KENNEWICK -- You know hockey season is just around the corner when the trade routes open.
After trading veteran goaltender Drew Owsley to Prince George on Thursday, the Tri-City Americans were back on the trading floor Friday, sending a 2013 second-round bantam draft pick and prospect Justin Spagrud, 16, to the Victoria Royals for 18-year-old defenseman Mitch Topping.
"Mitch is a very good player and played major minutes for (Chilliwack) last year," Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said. "I'm familiar with him, and I know he is a quality kid. An area we needed to improve was our blue line, and he is a top-four defenseman in the league, which gives us depth."
Topping, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of Red Deer, Alberta, played 71 regular-season games last year, scoring five goals with 11 assists and 47 penalty minutes.
"I'm really looking forward to getting out there and getting the season going," Topping said. "With any trade, you will miss the guys you've played with, but hockey is a business. It's time for me to move forward, jump in with the Americans and have a great year."
Tory said being able to secure a quality defenseman early will pay dividends down the road.
"It's hard to get defensemen. These are very difficult deals to get done," Tory said. "As the season goes on, everyone is trying to get one. To get this deal done now was important. We are very excited."
Topping, a former first-round bantam pick of the Bruins (eighth overall) in 2008, is good friends with Americans forward Justin Feser, who already has given his friend the lay of the land.
"I know Justin really well, and he has told me what to expect," Topping said. "From the sounds of things, it will be a solid team. I'm looking forward to working with the coaches to better myself and helping the team. I'd leave tomorrow, if I could."
Topping will join a blue line featuring Zach Yuen, Sam Grist, Brock Sutherland and Matt MacKenzie.
"I'm a two-way defenseman," Topping said. "I like to move the puck and play a simple game.
"I had the opportunity to meet Zach at a camp in L.A. last year. He is an outstanding player. It would be nice to be paired with him."
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; email@example.com