Coming into training camp last August, Trevor Wong was nervous. The Rockets 2018 first-round pick wanted to make the team more than anything, but he knew that roster spots would be tight as the Rockets were building for their Memorial Cup season.
He was still deciding between Denver University and the Rockets when he attended rookie camp the season before. Unsigned, he didn’t have the experience of playing in pre-season games or being around for the main camp.
“I worked really hard throughout the whole summer, I really wanted to make the team as a 16-year-old,” said Wong. “I knew the Rockets were going to try and stack up and make a bunch of trades for the Memorial Cup. Heading in, I wasn’t really sure if I was even going to make it, but I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to be in the top-six or anything like that if I did.”
After he arrived in Kelowna, his fears were eased by the veterans around him who made him feel at home.
“Once I saw all the guys again and hit the ice, I just kind of felt comfortable. I met most of them last year when I played a few games as a 15-year-old, I lived with Liam Kindree for a little bit when I was an affiliate player. Leif Mattson, Kyle Topping and Nolan Foote were also really good to me coming in, they’re high-calibre players who made me feel welcome. Learning from them was really helpful.”
Wong cracked the roster alongside another 16-year-old, defenceman Elias Carmichael. The pair became close friends with fellow rookie Jake Poole, who was also still attending high school.
“Poole, Carmichael and I would hang out every day because we went to school together. Poole was the only one who drove, so he would pick us up every day for school and then we were the rookies, so we cleaned up after practice. We made so many life lasting memories this season together.
“I knew Elias from before, we played some spring hockey together and were a part of Team BC at the Canada Winter Games. Poole comes from a farming background, he would tell Elias and me stories of what life is like working on the farm, us being Vancouver boys we were blown away by some of the stories.”
Playing mostly in the bottom-six throughout the start of the season, Wong adapted to the change of playing in the Western Hockey League.
“In the WHL it’s much faster, at the start of the year it was difficult for me to get used to the size and speed. The first 25 games were a learning experience for me to get used to it. The guys in the WHL are older, they’re much bigger and stronger than me. ”
While adapting to the changes, he wasn’t afraid to go into the corners. Standing at 5-foot-8, Wong says that has always had to be more aware of putting himself in a dangerous position.
“Obviously I’m a small guy, I’ve always had to be aware of my surroundings or else it won’t end well. To avoid hits, it’s mostly awareness and being smart with your body position. I’ve kind of learned that before putting myself in that situation, look around and see what’s happening. If the puck is in a bad position in the corner, I’ll have to take a different route.”
As Wong became acclimated, he was able to move up into the top-six forward group. Playing alongside Pavel Novak and Kyle Topping, the trio found chemistry towards the end of the campaign.
“When we ran into some injury trouble I had the chance to move up in the lineup a little bit. It was a treat for me to play with Novak and Topping, both of those guys are such good players. Novak is a sniper, a super-smart player, Topper is an all-around really good player, and I brought speed to the line .”
Wong and Topping roomed with each other on the road, becoming like brothers. He says that 20-year-old Topping showed him the ropes.
“Throughout the season I got to room with Topping and we became pretty close. I really appreciate everything that he did for me throughout the year, I think he was the biggest role model for me. Seeing him sign in the AHL with the San Jose Barracuda was huge.”
After the season came to an end, with no ice to train and gyms closed, Wong found unique ways to stay in shape.
“Over the first couple of months, I was working out at home and going for bike rides. I was doing as much as I could to stay active without having access to a gym or ice. Things are starting to open back up now slowly, my trainer that I work with during the summer is open again with new measures, and I’m working out and getting on the ice four times a week.”
The youngest Rocket on the roster finished the season with fourteen points (6G, 8A) and 32 penalty minutes in 58 games. In what was a learning season, he says that he’s ready to take the next step and be a bigger point producer next season.