Kamloops Blazers Find Another Diamond in the Rough

By Glen Crichton

The Kamloops Blazers found another diamond in the rough, drafting Eric Christensen in the sixth round, 101st overall in the 1998 WHL Bantam Draft and the young man, who doesn’t turn 16 until mid-December, is already turning heads with his early season play. The 6’1, 170-pound winger has drawn praise for his awareness on the ice and gritty play at such a young age, leading Barry Trapp of the Canadian World Junior Team selection committee, who was attending a recent Blazer game to scout talent for the upcoming WJC, to shake his head at the unlimited potential of this guy. During an early season game against the Prince George Cougars, Christensen stood out not only for his heads up offensive play, but also for bloodying the nose of 17-year-old Jonathan Parker during a line brawl. This combination of skill and toughness is not often found in 15-year-old rookies in the WHL nevermind a sixth round pick. The Blazers also have the first and second round picks from the same draft in their line up, but Christensen is drawing most of the attention as a potential franchise player.

Christensen sees the ice very well, making passes that seem beyond his years and skates well enough to earn some time on the powerplay and penalty kill, a feat many other talented prospects in the past have been unable to accomplish in their rookie seasons. To go along with the high skill level, Christensen asks no quarter, nor does he give any. This kid will take a hit but be rest assured, he’ll take your number and respond with a crushing check when you least expect it. Sure the Blazers have a young team and he might not have received the same amount of ice time on a veteran laden team, but he’s earned his shots and looks to be catching the eye of a lot of scouts, though he’s not available until the 2002 NHL Draft because of his late birthday.

Because of his age, at one point during the exhibition season when it became apparent he was well on his way to making the Blazers, Christensen and his father went home to talk things over with his apprehensive mother. Eric and his parents had looked upon training camp as a learning experience and weren’t prepared for thier son to be moving so far away from home to play hockey this year, so understandably, his mom was nervous about her son leaving home to pursue his hockey career without knowing all the details about where he would live, go to school and if he was ready for this big change. Christensen and his father had a conversation with Kamloops GM Mike Moore, went home to discuss this big decision as a family and decided he would return to pursue his dream. When he went home to talk with his parents, the Blazer fans who had been attending training camp were mystified as to how the Blazers could release the most impressive rookie at training camp, not knowing that the reason he went home was to talk about the huge decision he would need to make regarding his immediate hockey future. Blazer fans couldn’t be happier as witnessed by the buzz he creates every time he skates into the opposition’s end and somehow manages to find a teammate with one of his seeing eye passes or crunches an opponent with a big hit.