Royals acquire Russian sniper in time for season opener

Victoria Royals open WHL season with a home-and-home series against the Vancouver Giants, Sept. 21 in Vancouver and Sept. 22 in Victoria

Russian import Alex Gogolev brings an elite skill set to the Victoria Royals this year. The Royals traded Zane Jones

Victoria Royals general manager Cam Hope is the first to admit he can’t count to 10 in Russian.

Hope and Jeff Harris, the director of hockey ops and communications, picked up the Royals newest player, Russian import Alex Gogolev, from the airport on the weekend.

“Alex tried to teach us to count to 10 in Russian, and even with a 30 minute drive we couldn’t get it, so it’s safe to say his English is much better than my Russian,” Hope said.

Though his English is still improving, Gogolev can at least count to 57. That’s how many points the slick skating forward totaled as a 19-year-old rookie with the Calgary Hitmen last year, as he scored 25 goals and 32 assists.

The 20-year-old was acquired by trade on Saturday in exchange for forward Zane Jones, 18, and a conditional sixth round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. The Royals also got a fourth round pick in the 2013 draft.

Gogolev became available because of the WHL numbers game. The Hitmen had five over age players, with just three spots, and three imports vying for two spots.

“Gogolev is very skilled, but he was a two-spot player, a 20-year-old import,” Hope said. “We’re getting a player who is exceptionally smooth, a smart player with an excellent shot who can be a game breaker.”

And to get, you have to give.

Jones was one of the few promising 18-year-olds developed in the Royals/Bruins system. Last year as a 17-year-old he recorded 14 goals and 32 points, and was one of the Royals best players in all four playoff games.

Discussions between Hope and Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio began during the WHL GMs meetings in Calgary last week and carried on until Saturday.

“You never want to give up a younger guy who you haven’t seen his best yet, which is why the trade took a whole week,” Hope said.

“But it was tough to get (Kisio) interested in someone else, he had his mind set on (Jones).”

With Gogolev, the Royals are now at their cap for overage spots with three 20-year-olds, Jamie Crooks and Tyler Stahl being the other two. Goalie Patrik Polivka is the other import.

Gogolev will be in the lineup for the Royals first game of the regular season in Vancouver on Friday (Sept. 21), and the first home game, Saturday night, 7:05 p.m. versus the Vancouver Giants.

The Royals won the final preseason game, and the only one held in Victoria, 4-2 over the Giants on Saturday. Logan Nelson, Brandon Magee, Jamie Crooks and Ben Walker (empty net goal) scored for the Royals.

Royals reshape, move Kade Pilton

Two days prior to Zane Jones departure was the trade of big defenceman Kade Pilton. The Parksville native, still 17 years old, is already 6-foot-5, 186 lbs. But with the influx of 16-year-old talents Joe Hicketts and Jack Walker, Pilton was traded to the Regina Pats. In Pilton’s rookie year of 2011-12, he scored five goals and 13 points.

In return, the Royals got the rights to forward Demico Hannoun (1995) and a conditional draft pick from the Regina Pats. Hannoun is from Delta and was a B.C. Hockey League rookie with the South Surrey Eagles last year, scoring 12 goals and 26 points in 49 games. Hannoun, 16, is 5-foot-11 and 175 lbs.

Czech protector

Rookie goalie Patrik Polivka’s save percentage of 0.963 and goals against average of 1.41 per game are the best among all WHL goalies with 120 minutes played in the preseason.

Stalled out

Defenceman Tyler Stahl won’t be available as he’s serving a six-game suspension for a checking to the head penalty against the Kelowna Rockets on Sept. 7.

See the Royals for $5

Every Monday prior to a home game, a limited number of $5 tickets will be available at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre box office, starting at 9:30 a.m.

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