The Tri-City Americans increased their number of overage players to four Friday, securing the rights to forward Steven Hodges, 20, from the Victoria Royals.
The Americans also got a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2016 Western Hockey League bantam draft, while the Royals received a conditional second-round bantam pick in 2016.
“I think (Tri-City) is a great place to play,” Hodges said. “The fans are loud and emotional. I’ve played there a lot in my career with Victoria and Chilliwack. I’m excited to get there and get things started.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Hodges joins fellow overage players Justin Hamonic, Lucas Nickles and Jackson Playfair.
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A third-round NHL draft pick (84th overall) of the Florida Panthers in 2012, Hodges has played four seasons in the WHL, three for Victoria and one for the now-defunct Chilliwack Bruins. He and Brandon Magee are the last two players in the WHL who wore the Bruins’ sweater.
Hodges signed an entry-level contract with the Panthers earlier this summer. He will attend their training camp and will either start the season with Florida or its American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage.
“There is always a possibility of 20-year-olds returning to major junior,” Americans general manager Bob Tory said in a news release. “This trade gives us some options if Florida decides to send Steven back to the WHL, and costs us nothing if he does not return to the WHL.”
Hodges said he has had several conversations with the Panthers this summer about the upcoming season.
“They expect me to start in San Antonio, but I have a lot of work to do,” Hodges said. “It’s an exciting step in my career, and I’m ready for it.”
Hodges will arrive Wednesday in Kennewick and will be with the Americans until he leaves for San Antonio the first week of September.
“I want to go there and meet the guys in case I come back,” Hodges said of the Americans. “And I want to prepare myself for pro camp the best I can.”
Hodges is from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. He has played 247 WHL games in his career, scoring 75 goals with 82 assists and 238 penalty minutes.
Last season with the Royals, he had 21 goals, 26 assists and 65 penalty minutes.
Ivan Hlinka tournament
Dylan Strome had a hat trick as Canada beat the United States 11-5 on Friday in the semifinal round of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in Piestany, Slovakia.
Tri-City Americans goalie Evan Sarthou stopped 34 of 42 shots for the United States in playing the first 30 minutes of the game.
Canada will face the Czech Republic, which defeated Sweden 4-3 in the other semifinal, in today’s gold medal game. The United States will play Sweden for bronze.
Canada is gunning for its seventh consecutive Ivan Hlinka title.
In four games, Sarthou, 16, has played 210 minutes, facing 136 shots, and has allowed 19 goals while making 117 saves.
He has played more minutes, faced more shots and made more saves than any of the other 15 goalies in the tournament.