playing there,” he said.

The Vipers will hold their training camp in late August at Kal Tire Place North.

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Former Wenatchee Wild defenceman Nicholas Kent (right) has committed to the Vernon Vipers for the 2019-20 B.C. Hockey League season. (Black Press - file photo)

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