With a couple of big moves by the Moose Jaw Warriors recently the speculation continues to rage as to what the WHL’s contending teams will do before the January 10th trade deadline. I’ve been following some of the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and the message boards on what the Broncos in particular should do. I’ve also regularly heard from friends on what is always a fun topic. That said if anyone thinks I’m going to have some secret inside information I’m sorry to inform you that a) I don’t get that kind of info and b) I wouldn’t share it if I did. I look forward to seeing what happens and discussing it once it does.
That doesn’t stop us from speculating.
It sounds like despite the significant additions of Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn that many Broncos fans feel the team can’t be done adding pieces to their formidable lineup. Unfortunately the timing of World Juniors means the Broncos aren’t likely to see what their new full roster could look like. Once Malenstyn is ready to go it is likely Tyler Steenbergen, Aleksi Heponiemi and Artyom Minulin will all be gone. Even without that obvious opportunity to evaluate you could still make an educated guess as to what the Broncos would be looking for.
The most obvious need would be some kind of addition on the blue line. Swift Current dealt Dom Schmieman to Calgary and then re-assigned Jake Hobson to Nipawin of the SJHL. That leaves the Broncos with only six defencemen on their roster and now Minulin is away with Russia.
As much as rookies like Noah King and Connor Horning have stepped up and earned trust from the coaching staff, you can’t go into the playoffs with six defencemen. Injuries are an inevitable part of the playoff grind and if that happens it would put a lot of pressure on any call-up to play an immediate key role at that time of the season. To me that means whether they are after a top flight d-man or a depth guy the Broncos will have to make some kind of addition on D.
I’m also not convinced Swift Current is done adding to their forward group. Gennaro and Malenstyn immediately address the obvious need for a second scoring line. We’ve seen though that as much as the young depth for the Broncos has started to trend forward you can never have enough veteran scoring depth. Injuries again do happen. Think about how much Lane Pederson getting hurt impacted games 6 and 7 for the Broncos against Regina last year. There isn’t a desperate need for more forwards by any means, but depth to add some veteran scoring on the third line or insurance for that second line could really help. How about a veteran checking centre for the third line that could match up with the other team’s best players? Do they Broncos want some additional playoff experience in their lineup? This isn’t an obvious must add and yet I still think the Broncos are seriously hoping to add at least one more forward.
One area where I don’t expect any change is in goal. The Broncos made a significant investment in Logan Flodell sending a 2nd round and 5th round bantam draft pick to Saskatoon for the veteran. Despite three straight rough outings (two vs. Moose Jaw and one on Calgary) Flodell still bounced back with a fantastic week and remains one of the WHL’s better netminders. Of goalies with 15 games or more Flodell has the 4th best goals against average and 3rd best save percentage in the WHL. That’s even after those three games took a bite out of what had been really strong numbers for Flodell. The Broncos have lots of reason to still believe in him.
Even if Flodell stumbles you have a 17-year-old rookie in Joel Hofer who has the third best numbers of any rookie in the WHL. He has proven to be a more than capable back-up.
I understand some people’s temptation to see if Swift Current can free up a 20-year-old spot. I don’t believe it’s going to happen. Flodell is one of the top starters in a league with frankly few goaltenders you can rely on. He’s a very good puck handler and he has handled high pressure situations. I think they’re set in goal and any upgrade will have to be someone 19 or under.
So with all that being said who is available? The possible buyers would seem to outnumber the possible sellers right now. That would certainly favour sellers in getting high prices.
While I’ve been compiling this over a few days Gregg Drinnan did two articles on buyers and sellers you can check out at his blog.
In the East Division alone I would suggest Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Regina have already proven they are looking to add to their roster. Brandon hasn’t shown their hand and yet remain as viable as any of the other three. Prince Albert and Saskatoon are only two points back of Regina. I’m not sure it would make sense for Prince Albert or Saskatoon to buy… but are they thinking of selling when they’re legitimately competitive with those top East Division teams?
Medicine Hat hasn’t made a buying move, but they’re the top team in the Central Division. Lethbridge has shown their hand as at least somewhat of a buyer with the Lane Zablocki addition. Of course Zablocki could be back next season so perhaps it isn’t entirely short term thinking.
Portland, Everett, Spokane, Tri-City, Victoria and Kelowna all look like teams poised to at least take a run at it in the Western Conference. That’s despite Everett looking like sellers a month ago. Vancouver added a forward from Red Deer and seem poised to push for playoffs. Kamloops started very poorly and is one of the best teams in the league over the last month.
So who is actually selling!? (I didn’t include anyone younger than 19… they could be traded but not in a typical selling situation)
The Hitmen made a big selling statement dealing their captain Matteo Gennaro and power forward Beck Malenstyn to Swift Current for a combination of young players, prospects and picks. At the time they said it didn’t totally signal they were a seller… but they have some assets there yet it would be hard to ignore the potential value of selling for a first year GM in Jeff Chynoweth who should have some rope to work with.
- D Jake Bean: A 19-year-old signed NHL prospect who is very likely in his last WHL season. He’s about to make his second appearance at World Juniors and can produce like a forward from the blue line. If Calgary is willing to trade Gennaro and Malenstyn I think it would be a mistake to not get all they could out of Bean. Price will be high.
- F Jakob Stukel: A 20-year-old speedy winger who scored 34 goals in 57 games with Calgary at 18 and whose stats have slipped a bit since. At his age he won’t be an option for Swift Current, but he sure could be for another team.
- F Jake Kryski and F Luke Coleman: Undrafted 19-year-olds who could help any contending team’s depth. However, both are likely to return at 20 and as such Calgary is in no hurry to move them. I’m sure they would listen if the price was high enough.
Edmonton is again close to the bottom of the standings this season, but with no drafted 19-year-old on their roster anyone they would move in that category would be someone they could have back next season.
- F Tomas Soustel: A 20-year-old European would be a hard sell as championship contenders likely don’t have room for a two-spotter.
- F Davis Koch: Not drafted and likely to return so no push to sell him for Edmonton. With 25 points this season and 70 points last season on a team that struggles to score certainly garner offers that have some kind of conditional draft pick if he returns.
- F Colton Kehler: A 20-year-old winger with 25 points in 31 games. Had 33 points in 67 games last season.
The Rebels have struggled significantly the last month and already sold a 19-year-old veteran like Lane Zablocki to Lethbridge. They have a few 19-year-olds left, but could they return them to their roster next year? Do they want to trade anyone who could be a part of an improved team next season?
- F Mason McCarty: A 20-year-old leading scorer for the Rebels with 28 points in 31 games. He’s a quick and talented forward who could help any team… but there are limited amounts of suitors for overage players.
- F Grayson Pawlenchuk: a 20-year-old winger who captains the Rebels and has had a very nice season despite missing most of last season to injury. 29 points in 34 games he is in that second tier of overage players that could come available and immediately play a top six role with any team.
- F Brandon Hagel: Drafted and skilled 19-year-old forward whose production has dipped a little on a struggling Rebels club. He had 71 points last season, but this season his pace is a bit behind that with 23 points in 27 games. Still very talented. The question for Red Deer is if he’s going to be signed or not. If not he would be a key part of their team at 20, but if he is going to get signed and play in the AHL they would want to get value out of him in what is a down year for them.
- F Reece Johnson: A 19-year-old forward who isn’t drafted and doesn’t appear to be a risk to be in the AHL next season. With 15 points in 33 games he would be a solid third line addition to a contender while not necessarily a big piece. He’s probably slotted in as a 20-year-old for Red Deer next season.
- D Brandon Schuldhaus: A hard-nosed 19-year-old defensive defenceman from Texas. With 11 points and only a -2 on a struggling team those look like solid numbers. He’s not going to bring a lot of offence, but he could be very effective on a second pair as a defensive option with lots of minutes on the penalty kill. He’s not drafted or signed so Red Deer may not want to move him because he would be a part of their 20-year-old group next season.
Kootenay sits in a playoff spot right now and in a weak central very much could be a playoff team. Yet they’ve also already traded away two of their key veterans in deals that sent Cale Fleury to Regina and Vince Losciavo to Moose Jaw. That seems to indicate they are sellers… but maybe not all-in sellers?
- F Alec Baer: A 20-year-old forward with a very good shot. That’s probably his best skill. He’s on pace for his best season offensively. Again there are only so many landing spots for overage forwards so I’m not sure Baer will end up being on that list of those who move.
- F Colton Veloso: Another 20-year-old forward who doesn’t really score enough to be a target as an overage in my view. Having a solid season.
- F Colton Kroeker: A third 20-year-old forward and probably the most valuable they have. Kroeker plays a solid two-way game and has been at around a point-per-game pace since joining Kootenay at the trade deadline last season. He wouldn’t be at the top of the overage list, but I do think if he was available there would be some interest from teams who have a spot to upgrade. Not Swift Current though.
- F Jeff de Wit: A 19-year-old forward who would be more of an option as a depth player. He’s big at 6’3 and over 200lbs, but the former first round bantam draft pick hasn’t found a consistent offensive touch yet at this level. He had a great pre-season this year but it didn’t quite translate. One of four 19-year-olds on Kootenay’s roster and one of them in an import… so they may want to keep them all as their overage core for next season.
- D Dallas Hines: A 19-year-old big defenceman at 6’3 and almost 200lbs. Hines has improved his +/- significantly this season although his point production appears to be at about a similar pace of just over 20 points. More of a defensive defenceman. Solid depth addition, but Kootenay may be planning to keep him as a 20.
- D Ryan Pouliot: Another 19-year-old defenceman. Only 6 points and -10 so far this season. Another guy who would be a depth player and someone else the Ice may be planning on keeping.
- D Jonathan Smart: He’s 18 but I’m including him here anyway just based on how he was part of the recent Fleury trade. Kootenay probably plans to keep him and he has been good with them (5 points in 11 games and +1), but at the same time maybe there would be some temptation to flip him after adding him if the price is right. He’s one of those puck moving d-men most teams covet. For whatever reason it didn’t work out in Regina after the move from Kelowna last season. Seems to be going OK in Kootenay so far.
After being a contender the last two seasons and still maintaining a lot of pieces from that roster the Hurricanes may feel they have what it takes to go deep again in a weak central despite an up and down first half. They also may look at the landscape in the conference and decide this is a good year for a seller to make up some of the assets spent in recent years. The addition of Zablocki from Red Deer would make you think they aren’t sellers though. The Hurricanes also have eight 1998 born players on their roster so if they aren’t contending you would think they would want to get something for a few of those guys before they all turn into overage guys next season.
- F Giorgio Estephan: If Estephan is on the market he will be among the most sought out overage players. He’s got 48 points in 33 games after 89 points last season and 24 in 18 playoff games. Any contending team thinking of upgrading their 20s would be thrilled if he came available I’m sure.
- F Lane Zablocki: OK they just traded for him, but if things don’t go well before the deadline they could always decide to flip him to a contender to make up the value they traded for him. It’s an option in theory. He’s 19 with 20 points in 33 games and that’s bellow his pace from last season.
- F Tanner Nagel: As a 19-year-old on a team with almost too many he may not be in the plans as an overage next year and his style of game could really help a playoff team. He is a hard-nosed and physical two-way player with heart and grit. He can also stand up for teammates if needed and can chip in a little bit of scoring from a depth line. He had 10 goals last season.
- F Ryan Bowen: Another 19-year-old forward who was hurt most of the year. His offence isn’t where I’m sure they hoped it would be yet… but he missed most of this year so far. Should probably be a 40-50 point guy over a full season.
- F Jake Elmer: Another 19-year-old forward who is having his best season by far in the WHL with 12 goals already and a +10 on a .500 team. Another nice option for forward depth if the Hurricanes are looking to deal with the 98 age group at all.
- D Brennan Riddle: A solid two-way defenceman but at 20 not likely to be a trade target when compared to what else could be out there for the few options.
- D Tate Olson: Interesting player had 47 points two years ago and hasn’t been able to meet that level of offence again since. Still a solid veteran with 9 assists in 23 games and some size to his game. Probably not enough to get much for as a 20 this year.
- D Igog Morezhko: He’s an import so that limits the market somewhat, but Morezhko is a very solid two-way defenceman who could help any team. Would he be an upgrade on the import D-men in Moose Jaw or Regina? Victoria could use an import. Brandon only has one import. The market could be pretty decent for a guy who could play top four on any team I’d think. 14 points in 32 games is not bad after 22 last season.
- D Brady Pouteau: A very solid 19-year-old defensive defenceman who has some size at 6’3 and over 200lbs. Almost any team could slot him in to their lineup and at 19 any team could make room for him. He’d be a desirable asset for sure.
- G Stuart Skinner: Well here is an interesting guy. A player with a high pedigree and NHL drafted with deep playoff experience… but it has been an up and down season for him. There’s a pretty good chance he could be back as a 20-year-old too. Lethbridge also doesn’t have a reasonable option behind him in goal right now. Still his talent level and all-star level playoff performance (0.916 save percentage on a run to the East Final) last season would have to attract attention from teams who need goaltending help or who would also enjoy the flexibility of a 19-year-old starter versus an overage. He could be a player to watch if the Hurricanes do lean at all towards selling.
After being out of the playoffs since their Memorial Cup run there is a great hunger in the Bridge City to get back to the dance. They very much are in the mix with Prince Albert and Regina for the two wild card spots, but with the strength of the East Division this year is the smart move to get the most out of your assets and be ready when the top teams take a step back in the next two years?
- F Cameron Hebig: Maybe the best overage option on the trade market with 26 goals and 21 assists. The fact that an injury kept him out of the lineup all of last season might make a team nervous, but he sure doesn’t seem to be anything short of 100% this season. While there aren’t a ton of landing spots for overage players he would among the very top of the most valuable options. Someone like Regina would I’m sure love to pry him loose.
- F Braylon Shmyr: Another very valuable 20-year-old although probably not quite to the degree of Hebig. 14 goals vs. 26 being the most obvious difference. Shmyr did score 35 last season and has been healthy. Again a good option for anyone looking to upgrade their overage spot. Any 20 is very unlikely for Swift of course.
- D Evan Fiala: Saskatoon’s captain. Hard-nosed 20-year-old defenceman with 8 points. Not a likely trade target as an overage given what’s out there and because of his leadership position.
- F Bradley Goethals: One of six 19-year-olds on the Saskatoon roster so they can’t keep them all next year. One of them is a drafted import (Hayek) so really it’s between the other five. I could see the Blades moving at least one of them to get value from that. Goethals would be attractive to any contender with 19 points in 31 games and a plus player on a minus team. He was a big scorer in Midget AAA, but he has a short WHL resume so far.
- F Gage Ramsay: Another 19-year-old and speed to burn. He has doubled his point production so far this season with 12 in 27 games compared to 14 in 66 last season. Would be a nice third line option for a contender looking for depth and a player would be available to come back next season too.
- F Caleb Fantillo: Another 19-year-old forward with 7 goals in 19 games this season. He was a huge scorer in BC Major Midget at 16. Another reasonable depth option for a contender.
- D Libor Hayek: A legit top pairing defenceman in the WHL and drafted by Tampa Bay. The only thing that would limit his trade value is that he’s an import and so teams have to have either an import spot open or he has to be a significant upgrade on what they have. That could appeal to teams like Victoria, Regina and Moose Jaw in theory. 24 points in 32 games. There will be interested teams.
Just like Saskatoon they are a legit contender for a wild card spot in a very tough East Division. They also look like a really strong team for the next year or two so do they try to maximize what assets they have to improve those clubs? With only three 19-year-olds on the roster there don’t appear to be a ton of trade targets.
- F Curtis Miske: A 20-year-old power forward with 22 points. Could be an option except as we’ve already shown from this exercise there are a lot of overage guys and not a ton of spots to fill.
- F Jordy Stallard: Stallard is also 20, but with 25 goals and 21 assists he falls in the same category as a Cameron Hebig. If Stallard is available there would be teams that would make room for him given he has been an elite forward in the WHL this season.
- F Sean Montgomery: This 19-year-old would be an obvious target for a contender with 17 points and a very solid two-way game. He is also undrafted and likely to return next season on a team with no depth at this age group. It would be hard to imagine PA moving him.
- D Vojtech Budik: A 19-year-old import the destinations are somewhat limited, but he could help any team that has room to add him. He’s a top four defenceman who can play in any situation and battle in the trenches too. I’d expect teams with import holes to push for him.
The Wheat Kings are the 5th best team in the CHL so they aren’t selling. I only bring them up because earlier in the season they were talked about as a potential seller with a lot of young guys on their roster and some premium 19-year-olds in Clague, Kaspick and Lewis to name a few. That dream is dead for any buyers at this point. I don’t know if the Wheat Kings buy hard… but they aren’t sellers.
The Cougars are at the bottom of the WHL Western Conference, but not by a huge margin. GM Todd Harkins said at the end of November that their next 12 games would likely decide their path. After buying hard at the deadline last year it might make sense for them to recoup some of those assets in a down year. However, they are only five points out of a playoff spot and that is difficult to turn your back on given the revenue that can come from playoffs.
- F Josh Curtis: 15 points in 34 games for the 19-year-old. He’s not an NHL drafted guy and doesn’t look likely to turn pro at 20 so the Cougars may want to keep him for next season too. That said they have six 1998 born players and can only keep three of them next season. Cholowski and Anderson will likely turn pro so they still have one they could trade.
- F Brogan O’Brien: He’s a 20-year-old and has a TBD injury so probably not on the market given his injury situation.
- F Nic Holowko: As a 20-year-old who left Kamloops for school and now has joined PG instead I think if he was a trade commodity he would have been moved sooner. Likely stays.
- F Jared Bethune: A 20-year-old scoring LW with 29 points so far this season. Add him to the list of potentially available overage players for the few teams that have a hole to fill in that department.
- F Aaron Boyd: Similar to Bethune except he doesn’t have as much of a track record. 22 points in 30 games this season almost match his previous career high of 24. Not likely to move.
- F Kody McDonald: The 19-year-old forward is probably a very attractive target in the trade market. PG is also likely inclined to keep him. He’s not drafted and they could be counting on him to lead the way for them next season. He’s big, at times physical and producing at a top line level with 28 points in 31 games. The question for PG will be is the return worth losing him for next season and how much of a risk is there that he could sign somewhere as a free agent and turn pro like a Lane Pederson or Reid Gardiner for example… and you’d lose him for nothing. I suspect teams are calling.
- D Joel Lakusta: 6’2 19-year-old defenceman who has nearly matched his career high in points with 10 already this season. Don’t know a lot about him to be honest. Was a +15 last season on a good team but -10 this season on one that has struggled. Could be a depth piece, but the Cougars may want him as a 20.
- D Dennis Cholowski: A 19-year-old defenceman and first round pick of the Detroit Red Wings. Despite being named captain of the Cougars this season he is likely a one-and-done WHL player. 27 points in 31 games and +3 on a team well bellow .500. Got invited to Team Canada’s camp before being cut. If the Cougars make him available he will likely be one of the most desired trade assets in the WHL. Would sure look great in Swift Current’s top four… but that price is probably very high if he is on the market at all.
- D Josh Anderson: Another NHL drafted 19-year-old defenceman, but a very different style. At 6’3 and 220lbs he is a bruising and physical shut down type defender. Again if he is made available there will be a lot of interest from almost any contender… I would think again the Broncos would be interested. If the Cougars deal their two drafted 19-year-olds they could get quite a haul back I would think. This will be a team a lot of people are watching.
- G Tavin Grant: A 19-year-old goaltender with a solid 0.905 save percentage. I guess in theory a team like Regina with a 20-year-old goalie who wanted to open up an overage slot could look to someone like Grant. Otherwise I doubt he’s on the market.
The Blazers looked like an obvious seller after losing their first nine games. Now they’re right back in the mix after a terrific run of hockey. So do they still sell because they don’t see this year as their year? Does a Memorial Cup bid in 2020 influence their decision to build around that timeline? Or do they see this recent push as a reason to stick with their guns and make a decent run at it?
- F Nick Chyzowski: The 20-year-old captain in Kamloops with 28 points in 34 games. Again add him to the mix of potential available but unlikely to move 20s.
- F Quinn Benjafield: One of five 19-year-olds on the Kamloops roster so in theory a couple of them could go. However, Pilon is signed and Vala is an import so it’s really more like three. No need to move him. 42 points last season and 21 in 31 games this season so he would fit in nicely in a depth scoring role on any contender if they could pry him loose.
- F Luc Smith: 21 points in 32 points for the 6’5 19-year-old former Regina Pat. Can play up the middle or on the wing. Again Kamloops is probably penciling him in as a 20-year-old next season… but that doesn’t mean the right offer couldn’t get him. Certainly would be an asset for any contending team.
- F Jermaine Loewen: Another 19-year-old big forward. At 6’4 and 220lbs he has size and has passed his career highs in all offensive categories with 26 points in 28 games. 15 of those points are goals. Not to be repetitive but he is again someone they likely have pencilled in for next season so he wouldn’t come cheap if at all.
- F Garrett Pilon: There wouldn’t be a contender in the WHL who would turn their nose up at getting Pilon. He can do it all. Gritty, fast, scoring ability, can play centre or wing, can QB a power play from the point, has 40 points in 34 games and as a signed NHL prospect is likely a pure rental. If Kamloops doesn’t trade him they are serious about trying to have at least some playoff success. The return for him could really help them start building the 2020 roster. Is it worth noting he’s from Saskatchewan?
- D Joe Gatenby: 20-year-old defenceman who is having an excellent season by the numbers. 28 points in 34 games and +10. My exposure to him is somewhat limited, but if a team was looking for an overage D-man he would be among the better ones.
- D Brady Reagan: Overage defenceman who is a stay at home type at 6’3 and 200lbs. Waived earlier this year so probably not a huge trade market for him because he would fill at 20-year-old slot.
- G Dylan Ferguson: NHL drafted 19-year-old goalie had a slow start and has been very good since returning from an emergency NHL call-up. He could be back as a 20, but even a slim possibility of losing him to the pro ranks could encourage Kamloops to see what the market is for him. Any contender unsure about their goaltending would do well to check in on him for sure.
Everything I hear is that if anything Vancouver is going to make an addition. They are only 3 points out of the division lead and trending in the right direction. I can’t imagine them selling at this point after several years of struggles. If they did the likes of Ronning, Benson and Barberis would obviously attract many suitors.
Tied for first in the BC Division and having added Noah Gregor they don’t look remotely like a seller. However, they added Kade Jensen from Brandon when Regan Nagy got hurt. One of their overage guys will have to go if Nagy comes back healthy. If Nagy is available he would surely be of interest to one of the teams looking to upgrade 20s and Victoria could in theory use those assets they get for Nagy to upgrade in another way. That or they could see if there’s another home for Jensen.
After back-to-back trips to the WHL final and a championship last season a step back was somewhat inevitable. Seattle is also very much in the playoff hunt so they don’t need to sell by any means. They may want to in order to recoup some assets they traded away in recent years and to maximize their roster’s value. Seattle has seven 1998 born players. If they aren’t going to make a playoff push they would likely do well to cull that a little bit in what would be a nice market for selling.
- F Blake Bargar: after not being much of a point producer in his career so far the 19-year-old forward has 14 in 33 games and is an even player on a minus team. Bargar also happens to be a former Moose Jaw Warrior. Could be a nice depth forward for someone.
- D Austin Strand: He’d be as good an addition as an overage defenceman out there. He has a terrific playoff for Seattle last year and is a point-per-game player so far this season. Again there are only so many possible landing spots for overage players, but Strand would be high on anyone’s list.
- D Turner Ottenbreit: Another overage defenceman and team captain any contender with room would surely love to have. At 6’4 he is a physical force and was +18 in the playoffs last season. Also has added to his offence this season with 18 points in 24 games.
- D Aaron Hyman: At 6’5 and 220lbs and 19-year-old he would be a nice add for any contender. Hyman won’t put up big offensive numbers, but he is a positive force in his own zone. Seems like a playoff type player.
- F Noah Philp: The 19-year-old already has a career high in points at 21 in 33 games this season. He’s still a minus player, but that number is much improved from his time in Kootenay last season. Again a good depth option if the Thunderbirds want to deal with their 1998 situation.
- F Donovan Neuls: Another 20-year-old player with top six forward numbers and playoff experience. Add him to the long list of potential overage options. He’d be in that second tier of those options.
- F Zack Andrusiak: Where did he come from this season? Andrusiak hadn’t had a productive offensive run in the WHL or BCHL before exploding this season with 17 goals and 13 assists already. He had shown offensive flare in Junior B, but this is the first indication of it in a big way at this level. He’s a 19-year-old and would likely be a 20-year-old in the WHL next season so it would be an interesting bet. Would a team pay what you normally would for a point per game 19-year-old when this is his first season at that offensive level? Seattle may feel like they have found money here and want to keep him next season too. An intriguing scoring option.
- F Nolan Volcan: One of Seattle’s best players. Volcan has 36 points in 33 games and can play in any situation. He brings a lot to the table as a 19-year-old and Seattle may be very hesitant to let him go. He’s not drafted so the only way they lose him is if he signs as a free agent in the NHL and plays AHL next season. That is possible with the step he took this year. Seattle might want to avoid any chance of losing him for nothing. There could be conditional picks involved for a 19-year-old like him based on whether or not he returns to the league at 20. Again any contender would love to add a player like Volcan.
- G Matt Berlin: Decent 0.894 save percentage for a 19-year-old goalie. Not likely an upgrade for any top team looking for goaltending help unless they want a reliable veteran backup.
- F Mike McLean: Not sure much about him he has only played two WHL games. At 6’6 and over 220lbs with over 100 minutes in penalties for Lloydminster in the AJHL this season I would assume you’re talking about a physical depth player. Possible enforcer type? I don’t know if they’re likely to trade someone they just added, but there might be a contending team who feels like they need some size for the playoff wars.
Spokane sits in a playoff position at the moment and made a big move to get Zach Fischer early this season. That would make you think they aren’t sellers. However, the US Division is pretty strong this season and the market for selling could be pretty strong. Could that entice Spokane to consider it if they go in a post-Christmas slump?
- F Zach Fischer: Despite trading significant assets to get him earlier this season… Spokane could decide to move him if they decide they are a seller. He’s a point per game offensive threat with a significant physical edge to him. Fischer had 7 goals in 11 playoff games for Medicine Hat last season too. Again the issue becomes how many teams have room to add a 20-year-old and does that dilute the market?
- F Kailer Yamamoto: Here is the wild card. It would be awfully tough to trade away a Spokane grown superstar. However, he’s at least AHL bound next season and could offer a huge potential return. One question is what has happened to him since coming back from the NHL? He has only 2 goals in 13 games. I’d consider it just a slump for a player with 42 goals last season and obviously great offensive instincts. Yamamoto still has 12 points so he hasn’t been completely off. A first round draft pick 19-year-old with his level of skill should fetch at least a first round pick and a high-end young player. That might be tough to resist for a team sitting in wild card territory.
- F Riley Woods: The 19-year-old has been a really nice addition for Spokane actually outscoring the guy he was traded for (Wyatt Sloboshan) since the deal. He has 30 points this season and a total of 51 in 68 games with Spokane. The Chiefs have five 1998 born players, but they know they won’t have Yamamoto back next season. Woods is probably a guy they want to keep for next year too so the price would be high.
- F Hudson Elynuik: Another one of those first tier overage forwards. If Spokane decided to sell he’d be right there with Estephan and Hebig as one of those top end potentially available 20-year-olds. 46 points in 33 games after 73 in 64 last season. He could help any team that has room for an upgrade.
- D Jeff Faith: A 19-year-old defenceman. 6’4 nearly 200lbs and mainly a defensive guy. He has more than doubled his points from last season so that area of his game has improved. Probably someone they would plan to keep next season though.
- D Tyson Helgeson: Overage defenceman who plays a solid game and can help out a little bit offensively. Probably not an option in this overage market anyway, but a nice player to have.
- D Nolan Reid: The 19-year-old former Saskatoon Blade is having a breakout season with 24 points in 34 games and a +9. He would also fetch quite a price for Spokane if they went down this road.
- D Dalton Hamaliuk: Another 19-year-old defensive defenceman. I don’t know much about him. Seems like a depth guy.
They appear to be a playoff team not far out of first place with games in hand. Same number of points as Spokane, but in a slightly better position in the standings. I don’t see them as realistic sellers at all. Guys like Geekie, Coghlan and Topping would fetch a significant haul if they ever were though. Highly unlikely.
I mention Everett only because of the never-ending Carter Hart rumours. They are first place in the Western Conference at this point so I see it as a very minute possibility. When the Silvertips had their slow start fans were naturally speculating about Hart, Bajkov, Fonteyne, Richards, Davis, etc. The only way I could see things opening up for Everett players is if their management feels they are too reliant on Hart to really have a deep playoff run and the offer they get for him is too huge to resist. Teams in first place usually don’t go that way though. Hart would be an instant game changer for anyone given how he is easily the best goalie in the CHL so far this season.
After all that who are the most likely players to move? I don’t have a crystal ball and all I could do is offer an educated guess at this point. If I were to guess the most likely impact players to move would be…
- Jake Bean (CAL) – possible destinations include any contender. I hear a lot of noise around Portland, but he was rumoured to go to four different East Division destinations at different times this season. He won’t come cheap, but Calgary will not miss this opportunity either.
- Josh Anderson and Dennis Cholowski (PG) – Given the prices PG paid to chase contention last season I don’t think they will pass on the opportunity to recoup some of those assets with two of the most desirable players on the market. They would both be 20-25 minute defencemen in any team’s top four and they are both very likely to play in the AHL next season. I don’t think the Cougars can afford not to explore that market. I bet the Broncos would love either of these guys.
- Cameron Hebig and Libor Hayek (SAS) – The Blades are very close to the playoffs, but it is 50/50 with Prince Albert right now and the winner of that race gets Moose Jaw, Swift Current or Brandon in the first round. After a serious commitment to a rebuilding process can they afford to not maximize the value of these two high-end players before they graduate? I think if they move it’s late before the deadline… but I have a feeling they will move. Regina would be a logical candidate if they could come up with the right assets. You could make a similar argument for Stallard and Budik from PA.
- Garrett Pilon (KAM) – The Blazers want to host the 2020 Memorial Cup and Pilon is gone after this season. I think they can still be in the playoff mix even if they do move him and I think losing him for nothing when they aren’t really a championship contender would be too big of a blow to the 2020 build. There would be no lack of interest that’s for sure. He’s another guy that could be a great fit here.
From a Swift Current perspective I always have my eye on Seattle. The two clubs have had a great working relationship for a long time now and always seem to find a way to make a deal. The fact that the Broncos weren’t contending when Seattle was two years ago really opened the door to more of that. Swift Current still has Khaira, Elder and Wight to show for their dealings with the Thunderbirds. Seattle doesn’t look like a contender this season and has a glut of 19-year-olds. Could Hyman, Volcan, Andrusiak, Bargar or Philp be the type of depth additions the Broncos need to fill out an already strong roster?
What do the Broncos have to offer? Any number of high-end prospects and picks of course. Recent first round picks or young guys on the roster plus draft picks. Given the significant move they made in adding Gennaro and Malenstyn I would think they aren’t afraid of another significant move. They already know there is going to likely be some rebuilding in the next year or two. In that context it is reasonable to consider moving more current pieces like this year’s 1st round pick or some of their recent draft picks. What Broncos fans will likely want to see them avoid is trading first round picks in either 2019 or 2020. If the team is going to take a step back in those seasons you don’t want to lose the pick that would be the reward for a down season. Ideally. You also don’t get many chances to truly contend for a Memorial Cup. I wouldn’t blame them for doing everything they could this season to take that shot.
The sad thing is that one of Moose Jaw, Brandon or Swift Current will (most likely) be a first round exit. There’s no fairness in that, but hockey isn’t fair.
I went over a lot of players in this post. I think most of those teams are still very much question marks. Calgary is the only team that has really significantly sold with Kootenay close behind them. Red Deer and Edmonton would seem to be logical sellers too except they don’t have obvious targets. Prince George seems like a team that should sell and Seattle should probably address their 1998s. Those choices seem logical and yet all of them could make an argument they are still in playoff contention except maybe Edmonton. Calgary and Red Deer are only 7 and 6 points out. In the Western Conference no one is even close to out of it. Teams have a hard time really gutting their roster when even a hope of playoffs is still in front of them. A lot of teams only have room for 19-year-old players or younger and sellers don’t necessarily want to deal away guys that would be key parts of their team next season. That could mean slim pickings and very high prices. It could also mean teams are really going to have to get creative in making hockey deals that aren’t obvious buying or selling. It should be an interesting few weeks.
What do you think?