The Victoria Royals have completed some big trades over their nine-year history in the Western Hockey League (WHL). The team has been in the position as “buyers” — loading up for a playoff run — as well as “sellers” — honouring players wishes to pursue the Memorial Cup chase elsewhere. In other instances, a trade is an opportunity to look for a better roster fit. Here are the top five biggest trades completed by the Victoria Royals.
5. Haden Brings the Goals to Victoria
In one of the more shocking big trades, the Royals flipped the switch just prior to the 2019 training camp and swung a deal with the Saskatoon Blades. Victoria acquired centre Gary Haden, the rights to then unsigned prospect Riley Gannon, a fourth-round pick in the 2022 WHL Bantam Draft and a conditional pick from the Saskatoon Blades. Going to Saskatoon was defenceman Scott Walford, a seventh-round draft pick in 2020 and a conditional pick to the Blades.
At the time, the move was surprising in that Walford was expected to be a big part of that season’s team, to the point the Royals even had pre-arranged a bobble-head night for the 20-year-old. However, the team made the move to bring in Haden for some offensive help.
“With the strong group of defencemen coming to camp this year, it is the offensive side of our game that we felt needed addressing,” said then Royals’ president and general manager Cameron Hope in a team release.
Haden indeed did help the Royals’ offense in the 2019-20 season, scoring 25 goals while adding 30 assists. The clutch forward from Airdrie, AB was on pace for his best season in the WHL before his junior career was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nanaimo, BC product Riley Gannon would also sign and join the Royals, playing in 52 games in his first WHL season.
4. Acquiring Travis Brown at the Deadline
Just days prior to another WHL trade deadline, on Jan. 6, 2014, Victoria acquired Travis Brown from the Moose Jaw Warriors. To get the much sought after defencemen, the Royals gave up a pair of third-round WHL Bantam Draft picks, a conditional pick and the rights to then unsigned 15-year-old forward Noah Gregor. The trade wouldn’t be the last Victoria saw of Gregor, as he made his way back to the team in 2018 for a playoff run. As for the picks in the deal, Moose Jaw selected Braden Watts in 2014 with the third-round pick from Victoria, while trading away the 2016 third-round pick.
At the time of the trade, Brown led the Warriors in points and was with the top point producers in the WHL among defencemen.
Brown was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fifth round, 149th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft and would add some skill to the blue line for Victoria. In 99 regular-season games with the Royals, the product of Winnipeg, MB would put up 72 points (23 goals, 49 assists)
3. Giving Up Some Thunder to Rebuild
Future Royals’ captain Jordan Fransoo was part of a blockbuster 2012 trade with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Victoria sent their all-star, 19-year-old centre Kevin Sundher, an offensive threat who at the time of the trade, had 22 goals and 64 points in 40 games with the Royals. Sundher delighted first-year Victoria WHL fans with highlight-reel goals, followed by the in-house crack of “thunder” which was played during the announcement.
Brandon seemed poised for a big playoff run in 2012 and landed Sundher at the price of Fransoo, Dakota Conroy and a first-round bantam draft pick that became career Royals defenceman Chaz Reddekopp.
Fransoo was a seventh-round pick of the 2011 NHL draft by Ottawa Senators, and while that opportunity did not work out, he was a key member of the Royals. In 150 regular-season games, the defenceman put up 39 points and was the team’s leader during his 20-yr-old final season in 2013-14.
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With the first-round pick acquired in the trade, Victoria added Reddekopp, who would go onto play 280 games with the Royals while adding 134 points over that span. Like Fransoo, Reddekopp was a key member of the Royals’ leadership and in retrospect, swung the deal largely in favour of Victoria.
2. All In for Tracey and Evanoff
Brayden Tracey was arguably the biggest prize made available at the 2020 WHL trade deadline and seemingly out of nowhere the Royals swooped in and landed the talented forward. The 18-year-old forward was selected 29th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2019 NHL draft and was the 2018-19 WHL Rookie of the year.
In addition to Tracey, there was a staggering amount of pieces involved in the deal. Also from the Moose Jaw Warriors, Victoria acquired goaltender Adam Evanoff, a fourth-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and a fifth-round selection in 2023. Heading to Moose Jaw, Victoria sent forward Logan Doust, defenceman Nolan Jones, goaltender Brock Gould, a third-round-selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and Victoria’s first-round pick in 2021, as well as second and fourth-round picks in 2022.
The price was steep for the Royals, but with the addition of Tracey, Victoria went “all-in” for a playoff push. While that 2019-20 season ended abruptly due to the pandemic, the lengthy layoff could benefit Tracey. He remains a valuable asset available to Victoria for the next two years.
He started the season off with a bang, scoring nine goals and 11 assists in 11 games, but suffered a couple of injuries this season and you could tell he struggled with them after he returned. With an early offseason, he should be able to completely recover and come back stronger for the start of the 2020-21 season.Lucas Main – Dobberprospects.com
Evanoff instantly became a key part of this deal as he was placed into the starter’s role in net due to an injury to Shane Farkas. Coming off a year of surgery and recovery, Evanoff proved to be a workhorse in 2019-20, playing in 45 games split between the Warriors and Royals. The Pentiction, BC native steadied the ship in the Royals’ goal after the big loss of Farkas, and allowed the team to stay in the division title hunt.
1. Captain Kaspick Comes to Victoria
The biggest trade in Victoria Royals’ history came at the trade deadline in 2018 when the team landed the Brandon Wheat Kings captain Tanner Kaspick. Although only one of many deals that deadline by the Royals, it was a massive one.
In the deal, the Royals acquired Kaspick and the rights to unsigned prospect Cameron MacDonald. The payment was steep — a pair of first-round picks (2019 & 2021) and at the time unsigned prospects Jonny Lambos and Ty Thorpe, both former third-round bantam picks by the Royals.
Kaspick brought to the Royals a dynamic of winning, leadership and experience to a loaded Victoria roster. During the 2015-16 season, Kaspick registered 30 points (12 goals-18 assists) to help the Wheat Kings capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL Champions. The forward from Brandon, MB was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the fourth round, 119th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and also signed to a three-year entry-level deal with the Blues.
In Victoria, Kaspick joined standout teammates Matthew Phillips, Dante Hannoun, Noah Gregor, Tyler Soy and Jeff de Wit to form arguably the deepest forward roster in franchise history.
The 2018 playoff run would stall after a seven-game, first-round series versus the Vancouver Giants took a toll on the Royals. Multiple injuries, including a season-ending upper-body blow to Kaspick, would decimate the lineup, and Victoria would fall in a four-game sweep to the Tri-City Americans in the second round.
Wheeling and Dealing
While the Victoria Royals are never a club to make a trade haphazardly, few teams are in sports, they have never shied away to making adjustments to help their club. Whether it be moving stars to restock the roster with promising youth, or loading up for a playoff push, the Royals have pulled the trigger on some big trades. Remarkably, in their nine-year history as a franchise in Victoria, they have yet to miss the playoffs. The wheeling and dealing over the years has not negatively hurt them as they pursued postseason success.
Following the Victoria Royals since their first game in 2011, and witnessed the last season of the Victoria Cougars in 1994 at the old Memorial Arena. Ryan is a Northern Manitoba transplant who is now fortunate to call Vancouver Island home