Eagles add scoring forward from Minnesota

Surrey acquires 19-year-old Tyler Harkins as BCHL trade deadline looms

With the BC Hockey League trade deadline looming – the cutoff date for deals is Saturday evening – the Surrey Eagles have already got a head start on the action.

On Monday afternoon, the squad acquired 19-year-old forward Tyler Harkins from the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings. Harkins was the Riverkings’ leading scorer this season, with 35 goals and 49 points in just 31 games. He also set a Minnesota Junior Hockey League record this year with 12 game-winning goals.

Harkins, an Ohio native, is a draft pick of the United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids Roughriders, but has yet to play a game in that league.

Instead, he’ll head to South Surrey, where he’ll hopefully add some offensive punch to a team that could certainly use it – the Eagles sit last in the BCHL in goals, with just 96 in 39 games. The Birds are the only teams in the 16-team league yet to crack the 100-goal mark.

Before the Eagles even announced the move, Harkins broke the news himself via his Twitter account.

“Thank you to everyone in the Riverkings community for an awesome season. I can’t wait to start my journey as a Surrey Eagle,” he wrote Monday.

Though he’ll certainly help the Eagles for the remainder of this season, Neufeld said the move was also made with an eye to the future – Harkins is eligible to return next season as a 20-year-old.

“We wanted to add some scoring and some speed to our lineup, and he’ll be back next year,” the first-year coach said.

The Eagles did not give up anything to acquire Harkins. The BCHL does not have a trade-agreement in place with the Minnesota circuit, and Neufeld said it was “more of a recruitment” than a trade.

In Surrey, Harkins will have better exposure to college scouts as he hunts for an NCAA scholarship.

“Minnesota has a lot of of colleges (looking at recruits) but I think the BCHL can be a better chance for him. It’s a good opportunity for him to showcase his skills to college scouts,” Neufeld said.

As for other potential moves prior to Saturday’s deadline, Neufeld said he expected things across the league to be quieter than previous years, owing mostly to the fact that, this year, BCHL teams are only given 35 player cards, as opposed to 45 for other Canadian junior ‘A’ leagues. The reduction was done this year, Neufeld said, to provide more stability for players, and limit in-season moves.

“They’re young kids, and some of these moves – especially between provinces – can be tough on them,” he explained.

That said, Neufeld did say his team – which sits last in the BCHL with just seven wins – was looking to the future, and he would pull the trigger on a deal if one presents itself.

“We’re already a pretty young team – we only have four 20-year-olds – but we’d like to get younger, and if we can bring in a young player who will be an impact player for us next year, then we’ll look to do it,” Neufeld said.