Having made a splash last week by acquiring overage forward Dante Hannoun from the Victoria Royals, Prince Albert Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt went about addressing the team’s depth Thursday.
In a trio of transactions on trade deadline day in the Western Hockey League, the Raiders acquired 17-year-old forward Bryce Bader from the Calgary Hitmen, 18-year-old defenceman Loeden Schaufler from the Seattle Thunderbirds and 17-year-old goaltender Boston Bilous from the Edmonton Oil Kings.
“I think the deadline went as we expected it to,” Hunt said.
“We’ve had a phenomenal first half here and we were able to add some speed to our lineup with the trade on Jan. 4. Then today we got a little younger in net with the addition of a really good player, plus we added some grit and enthusiasm to our lineup with two new guys that are looking for a fresh start.”
In Bader, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta., the Raiders acquired a forward who was a second round pick in the 2016 WHL Draft and has four goals in 10 games so far his rookie campaign.
“He’s a physical player that plays heavy and he’s been on quite a little run here lately as we’ve gone through this process,” Hunt said. “He’s someone we’ve watched close over the last couple of weeks, especially as we looked to add a younger forward to our lineup after trading Carson Miller, and we feel he adds something a littlie different to our lineup to our skill set.”
In addition to swapping conditional sixth round picks, the Raiders also dealt away the rights to 17-year-old forward Quinn Olson.
A sixth round pick in the 2016 WHL Draft by the Raiders, the Calgary product has put up 95 points in 94 games with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers over the last two years and has committed to the NCAA’s Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
“We felt like we gave Quinn a fair opportunity to join our club,” Hunt said. “He’s a good young player and if Calgary can get him signed, all the power to them as that adds another talent to our league.
“What was key for us with the trades today is that we didn’t have to lose anyone out of our lineup, which was important as we want to keep our group of young guys together here.”
Schaufler, who was acquired for an eighth round pick in 2019, has recorded two assists in 21 games this year with the Thunderbirds and the Kootenay Ice.
The DeWinton, Alta. product had six assists in 32 contests last season during his first campaign in the WHL.
“He’s a guy that got caught in the numbers game in Kootenay and ended up being in a similar spot in Seattle,” Hunt said.
“He’s a bit of a wild card as he’s someone that was a third round pick a couple of years ago. We really liked what we saw out of him when we scouted him in a game against Kamloops recently. He’s a strong kid and can see the ice really well.”
Bilous, who was dealt by the Oil Kings for a conditional sixth round pick in 2022, has a 3-4-1 record this year with a 3.56 goals against average, an .859 save percentage and a shutout.
The Langley, B.C. product, who was once committed to the NCAA’s Denver Pioneers, is also a ‘C’ listed prospect by NHL Central Scouting and is projected by them to be a fourth to sixth round pick at the NHL Draft in Vancouver this June.
“That was a trade that was part now and part future,” Hunt said. “He had a tough season last year as a rookie and then he ended up being caught in a log jam in goal there with two older guys (Dylan Myskiw and Todd Scott) in front of him and a young guy (Sebastian Cossa) also on the team.
“He reminds me a lot of ‘Scotty’ (Ian Scott) when he was that age. He’s raw and has a lot of talent, and I think have the chance to work with (head coach) Marc (Habscheid), our goaltending coach Mike Brodeur and Ian will really help reach the potential that many have had him pegged for.”
In addition to the trades, the Raiders also parted ways with 18-year-old blueliner Lane Kirk and 18-year-old goaltender Donovan Buskey Thursday.
Kirk, who has missed the entire season due to injury, will now head back to the MJHL for his third campaign with the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders.
Buskey, who had a 9-1-0 record this year with a 3.15 goals against average and an .870 save percentage after being acquired from the Spokane Chiefs in the pre-season, has joined the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters.
It was a much different trade deadline across the league this year compared the arms race in 2018, especially as signed 15-year-old and 16-year-old players can no longer be traded.
As a result, many top veteran players such as Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Josh Brook and Brandon Wheat Kings forward Stelio Mattheos stayed with the clubs that they’ve been part of for their entire junior careers.
“I think you saw a little bit of what I call the Ontario (Hockey League) deal with a lot of picks being traded,” Hunt said.
“In the Red Deer and Kootenay trade (for Brett Davis and Cameron Hausinger) in November, you saw 11 pieces being dealt with six of them bring draft picks. Regina and Lethbridge had seven picks involved with their deal (for Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry) and Swift Current got six draft picks yesterday for (goaltender Joel) Hofer.
Two of the Raiders’ East Division rivals strengthened their forward cores on Thursday.
The Saskatoon Blades acquired 19-year-old Ryan Hughes (17-23-40) from the Portland Winterhawks for fellow 19-year-old Josh Paterson (14-18-32) and two draft picks.
Meanwhile, the Moose Jaw Warriors added 19-year-old Alec Zawatsky (13-13-26) from the Swift Current Broncos for 18-year-old Tyler Smithies (2-1-3) and a pair of picks.
The most eye-popping move of the day took place a half-hour after the deadline as the Medicine Hat Tigers dealt 17-year-old forward Josh Williams (9-12-21) to the Oil Kings for 18-year-old forward Brett Kemp (22-17-39).
Kemp was second to Trey Fix-Wolansky in the Oil Kings scoring chart at the time of the deal, while Williams is projected to be a possible first round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.