With potentially eight returning 20-year-olds, plus a few more coming via trades and other off-season dealings, the writing is on the wall for a number of Vernon Viper veterans.
Team are allowed a maximum of six 1993-born players, and second-year defenceman Geoff Crisfield was the first to feel the numbers crunch as he was sent to the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in exchange for future considerations Wednesday.
“We’re going to have a logjam of 20-year-olds and we’ve got to make some decisions,” said Vernon head coach/GM Jason Williamson.
Crisfield, who has an NCAA Division 1 commitment to North Dakota, was one of several Vipers who took a step backwards in their development last season, one in which Vernon missed the playoffs for a second straight season.
Crisfield has come to grips with the deal. He is working this summer in his hometown of Calgary at Earls. Along with the Vipers, the Saints were one of the teams he was considering joining out of Midget.
After collecting a respectable 1-9-10 in 59 games while playing a shutdown role in his rookie campaign, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder amassed just one goal, two assists and 73 PIM in 51 games last year.
“It was a tough year for him,” said Williamson. “Sometimes players just need a fresh start and that’s what we’re going to give him. Geoff saw we’d have too many 20-year-olds and he was open to a move.”
With Vernon hosting the RBC Cup national championships in 2014, Williamson said there is an abundance of talent looking to come to Vernon. He anticipates having between 40 and 50 players at main camp, which starts Monday, Aug. 19.
“There’s going to be guys competing for jobs and pushing. It’s going to be entertaining to watch,” said Williamson, who is entering his third season as head coach. “We’ve got a pretty competitive group already and I’m excited for it.”