After the Tri-City Americans took on the Prince Albert Raiders in November, there was a tinge of sadness for forward Riley Sawchuk as he thought it might be the last time he’d get to play in his hometown arena.
As it turns out, the Prince Albert product will end up being a little closer to home next year.
The 20-year-old was traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Thursday in exchange for a third round pick in the 2021 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
“It’s pretty nice to know that I’ll be coming back a few more times and playing at the Art Hauser Centre in my overage season,” Sawchuk said.
“To be honest, it doesn’t feel real yet that I’ll be playing for a new team, but I’m excited to head to Edmonton and meet everyone there.”
Sawchuk was on vacation in Mexico when the trade occurred, but he was already in contact with Oil Kings general manager Kirt Hill and head coach Brad Lauer.
“Everyone’s been welcoming to me so far,” Sawchuk said. “I know a couple of guys on the team already. Will Warm’s brother (Beck) was my billet brother in Tri-City and I grew up playing with Parker Gavlas.”
“We are excited to have acquired Riley and we look forward to the experience and leadership that he will bring to our group,” Hill said in a prepared statement. “Riley will help provide strength down the middle of our lineup, bring skill with a complete 200-foot game and has the ability to play in all situations.”
A sixth round pick in the 2014 draft, the former Minto has spent the last three seasons in Kennewick, Wash.
He’s coming off a career year this past season as he had 20 goals and 33 assists in 67 regular season contests.
“I actually had a bit of a tough start to the year but I was able to get more of an opportunity later in the season and I was able to put up some points thanks to some great chemistry with my linemates,” Sawchuk said.
“It was a whole different atmosphere to be playing in the United States for the last few years and to play away from home. It was a great experience for me.”
Sawchuk will be expected to be one of the leaders for an Oil Kings team that made it to the Eastern Conference final before falling to the eventual league champions Raiders last month.
The team will be losing overages Quinn Benjafield, Andrew Fyten and Vince Loschiavo to graduation, while leading scorer Trey Fix-Wolansky is expected to start his pro career with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization.
“There are some big shoes to fill for sure, but I’m hoping to bring that leadership experience and add some scoring to the team,” Sawchuk said.