With the dust still settling from an unprecedented Western Hockey League trade deadline, we got our first look at new faces in their new places this weekend.
It was a deadline that saw over 50 players change sweaters, and never have we seen the high prices paid as we did last week. There was a lot of talk about who won and who lost at the deadline, but we finally got to see what all these teams looked like on the ice.
There were some early big returns as the new guys wasted no time endearing themselves to their new clubs.
Here’s all the latest from the week that was in the WHL.
The Beasts in the East
In the Eastern Division, the Regina Pats were one of the big buyers at the deadline. They won both of their games over the weekend with new goalie Ryan Kubic in net. Newly acquired Jesse Gabrielle potted two goals in a Saturday night win over Calgary and has four points since joining the Pats. Regina has won seven of its last ten games and is starting to reel in the Brandon Wheat Kings for third place in the division by ending the weekend nine points behind.
Swift Current were also players at the deadline and new goalie Stuart Skinner has been impressive since joining the Broncos. He’s won both games with his new team and picked up his fifth shutout of the year by white washing Prince Albert on Friday night. Giorgio Estephan was Swift Current’s other big pick up at the deadline and he chipped in a goal during the Bronco’s 9-1 pounding of Edmonton on Saturday evening.
The Moose Jaw Warriors were quieter at the deadline but did pull off an expensive deal to get Los Angeles Kings prospect Kale Clague in a trade with Brandon. Clague chipped in with an assist in each of the three games he played with Moose Jaw over the weekend and was plus-4. The Warriors have won nine of their last 10 games and maintain their healthy 10-point lead in the division and conference.
Silvertips Get Early Pay off from Garret Pilon
The U.S. Division saw a bit of an arms race as well during the deadline as three top contenders have emerged. The Everett Silvertips made the biggest splash and made several moves. Most notable among those was picking up Pilon and Ondrej Vala from Kamloops. Pilon, a Washington Capitals draft pick, made an impact over the weekend.
He potted three goals for his second hat trick of the year during a big division win in Spokane on Saturday and finished the weekend with a third-period, go-ahead goal against the Tri-City Americans. That win put the Silvertips two points up on the Portland Winterhawks for first place in the division.
FIVE TO TWO
PILON HAT TRICK
HART 31 SAVES
THAT'S A FINAL!!! pic.twitter.com/iY0ucRXHcx
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) January 14, 2018
Portland added to its roster at the deadline by picking up former Detroit first-round pick, Dennis Cholowski, from Prince George, while Tri-City added Jake Bean to its back end. All these moves are setting up an exciting final stretch run in the division as any of these teams could land on top.
A Vancouver Giants Resurgence
Its been a while since the Vancouver Giants have made any noise in the WHL. They’ve missed the playoffs for the past three seasons haven’t advanced past the first round since 2010. That all may be changing this year.
Vancouver has not lost in regulation over its last nine games, winning seven times over that stretch. They ended the weekend just one point out of the B.C. Division’s top spot, trailing the Kelowna Rockets. Ty Ronning, a New York Rangers prospect, is having a monster year and has already set a new career high in goals with 41 lamps lit.
One of the biggest reasons for Vancouver’s reemergence as a contender may be the return of Tyler Benson. The former top bantam pick, and Edmonton Oiler second rounder, has been plagued by injuries throughout his junior career. He was only able to get into 63 games over the past two seasons combined and started this year on the shelf with another injury.
He’s healthy now though.
The WHL doesn’t have a comeback player of the year award but if it did, Benson would be the hand’s down winner. In 32 games this year, he’s potted 17 goals and 41 points for the Giants. Third year goalie David Tendeck has also been solid for the Giants. He’s posted a career best goals-against-average (2.93) and save-percentage (.911) while posting 17 wins.
It looks like this year there will finally be a playoff series to play in the Langley Events Centre.
Stat Line of the Week
Everett’s Matt Fonteyne set a franchise record Monday evening during the Silvertips 6-5 win over Tri-City. The Witaskiwin, Alberta product notched five assists, setting the new mark. He’s having a career year so far for Everett with 25 goals and 34 assists and is one of the Silvertips key players up front.