Taylor Vickerman grew up playing hockey in the Tri-Cities, so it’s only fitting that he returns to his roots in the Western Hockey League.
After a year with the Vancouver Giants, Vickerman, 17, was traded to the Tri-City Americans on Friday in exchange for a 2015 second-round bantam draft pick.
“I’m at a loss for words,” said Vickerman, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward from Kennewick. “I’m still kind of in shock. Still in disbelief. I’m just glad they saw the value in me. I know I will play a bigger role here, put up some points and help the team win.”
The price may have been a bit steep for a young, unproven player, but Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said he believes Vickerman will be an asset to the team.
“We paid a really good price for him,” Tory said. “He is a quality kid and a quality player. With the way the rookie camp is going, we have a lot of good young prospects and felt we could give up a high draft pick. Taylor will bring size and grit to our lineup.”
The trade worked out well for Vancouver and Vickerman, who did not report to the Giants’ training camp earlier this week.
“Taylor requested a move and we felt a second was fair value,” said Scott Bonner, the Giants’ Executive Vice President and General Manager. “We wanted to move on and focus on building our club for the present and future.”
A sixth-round bantam draft pick by the Giants in 2001, Vickerman played 52 regular-season games last season as a rookie, scoring four goals with five assists.
“Vancouver is a great organization,” Vickerman said. “I appreciate everything they did for me. I learned a lot. Don (Hay, Vancouver coach) is full of knowledge. The biggest thing you learn is that if you work hard, things will pay off.”
Vickerman, who joined his new teammates for fitness testing Friday night, fills a need in the Americans’ 1996 class (17-year-olds).
“We were thin on ’96s,” Tory said. “This creates a battle for jobs. We have more forwards than we have room for. It will make the camp competitive. We will see who wants to work hard enough to be here. Players are going to be pressured to bring their ‘A’ game.”
Vickerman not only brings WHL experience to the Americans, but international play as well.
He participated in the USA Hockey Select U-17 Festival this summer and finished fourth overall in camp scoring (3 goals, 5 assists in 5 games). He also was 105th in the most recent edition of Red Line’s Top Prospects report for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Vickerman is just the second Mid-Columbia player to earn a spot on the Americans’ roster. Defenseman Justin Togiai (2001-03) of Kennewick was the first.
“This is a make-you-feel-good story,” Tory said. “This is a special situation for him and his family.”
And Vickerman is looking forward to making the most of his opportunity.
“I’m so ecstatic to wear that sweater and play at home in front of the fans,” Vickerman said. “They are the best fans in the league.”