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Cole Schwebius’ path to the Victoria Grizzlies

On Nov. 2, the Victoria Grizzlies executed a trade for goaltender Cole Schwebius. Starting goaltender Carter Woodside has gone home to Saskatchewan to deal with a lingering injury, and because of this, the Grizzlies acquired Schwebius from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for future considerations.

Like Woodside, Schwebius is a veteran goaltender who also played in the Western Hockey League. In total, Schwebius played 48 WHL games for Seattle and Kelowna.

In the past, I did an article on how forward Henri Schreifels came to Victoria. I also wrote about former major junior players who ended up playing on BCHL teams – Schwebius now fits that narrative.

For this one, I want to look at a trade tree-style article. It’s like what Steve Dangle does for the Sportsnet YouTube channel. It’s all about how Schwebius came to Victoria, the pieces involved, and where they ended up. We will start in the Okanagan.

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From the Okanagan to Seattle

From 2015-18, Schwebius played for a trio of Okanagan Hockey Academy teams. He played for the U15 Prep Team, the Elite 15 team, and the U18 White Prep Team.

In 2017-18, Schwebius made the jump to the Okanagan Rockets of the BC Elite Hockey League. In 30 games with the U18 team, Schwebius had a 2.95 goals-against average. After that 2017-18 season, he joined the Seattle Thunderbirds after being their 10th round selection in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.

In August 2017, Schwebius was one of four players the Thunderbirds signed to standard player agreements. The other three were Graeme Bryks, Cade McNelly, and Samuel Huo.

Schwebius made his WHL debut during the 2018-19 season, playing 17 games for the T-birds. He finished with a 3.89 goals-against average and a .886 save percentage. His overall regular-season record was 5-8-2. Schwebius’ time in Seattle was brief as he was part of a trade at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

The Kelowna trade

On May 2, 2019, Schwebius, Jake Lee, and Dillon Hamaliuk were traded from Seattle to the Kelowna Rockets. In return, Seattle received Kelowna’s 10th overall pick, a second-round pick in the 2021 draft, and a first-round pick in 2022. Lee and Hamaliuk were members of the Thunderbirds 2017 championship team.

Before the emergence of COVID-19, the Kelowna Rockets were set to host the 2020 Memorial Cup. It’s not uncommon for teams to make major trades like this before hosting a championship tournament. The best teams in the Canadian Hockey League were on their way to the Okanagan. The Rockets wanted to make a championship run.

Hamaliuk stayed in Kelowna until the end of the 2021 hub season. He is now a member of the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda. In 72 games across two WHL seasons, Hamaliuk scored 21 goals and 23 assists for 44 points.

Lee is in his final season with the Rockets. Prior to 2021-22, Lee scored 40 points and has already surpassed his 2021 hub season totals.

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As for Schwebius, his time in Kelowna was a little rocky. He mostly served as the backup to number one goalie Roman Basran, finishing with a 12-14-0 record, a 3.43 goals-against average, an .859 save percentage, and two shutouts over the course of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 WHL seasons.

During the BCHL’s 2020 Extended Training Camp, the Rockets lent Schwebius out to a pair of BCHL teams in the Okanagan cohort. He played one game for the West Kelowna Warriors and one game for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

His record during the Okanagan Cup was 1-1 with a 3.98 goals-against average and an .873 save percentage. This season saw the Rockets release Schwebius after one game where he gave up five goals on 14 shots in 35 minutes of action. After his release from Kelowna, he didn’t dress for the Silverbacks before the trade to Victoria.

Winners and losers

As stated above, the Grizzlies acquired Schwebius’ rights from the Silverbacks. In exchange, the Silverbacks receive future considerations. It’s reminiscent of the Blake Wood trade during the 2019-20 season.

Former Grizzlies goalie Liam Souliere was injured during the regular season and the Grizzlies traded for Wood from the Nanaimo Clippers to fill in.

Right now, the Grizzlies are the immediate winner. They get a veteran goalie with major junior experience. As for what Salmon Arm gets, it’s unclear. Future considerations could be a player or cash. As for Kelowna and Seattle, that’s another story.

The Rockets lost out because of outside circumstances. If not for COVID-19 shutting things down, the Rockets were contenders for the Memorial Cup. They kept Hamaliuk for one more season and still have Lee on their roster.

Meanwhile, Seattle has already used one of their bantam draft picks. In 2019, they selected Kevin Korchinski 10th overall. Because of rescheduling, the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft will now occur next month. We won’t know how the T-Birds’ picks from this year and next play out likely for a number of years.