Despite a flurry of moves in the Western Hockey League on trade deadline day, the Prince Albert Raiders played it quiet and stayed off the buying and selling market.
The deadline was 4 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 10, but Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt and his team of coaches and scouts made their final move on Monday evening, capping off what was a busy week for the P.A. junior hockey club.
The roster moves started on Tuesday, Jan. 2.
Prince Albert traded for 20-year-old winger Regan Nagy from the Victoria Royals. Nagy was born in Ogema, Sask.
In return, the Raiders sent the rights to 2017 draftee Hunter Strand to the Royals, along with sixth and 10th-round picks in the 2018 WHL bantam draft and a third-round pick in the 2019 draft.
On Thursday, Jan. 4, the club made another deal with the Royals.
The Raiders acquired 18-year-old defenceman Jeremy Masella in exchange for fourth-line forward D-Jay Jerome.
Listed at 6 feet, 5 inches and weighing 214 pounds, Masella is in his second season in the WHL: He played in 28 games for the Royals last year and 38 games so far this season.
Through those 38 games, Masella has scored seven points, courtesy three goals and four assists. He has a cumulative plus-3 rating so far this year.
The team continued with some busy roster moves over the weekend.
In compliance with league rules that allow for only three healthy (non-injured) 20-year-old skaters, the Raiders cut centreman Devon Skoleski on Saturday.
The team’s acquisition of fellow 20-year-old forward Nagy made Skoleski the odd man out. The Raiders’ three 20-year-old skaters are now Nagy, captain Curtis Miske and points leader Jordy Stallard.
The Raiders also announced a multi-player trade with the Prince George Cougars on Saturday.
The club acquired 19-year-old centreman Kody McDonald from the Cougars and a conditional third or fourth-round pick in the 2018 WHL bantam draft.
In exchange, the Cougars received defencemen Rhett Rhinehart and Austin Crossley, along with P.A.’s first-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft.
The Raiders still own the Cougars’ first-round pick in this year’s WHL bantam draft.
On Sunday night, the Raiders traded for 2000-born defenceman Konrad Belcourt with the Kelowna Rockets.
In return, the Raiders sent a fifth-round pick and an eighth-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Rockets.
In his rookie season last year with the British Columbia team, Belcourt played 44 games.
Through 20 games this season, the 16-year-old has three points from one goal and two assists.
He also dressed in eight playoff games for the Rockets last season.
On Monday evening, the Raiders traded goalie Nicholas Sanders to the Calgary Hitmen for a sixth-round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt spoke with the media on Wednesday afternoon after the deadline had passed, emphasizing that his club made the exact moves it intended.
Unlike the WHL’s other East division teams who traded away draft picks to bolster their offensive and defensive units – Swift Current, Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw – Hunt said he and the Raiders aren’t concerned with their opponents’ moves.
“We’re on a plan, on a program here … We’ve lost 12 out of 17 one-goal games.
“We’re a better team (post-deadline); we’re better in the middle,” he said.
“Kody McDonald is a 60 per cent faceoff guy as it is. He’s going to give us (puck) possession right away, which is something we probably didn’t have enough of before.”
As for the team’s new 20-year-old forward, Hunt said Nagy will be counted on for leadership and for his scoring touch.
“He’s a big heavy player in terms of how he plays. He’s got a great shot and release … the expectation is for him to provide some leadership as a 20-year-old player.
But also, he’s got the ability to score. It is a special knack that not every player has – that poise and that confidence in and around the net.”
On the defensive side, Hunt said he likes Belcourt’s speed and puck-moving abilities.
The addition of Belcourt gives the Raiders six healthy defencemen, until the injured Sergei Sapego returns to the line-up.
Hunt said the tight numbers on defence aren’t a concerning factor, because of the affiliate and call-up players the Raiders can use, some of who already have logged decent ice time.
“We have Tyler Lowe (currently playing with the Lloydminster Bobcats in the Alberta Junior Hockey League).
“And Adam Herold, who’s captaining the Regina Pat Canadians right now. It’s his ability and his play along with (2017 first overall draft pick) Kaiden Guhle that affords us to move a guy like Rhinehart and hopefully not miss a beat,” he said.
Overall, after the trade deadline passed, “I didn’t see any need for us to chase anything else.”
“It’s in our hands. We need to play the games, that’s why we play them. We’re a better team and we’re excited to move forward, regardless of what anybody else does.”
The Raiders (15-18-6-2) are next in action Friday at home against the visiting Swift Current Broncos (29-10-3-0). Game time is 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
The Raiders remain seven points back of the Saskatoon Blades and eight points back of the Regina Pats for one of the two wildcard spots up for grabs for this year’s WHL playoffs.
BANTAM DRAFT PICKS
The Raiders have nearly a full roster of bantam draft picks remaining in this year’s and next year’s drafts, according to the WHL bantam draft database at dubnetwork.ca.
For 2018, Prince Albert has a draft pick in every round, except for round 3 and round 10, but it has two picks in round 6.
In 2019, the club has draft picks in every round, except for round 5 and round 7, but it has two picks in round 6.