Express, Spruce Kings, Chiefs, and Clippers connect on a blockbuster involving eight players


The Coquitlam Express, Prince George Spruce Kings, Chilliwack Chiefs, and Nanaimo Clippers are all part of a series of trades that sees eight players involved in changing teams.

The deals, which were announced by the Clippers, Express, and Spruce Kings on Tuesday, came on the first day that BCHL clubs were permitted to officially make trades ahead of the 2021-22 season.

The first domino to fall was Prince George’s acquisition of 2004-born forward Jaeger Murdock from Nanaimo in exchange for 2002-born forward Austin Spiridakis.

Next, the Spruce Kings packaged Murdock, 2002-born forward Carter Cochrane, and the BC Hockey League list rights to 2001-born goaltender Jesse Makaj to the Express for 2004-born forward Andrej Kovacevic and 2003-born forward Austin Fraser.

Finally, Prince George moved Kovacevic and future considerations to Chilliwack for 2002-born defenseman Brody Gagno and 2003-born forward Ty Gagno.

So when the dust settled, there were three trades connected involving four teams, eight players, and one batch of future considerations, with Murdock traded twice.

Clippers get Spiridakis

Nanaimo got one player out of the series of deals, and he didn’t play in the BCHL during the pod season. Spiridakis was with the Spruce Kings during the BCHL’s extended training season last fall, but when games were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he took his game to the US.

The St. Albert, AB product joined the Boston Jr. Bruins of the National Collegiate Development Conference in mid-January and had two goals and four points in 14 games by the end of the season.

He is a veteran of 98 BCHL games with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, posting 18 goals and 30 points over the course of two seasons from 2018-20. The Spruce Kings acquired him via trade last June.

Spiridakis is committed to Quinnipiac University. He’ll start his NCAA career in September 2022.

Chiefs end up with Kovacevic

Like the Clippers, the Chilliwack Chiefs received one player once the trades were complete. The Chiefs nabbed Kovacevic from the Express via PG.

The Vancouverite was a rookie with Coquitlam during the pod season and as a 16-year-old, put up a respectable two goals and nine points in 20 games.

Kovacevic played with the Burnaby Winter Club U16 Prep in 2019-20 and was third in scoring with 24 goals and 39 points in 31 games. He also played six games with the BWC U18 club and had three points.

Spruce Kings grab Fraser and the Gagno brothers

The Spruce Kings came away from the trades with the addition of a pair of new forwards and one new defenseman.

PG gets the Gagno brothers from the Chiefs and Fraser from the Express. The Gagnos didn’t play anywhere of record during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brody, a defenseman, is entering his third BCHL season and already has a commitment to Quinnipiac for September 2022 in his pocket.

In 106 games with Chilliwack from 2018-20, he picked up four goals and 14 points. The Langley, BC product was also an alternate captain for the Chiefs in 2019-20.

The veteran also has 18 games of BCHL playoff experience under his belt, tallying a goal and an assist.

Ty, a forward who committed to Chilliwack in March 2020, played for the Burnaby Winter Club U18 Prep team in 2019-20 and had five goals and 12 assists in 23 games. He also played one game for the Chiefs that season as an affiliate and had two penalty minutes.

He added three goals and four points in a pair of Canadian Sport School Hockey League U18 playoff games a year ago.

Fraser is from West Vancouver, BC, and finished his rookie season of 2020-21 with four goals and 10 points in 20 games with the Express in the Coquitlam pod.

He was an affiliate player with the Express in 2019-20 while skating with the Vancouver NW Hawks of the BC U18 League. He picked up 34 points in 40 games for the Hawks that season and notched his first career BCHL while as an AP with Coquitlam.

Express looks to build depth with Murdock, Cochrane, and Makaj

The Express brought in a range of ages with the trades with the addition of Murdock from the Clippers and Cochrane and Makaj from the Spruce Kings.

Murdock, who’s from West Vancouver, BC, is coming off his freshman season in the BCHL. He had a pair of goals and three points in 20 games for Nanaimo in the Island pod this spring.

A graduate of Burnaby Winter Club U18 Prep, he finished with nine goals and 26 points in 36 CSSHL games in 2019-20. Murdock also made his BCHL debut that season, playing one game with the Clippers as an affiliate.

Cochrane hails from Victoria, BC, and is going into his third BCHL season in 2021-22. He posted four goals and eight points in 16 games with the Spruce Kings in the Chilliwack pod.

As a rookie in 2019-20, Cochrane produced five goals and 14 points in 57 games. He made his debut with PG as an affiliate in 2018-19, netting one assist in four games.

He also skated with Burnaby Winter Club U18 Prep before making the jump to the BCHL. Cochrane had 10 goals and 26 points in 33 games with BWC in 2018-19.

Makaj is the lone player involved in all of the trades between the four teams on Tuesday who hasn’t played in the BCHL.

The native of Vancouver, BC didn’t play in 2020-21 but spent the previous two seasons in the Western Hockey League. He was with Kootenay in 2018-19 and went with the franchise to Winnipeg in 2019-20.

In 60 career WHL games, Makaj is 15-32-9 with a 4.17 goals-against-average, an .875 save percentage, and one shutout.

Express general manager Tali Campbell is looking forward to seeing Makaj in a Coquitlam jersey. “Jesse is a bonafide goalie who wants to finish his final Junior year in the BCHL,” Campbell said in a news release announcing the acquisitions.