Last year, the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels hosted the Memorial Cup tournament – which gave the WHL a pair of spots in the annual event. As expected, the league’s January trade deadline was chaotic. This season’s may have topped it, as a lack of a single clear front-runner in either of the league’s conferences have made the 2017 trade deadline rather active and tumultuous.
Now that the dust has settled, here are five teams that did the most to help themselves at the WHL’s trade deadline.
The Central Division champions from last year are looking to make up for a disappointing playoff performance. Currently in the second Central Division playoff spot, they added five roster players and a prospect at the deadline: 1997-born forward Alec Baer, a pair of 1998-born defenders in Brady Pouteau & Kyle Yewchuk, overage forwards Zak Zborosky & Matt Alfaro, and prospect Carson Dyck. The bolstering of their depth came at the price of four players (Ryley Lindgren, Brett Davis, Colton Kroeker and Shaun Dosanjh) as well as a bunch of 2018 bantam draft choices. It’s a calculated risk for the Hurricanes, who began tinkering early in the year when they swapped Brayden Burke for Ryan Bowen.
Moose Jaw Warriors
Sitting second in the East Division at the deadline, the Warriors made a couple significant deals. They shipped out import Nikita Popugaev and Brayden Watts, but they were able to add five players (Spencer Bast, Thomas Foster, Yan Khomenko, Branden Klatt and Justin Almeida) to their earlier addition of Brayden Burke. It appears that Tim Hunter’s club is aiming for a depth approach to their post-season run. They gave up arguably the most firepower of any team in the WHL at the deadline, but you could also argue that they made themselves a more well-rounded hockey club.
Prince George Cougars
This year’s version of the Lethbridge Hurricanes – a previously-bad club that saw a big resurgence in 2015-16 – the Cougars seem to think this season is their best shot at at a WHL championship. They’re probably not wrong, as it’s easily the best season they’ve had in nearly 20 years. In keeping with that, they’ve amplified their previous addition of Brendan Guhle with trades for Nikita Popugaev, Radovan Bondra and Tanner Wishnowski. They cost themselves some youth and a bunch of bantam selections, but the Cougars have pushed their chips to the middle of the table and are clearly all-in this year.
Red Deer Rebels
A year after going all-in at the trade deadline in an effort to bolster themselves for a Memorial Cup appearance, the Rebels were again busy at this year’s deadline. Rather than loading up, the Rebels made a series of smart tweaks that should keep them in the playoff mix for awhile. They added overage forward Austin Glover, ’98-born forward Lane Zablocki and defenseman Brandon Schuldhaus, as well as 2000-born forward Dawson Barteaux and a future first round pick in the bantam draft. It cost them some significant pieces, such as Austin Strand, Joshua Mahura and Jeff de Wit, but Brent Sutter’s club made some smart hockey trades that allows them to hedge their bets on this season without impacting their competitiveness down the stretch.
Currently in first place in the East Division, the Pats made some moves to bolster their lineup in the short term. They added ’97-born forward Wyatt Sloboshan and a trio of ’98-born players in forward Jeff de Wit and defensemen Dawson Davidson and Joshua Mahura. It cost them six players and some high picks, which will likely impact their depth down the road but is a strong indication that they want to make noise in the Eastern Conference this season.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.