Five and a half years ago, Luke Toporowski was drafted into the Western Hockey League by the franchise his family knew best.
The former first-round bantam pick was traded Monday by the rebuilding Spokane Chiefs to the title-contending Kamloops Blazers.
“As a kid, it was always my dream to play for the Chiefs,” the 20-year-old Toporowski said. “I’m just grateful for my time here.”
Toporowski was the fourth member of his family to play for the Chiefs, following brother Jake, who played 100 games in Spokane from 2014 -18, and his father, Kerry, and uncle, Brad.
Brad Toporowski played 72 games for the Chiefs from 1989 -92, though he didn’t join the team full time until after the Memorial Cup season of 1990-91. Kerry Toporowski played on that Memorial Cup team, part of a two-year career with Spokane.
Luke, who has lived with his grandparents during his time in Spokane, ended up playing 223 regular-season games with the Chiefs with 76 goals and 89 assists, all three totals better than any of his family members. He scored 29 goals for the 2019-20 team that was aiming for a deep playoff run when the WHL canceled the end of its season due to the pandemic.
This year, Toporowski was second on the team with 29 points and best on the team with 15 goals.
But the Chiefs (10-19-2-1), coming off a 6-0 home loss to Kamloops on Saturday, are in last place in the U.S. Division and are not in a position to compete for a championship this year, unlike the B.C. Division-leading Blazers.
“(Spokane is) a super young team, so (Chiefs general manager) Scott (Carter) thought it was the best thing for me and for Kamloops and for the (Chiefs) organization,” Toporowski said. “I think it’s pretty easy to tell we’re going through a rebuild right now.”
In the deal, the Chiefs acquired 20-year-old Nick McCarry and a second-round pick in the 2025 WHL Prospects Draft.
“Picking up a second-round pick in an upcoming draft provides us a valuable asset as we build around our young core,” Carter said in a news release. “McCarry is a quick, skilled forward who will fill an important role on this year’s team.”
McCarry scored the first goal against Spokane Saturday. He has 28 points in 34 games this season.
In a separate deal on Monday, the Chiefs dealt 20-year-old forward Cordel Larson to Moose Jaw for 19-year-old Cade Hayes and a third-round pick in the 2022 draft. Hayes has 19 points (five goals) in 34 games this season.
Larson – who is from Weyburn, Saskatchewan, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Moose Jaw – was also a 2016 selection by the Chiefs in the prospects draft, a ninth-round pick who played 172 games for Spokane and scored 30 career goals to go with 55 assists. This season he has five goals and 12 assists.
Both Larson and Toporowski were assistant captains for the Chiefs, along with 20-year-old Post Falls native Bear Hughes, who remained with the team as the trade deadline passed Monday afternoon.
The Chiefs have been without a captain since Jack Finley was traded to Winnipeg on Dec. 6. In that deal, Spokane acquired forwards James Form and Chase Bertholet, as well as a second-round pick in the 2024 prospects draft. Form has one goal in nine games for the Chiefs this season; Bertholet has four goals and six assists in 11 games.
Those three deals – plus one for goalie Campbell Arnold in October that netted the Chiefs a future third-round pick – have set up the Chiefs with a number of extra high picks in the next few drafts.
They also selected forward Berkly Catton No. 1 overall in the December prospects draft, and on Saturday defenseman Will McIsaac, their second-round pick, made his WHL debut.
For Toporowski, the move to Kamloops gives him a chance to win a WHL championship just as his father did 31 years ago. He said Blazers players have been reaching out to him since the deal was announced.
“They’re obviously a top team for a reason. They’re really good,” Toporowski said. “They’re really fast. They play with skill and they’ve got some physical guys as well, which, for a championship team, you need it all. I’m super excited to be joining this team.”
Though Toporowski said he doesn’t know any Kamloops players well, his grandmother alerted him to a few relatives – previously unknown to him – who live there. Toporowski was born in Iowa, but his family is from Paddockwood, Saskatchewan, and Toporowski has said previously he would sometimes be greeted after road games by relatives he didn’t know well or at all.
The Chiefs are scheduled to visit Kamloops twice this season, on March 2 and April 1.
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