Life for 20-year-old players in the Western Hockey League can be kind of stressful.
With each team having just three spots slotted for overage players, teams make decisions based on need first and loyalty second.
In the case of Dalton Yorke, the Tri-City Americans needed a big presence on the back end with the departure of Brandon Carlo, and they swung a trade with Prince Albert for the 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman in May. The Americans gave up a third-round pick in this year’s bantam draft.
“The biggest thing I saw was his presence on the ice,” Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said. “I watched him when he was young with Kelowna, and I saw him last year in Edmonton playing for Prince Albert. He’s a great open-ice hitter and keeps it simple. He wore a letter in Prince Albert — that told me he was a leader.”
Yorke met his new teammates earlier this week and was introduced to the Tri-City fans Thursday.
“This is definitely some of the warmest weather I have encountered,” said Yorke, a native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia. “It’s a good small town, and I am excited to be here. It’s a fresh start. I am thankful to be in an organization like this.”
Yorke said Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt called him before the trade and told him that Tri-City was interested.
“He said it was a deal they couldn’t refuse,” Yorke said. “This gets me closer to home. Bob (Tory) hit the nail on the head when he said, ‘One team is getting rid of you, and another has plans for you.’ ”
Yorke joins a defense deep with talent — Parker Wotherspoon, Juuso Välimäki, Dylan Coghlan, Brendan O’Reilly, Dakota Krebs, Kurtis Rutledge and fellow overage player Jeff Rayman.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Yorke said. “I think they are expecting me to have a big role. I’m excited to be a leader. Parker and Juuso are more offensive, and I’m more defensive. I’m pretty physical, and I like to stand up for my teammates. If guys are taking liberties with them, I’ll step forward.”
Yorke played 70 games for the Raiders last year, scoring two goals with 11 assists and 122 penalty minutes.
With the loss of Carlo to the Boston Bruins organization, and Riley Hillis retiring with a wonky shoulder, Yorke fit the bill when Tory was shopping in the offseason.
“He is a rock-solid defender,” Tory said. “We have added more size to our back end and a physical presence we didn’t have in front of the net.”
One thing that stood out for Yorke when he arrived, aside from the weather, was the warm welcome he received from his teammates.
“They have been really great from the start,” Yorke said. “I could tell right away they were a close team.”