The Okanagan Rockets already deep defensive corps were bolstered on Monday with the return of Carter Rhine by the BCHL's Surrey Eagles.
Rhine, a 6'0" 188 pound defenceman posted 4 goals and added 64 assists in a total of 78 games last season for Midget/Prep squads at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton.
Rhine joins fellow 17 year old Mark Krabben who was returned to the Rockets last week from the BCHL's Victoria Grizzlies to form a tremendous core of experience on the back end for the Rockets. Krabben of course was instrumental in the Rockets success last season as he posted 4 goals and 10 assists while playing in all 40 games as a 16 year old.
"We really feel the combination of Mark Krabben and Carter Rhine really stabilizes our defence, and our dressing room." said Rockets general manager David Michaud. "Mark brings back a wealth of experience to our club from last season's squad that won Bronze at the national championships, and Carter just adds a level of composure and maturity that is tough to find in midget hockey. Both players will offer our group tremendous leadership skills off the ice, and tons of experience and skill on it."
Krabben and Rhine will be expected to mentor along the Kamloops Blazers 3rd over selection in the WHL Draft, Nolan Kneen. "I can't think of two better players for Nolan to learn from. Both Mark and Carter exemplify what it means to be an Okanagan Rocket, and both will move on to have great junior careers. Nolan will get to watch closely how these two conduct their business."
Krabben, while initially disappointed to not crack the Grizzlies squad was able to come away from their camp with a ton of experience on what it takes at the next level, and even more importantly a commitment for the 2015-2016 season. "Outside of making Victoria this season, it's the next best thing he could have asked for" said Michaud. "This will be a great season of development for Mark and he can prepare to be in Victoria next season."
With the addition of Connor Bowey, and Danny Gatenby, the Rockets feel their defence has the potential to be one of the strongest groups they have ever been able to assemble. The club is currently waiting for work on veteran Mitchell Oliver, and 16 year old Sam De Melo who is having a tremendous camp with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Should the Rockets get an early Christmas gift with either of Oliver or De Melo returning, it would certainly put the defence over the top, however Michaud was quick to point out that two players remaining in camp, Nick Higgs of Vernon and 15 year old Spencer Hora would make tremendous additions as well. "We are in a very enviable position. Obviously getting either Oliver or DeMelo would be a tremendous boost to our defence, but at the same time, both Higgs and Hora have proved they are MML ready defenceman. It's really a no lose scenario."
The Rockets open defence of their BCMML championship on September 20th as they host the NE Chiefs at the Capital News Centre.