The 2018 WHL Championship didn’t come cheap.
In one form or another, the Swift Current Broncos dealt seven years of 1st round bantam draft picks (Dom Schmiemann, Riley Stotts, Logan Barlage, Joel Sexsmith, and picks in 2018/2019/2020) in the process of securing the roster that took home the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
I had a Broncos fan and friend of mine ask me the other day if we could take a look back at the results of those trades. How well did the other teams make out? How many of those assets are still working their way around the WHL?
I meant for this to be a post on my Facebook and quickly realized it would be too long. I guess that means opening up the blog one more time!
Manny Viveiros threw all his chips in the middle in 2018. We all know that those trades were both key to the WHL championship the Broncos won and a big factor in the struggles that have come in the following seasons. Where you stand on those results and whether it was “worth it” will likely differ from person to person.
So here are the trades starting in the fall of 2017 that built the 2018 WHL Championship roster.
1) September 10, 2017 Kootenay trades Max Patterson to Swift Current for G Bailey Brkin and 5th Rnd ’18 Cond.
Patterson scored a very memorable goal in Game 7 of the first round series against Regina. Swift then flipped Patterson to Everett the next season for a 2020 4th round pick and Dawson Springer. Springer played only 2 WHL games including a memorable goal in Prince Albert. He’s now ripping up senior hockey for Rocanville with 10 goals in 4 games this season. The 4th round pick got sent right back to Everett for Carter Halamandaris who played 16 games with the Broncos in the bubble and had 2 assists. He is now playing Junior B in Manitoba. I’m not sure what happened. It appears his MJHL rights are owned by Virden.
Brkin struggled with Kootenay, but he went on to have a season and a half of top flight performance with Spokane as an 18 and 19-year-old. In his overage season Brkin spent some time with Moose Jaw before heading to the OHL on waivers to play for the Greyhounds. It’s hard to say he would have had much trade value to the Broncos as he only fetched Kootenay an 8th round pick and his other two moves came on waivers.
As for the conditional 5th rounder, Swift Current’s 5th round pick in 2018 ended up with Portland somehow. They picked Jonah Bevington who is currently playing for them and has 4 assists in 22 WHL games.
2) September 20, 2017 Saskatoon sent Logan Flodell to Swift Current for their 5th Rnd. ’19 and 2nd Rnd. ’20
The Broncos ran with Flodell as their starter until the trade deadline. They then flipped him to Lethbridge in the deal that got them Stuart Skinner.
The 2nd round pick was flipped by Saskatoon to Portland in the Ryan Hughes deal. Portland used it to select Jayden Perron. He has 21 points in 23 games for the Chicago Steel this season in the USHL and has committed to play in the NCAA. That hasn’t stopped Portland from winning a player over before. We’ll see what happens.
The Blades used that 5th round pick in 2019 to select D Ben Saunderson who has a point in 13 games for them this season as a promising 17-year-old rookie.
3) November 25, 2017 Calgary sent Matteo Gennaro, Beck Malenstyn and 5th Rnd. ’18 to Swift Current for Conner Chaulk, Riley Stotts, Dominic Schmiemann, Josh Prokop, Ethan Hein, and a 2nd Rnd. ‘18
Here is the first blockbuster. Gennaro and Malenstyn both finished their WHL careers with the Broncos in 2018 and were big parts of the championship. The 5th I believe ended up with Kootenay and was traded to Seattle. The Thunderbirds picked Sam Popwich and he has 6 points in 42 games.
Chaulk finished his WHL career with Calgary that season scoring 20 points in his remaining 35 games before moving on to the University of Regina. Stotts was on fire the rest of that season with 41 points in his final 47 games. Stotts and Schmiemann were both former 1st round picks of the Broncos. Stotts then had seasons of 57, 68, and 14 points (in 21 games) with Calgary before graduating to the University of Calgary. He likely would have had strong trade value as an 18 or 19-year-old.
Schmiemann had a solid season with Calgary putting up 11 points in 47 games and going -4. He then got traded to Tri-City for 4th and 5th round picks. As an overage he went to Brandon for 5th and 6th round picks. Josh Prokop was playing Junior A hockey and was not going to join the Broncos until they moved him to Calgary where he had a chance to play with his brother Luke. He had 88 points in 143 games and graduated with the Hitmen without being traded.
Hein never played in the WHL. He is playing in the SIJHL at the moment. The 2nd round pick was Zachary Funk who has 15 points in 21 games this season for the Hitmen as an 18-year-old. The full impact of his career is to be determined.
4) January 7, 2018 Swift Current traded Joel Sexsmith to Vancouver for a 1st Rnd. ‘19
Sexsmith has 14 points in 82 WHL games and is currently on the Red Deer roster. He has only played 4 games this season. Vancouver ended up trading him with a 3rd round pick to the Rebels for Brendan Budy and a 7th round pick. Budy is playing in the NCAA.
The Broncos used that pick to help make-up for trading away their own 1st round pick in 2019. Unfortunately for them, Vancouver had a great season and ended up with the second last pick of the round. Swift Current selected Tyson Jugnauth and he has thus far chosen to play Junior A for West Kelowna and committed to the NCAA. Jugnauth at 17 is also the 4th leading scorer in the BCHL among defencemen. It would be huge if they could ever get him to change his mind or trade him to a team that could.
5) January 7, 2018 Prince George traded Josh Anderson to Swift Current for a 1st Rnd. ’18 and 1st Rnd. ’19
Anderson played a very important role in Swift Current’s championship run as a stay-at-home defenceman and physical presence. Unfortunately for the Broncos he, like Malenstyn, didn’t return to the WHL for his overage season. That meant the Broncos were unable to recoup any of the assets they spent on him.
The Cougars picked goaltender Tyler Brennan with the 21st pick of the 2018 1st round. Brennan has played 33 WHL games with a 3.20 goals against average and 0.901 save percentage. He and Taylor Gauthier and splitting starts this season.
Prince George flipped the 2019 pick to Winnipeg for another pick in the same round they used on Keaton Dowhaniuk and a 2020 3rd round pick they used on Zackary Shantz. Both guys have signed and played with the Cougars. Winnipeg used the old Broncos pick, which was 2nd overall, to draft Conor Geekie. He is one of the best young players in the WHL and has 54 points in 56 games for the Ice so far.
6) January 9, 2018 Lethbridge sent Stuart Skinner, Giorgio Estephan, and Tanner Nagel to Swift Current for Logan Flodell, Logan Barlage, Owen Blocker, Matthew Stanley a 1st Rnd. ’20, 3rd Rnd. ’20, and 2nd Rnd. ’21 Cond.
Here is the other big one. The Connor Bedard trade.
Skinner was unbelievable in the playoffs and was at least 1B to Glenn Gawdin’s playoff MVP. He turned pro at 20 and never came back for the Broncos to recoup any assets. Estephan scored some huge goals on the way to the championship victory and graduated with Swift Current. Nagel was a nice depth piece on the championship roster and finished his career with the Broncos as their captain in 2018-19.
Blocker and Stanley both ended up back in Swift Current the next season. Stanley off waivers and Blocker for an 8th round draft pick in 2019. They were both solid depth pieces for the Hurricanes in a run to the conference final in 2018. Flodell took over as the starter for Lethbridge and was a huge part of their playoff success and eventual battle with Swift Current in the third round. He graduated with Lethbridge.
Barlage, another former 1st round pick of the Swift Current’s, is currently in his overage season with the Hurricanes. He has 150 points in 249 WHL games. Only 38 of those games and 7 of those points came as a member of the Broncos. He has 13 points in 21 games this season and could potentially be on the trade market for a Lethbridge team that has already dealt one of their top veteran players.
The 2020 1st round pick went to Regina in a trade the next season as the Hurricanes were looking to contend. In an absolute nightmare for Broncos fans, their most hated rivals then won the draft lottery and selected a generational talent in Connor Bedard with that pick. Bedard became the first WHL player to ever receive exceptional player status and is the favourite to get picked 1st overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. That one was a hard pill to swallow.
Lethbridge used the 2020 3rd round pick to select Logan Wormold with the first pick in that round. He has been a very impressive rookie this season with 10 points in 13 games. It looks like the Hurricanes got a good one there. I don’t know about the conditions of the 2021 pick. If it does go to Lethbridge they will be using it with the third pick of the second round in this December’s draft.
So ultimately upgrading from Flodell to Skinner, from Barlage to Estephan, and from Blocker to Nagel cost the Broncos four additional seasons of Barlage, Connor Bedard, and Logan Wormold. It was a big price to pay, but it did pay off. It’s hard to imagine winning that championship without Skinner and Estephan.
7) January 9, 2018 Calgary traded Andrew Fyten to Swift Current for Ethan Martini and a 3rd Rnd. ’20 Cond.
Fyten was a nice depth piece on the championship run in Swift Current. He played some big minutes including PK time. He then led the Broncos in scoring for the first half of the 2018-19 season before they sent him to Edmonton for a 2020 5th round conditional draft pick that turned into a 4th round pick which they sent back to the Oil Kings for Raphael Pelletier. That turned out to be a good move for the Broncos as Pelletier is tied for second in team scoring with 17 points in 24 games this season. He is also likely to return as an overage player in 2022-23.
The 2020 3rd round pick appears to be a big of a mystery as the Broncos had already dealt their own 2020 3rd round pick to Lethbridge earlier that day. Swift Current traded for two other 2020 3rd round picks in future deals. They added one from Everett in the Sahvan Khaira deal and another from Red Deer in the Ben King deal. However, they only picked once in the 2020 third round when they nabbed Liam Saxberg. That pick was originally owned by Lethbridge and they had traded it to Red Deer in the Lane Zablocki deal. That tells me the pick the Broncos got for Khaira went to Calgary. They used it on Carter Yakemchuk. He’s a 16-year-old defenceman who has 3 points in 16 games with the Hitmen as a rookie. Both third round picks the Broncos traded away that January 9th ended up becoming WHL players four years later for division rivals.
Ethan Martini never played in the WHL. He bounced around Junior A and ended up at Long Island University in the NCAA.
So who is left? Of the picks and players the Broncos dealt away on the road to their 2018 championship there are quite a few still making an impact on WHL rosters.
-Jonah Bevington in Portland
-Ben Saunderson in Saskatoon
-Zachary Funk in Calgary
-Joel Sexsmith in Red Deer
-Tyler Brennan in Prince George
-Conor Geekie in Winnipeg
-Logan Barlage in Lethbridge
-Logan Wormold in Lethbridge
-Connor Bedard in Regina
-Carter Yakemchuk in Calgary
There are a couple other players out there who have chosen to play NCAA and could still revert back to the WHL before their eligibility is over. It is also worth noting that the reason some of those draft picks turned out so well is that the Broncos finished at the bottom of the league standings in the following seasons. If they hadn’t gone all-in for the 2018 championship they likely wouldn’t have been quite so bad in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Either way it’s hard to not ask yourself if there ever would have been a way to make the Prince George or Lethbridge deals without giving up their own picks in both. Geekie or Bedard would sure look good in Broncos colours right now.
It’s also worth noting that Swift Current was able to replace some of those lost picks. They never could have replaced the position those picks came in the draft, but they did add a 2019 1st round pick from Portland they used on Mathew Ward and a 2020 1st round pick from Everett which resulted in Brady Birnie. They’ve also got another extra 1st rounder from Portland they will pair with their own pick in the upcoming 2021 draft when they select 6th and 7th in the opening round.
They suffered from some incredible bad luck in the 2018-19 season. Of the eleven19-year-olds that were eligible to return to the WHL at 20, only six of them came back. The other five all turned pro (Steenbergen, Malenstyn, Anderson, Skinner, and Sissons) and they lost an 18 turning 19 Aleksi Heponiemi to European pro hockey. If even a couple of those guys had come back the Broncos would have been able recoup a lot more of what they traded away in 2018. I’m sure they were counting on a little luck that way when they made those moves.
It is easy to play the “what might have been” game. Obviously in hindsight all fans wish the Broncos had been able to win the championship while paying a lesser price. Manny Viveiros would likely tell you he couldn’t have made those deals without paying what he did.
The nagging “what if” will likely always be the Anderson trade. Could they have at least found a way to convince Prince George to take the Vancouver 2019 pick instead of the Swift Current pick? The other often discussed move was Moose Jaw adding Brandon Schuldhaus and a 4th from Red Deer for a couple 2nd round picks and Colin Paradis. Could the Broncos have made a move like that instead and used their 2018 1st rounder to complete the Lethbridge deal without touching the 19 or 20 picks? Would Schuldhaus have been able to come close enough to what Anderson brought Swift Current to still secure a championship? It is also worth noting the Broncos didn’t even have their 2019 or 2020 2nd round picks to trade anyway. We can play this game all day in hindsight. Even one slight change could have spoiled a run that was a fierce battle the whole way.
I’d suggest if the Broncos had simply stood pat they would have lost in the early rounds of those playoffs against either a stacked Regina club or the loaded Moose Jaw Warriors. Swift Current also likely would have been a relatively mediocre team in the next two seasons anyway. Most of their best veteran talent graduated after 2018. Keeping Schmiemann, Barlage and Stotts would not have been enough to carry them that far beyond where they ended up.
If it was a choice between either going after it or playing conservative I still think it was the right move. If they had gone in half way and not made their 2019 or 2020 picks available, I’m not sure we would have a banner hanging in the iPlex right now. What do you think?