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Surrey Eagles bolster offence in trade with Coquitlam Express

In a continued effort to reshape their roster in advance of the upcoming BC Hockey League season, the Surrey Eagles have swung a trade with a division rival in hopes of bolstering the offence.

Late last month, the Eagles acquired 19-year-old forward Eric Linell from the Coquitlam Express in exchange for fellow 19-year-old forward Chase Danol as well as future considerations.

In a news release posted on the Eagles’ website July 31, the team referred to the deal as “a blockbuster.”

Linell, a native of Great Neck, N.Y., led the Express in scoring last season with 28 goals and 46 points in 58 games.

He’s a player that has been on the team’s radar for a long while – even prior to his pre-BCHL days, Surrey general manager Blaine Neufeld explained.

“Eric was a player that we have worked hard at acquiring for a long time, dating back to years before he came to the BCHL,” Neufeld said.

“He is an elite player and we have high expectations of him helping us (achieve) our ultimate goal of winning a championship.”

Linell’s addition to the lineup will no doubt help the Birds’ offence, which this coming season will be without most of last season’s top scorers – including John Wesley, Desi Burgart and Semiahmoo Minor Hockey alum Jeff Stewart, all three of whom have moved on to the college-hockey ranks.

Linell said he was “excited to go to Surrey” though he will only be with the team for one season, as he is committed to the NCAA’s University of Connecticut for the 2019/20 season.

“I know it’s a great organization… the coaches are great there. I have one year to develop before I go play college hockey, and I think Surrey is the place to do it,” Linell said. “In that facility and with those coaches, I know I can go into college as a top-9 player and make an impact right away.

“I’d love to take on a scoring role with the Eagles, I can handle the pressure. I have a goal set in mind, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team win games.”

Danol had 11 goals and 19 points in 52 games with the Eagles last season – his first in the BCHL. He added seven points in 13 playoff games.

“Chase really found his game as the year progressed and we saw his high potential. He has a bright future in the game of hockey,” Neufeld said.

The trade for Linell is the second time this summer that the Eagles and Express have linked up on a transaction. In June, Surrey acquired forward Jake Toor for future considerations. Around that same time, the Eagles also traded for veteran starting goaltender Seth Eisele, formerly of the Wenatchee Wild.

In mid-July, the team also picked up forward Chase Stevenson from the West Kelowna Warriors in exchange for defenceman Cory Babichuk.

The coaching staff has seen an addition this summer as well, with the team announcing on July 26 that former head coach Peter Schaefer would be returning to the team as an assistant coach to Brandon West.

Also on the coaching front, it was announced last week that West – who is entering his second year behind the bench in Surrey – has been added to the coaching staff of Canada West for this year’s World Junior ‘A’ Challenge.

The annual tournament – which features the top junior ‘A’ players from across the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s member leagues – is to be hosted this year in Bonnyville, Alta. from Dec. 9-15.

In West’s absence, Schaefer and fellow assistant coach Linden Saip will run the bench for the Eagles.

Bonnyville Pontiacs coach Rich Swan will serve as head coach of the Canada West squad, while West and Merritt Centennials’ coach Joe Martin will serve as assistant coaches.

“The coaches selected to lead Team Canada East and Team Canada West demonstrate the level of talent and strength we have in those key leadership and mentorship roles within the Canadian Junior Hockey League,” said CJHL president Brent Ladds in a news release.

“Their participation as part of the two Canadian teams at the World Junior A Challenge will not only be beneficial to the players they’ll be working with, but to their club teams as they bring what they’ve learned from each other back home.”

Nick Greenizan

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