It appears win now and lose for five seasons afterwards has become commonplace thinking for some WHL teams and also with some fans judging by social media.
What recent history has shown in the WHL, fans that were all in for a load up like Saskatoon in 2013 and Regina and Swift Current in 2018 had short memories when the following season rolled around. Often, those fans of the Blades, Pats and Broncos were all upset about why their respective teams couldn’t win anymore and loss totals tallied up anywhere between 45 and 51 defeats excluding extra time setbacks.
Starting in 2018 when WHL trades started to be more commonplace where one player was traded for a boatload of assets, it seemed deals that were made approaching this year’s WHL trade deadline, which passed at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, confirmed that the “all in” mentality is here to stay.
The craziest trade came on Sunday between the Kamloops Blazers, who will host the CHL championship tournament in the Memorial Cup, and Everett Silvertips. In the deal, the Blazers received 19-year-old defenceman Olen Zellweger, who helped Canada win gold at the recently wrapped up world juniors, and star overage power forward Ryan Hofer.
In return, the Silvertips received two roster players in overage forward Drew Englot, 17-year-old defenceman Kaden Hammell, non-roster player in 17-year-old defenceman Rylan Pearce, 15-year-old prospect forward Jack Bakker, four first round WHL Prospects Draft selections coming in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026, a second round pick in 2023, a third round pick in 2025, a fourth round selection in 2023, a fifth round pick in 2024 and a sixth round pick in 2026. The Silvertips could get a conditional second round selection in 2026 as well.
One day later, the Silvertips dealt Englot to the Swift Current Broncos for overage forward Raphael Pelletier and a second round selection in the 2024 Prospects Draft.
On the Blazers front combined with the trades they made earlier this season, it is win now or bust. Their fate will likely be the same as the Edmonton Oil Kings from last season.
Last season, the Oil Kings after loading up finished second overall in the WHL with a 50-14-3-1 record and advanced on in the playoffs to win the WHL championship, but only collected one overtime win at the Memorial Cup. This season, the Oil Kings sit last in the entire WHL with a 5-33-1 mark entering play Tuesday and have been dealing off veteran players to replenish their stockpile of Prospects Draft selections.
Also on Sunday, the Winnipeg Ice paid a high price to acquire Vancouver Giants 19-year-old captain Zack Ostapchuk in a trade. Ostapchuk was also part of Canada’s gold medal winner at world juniors.
In exchange, the Giants received two roster players in 19-year-old right-winger Skyler Bruce, 17-year-old forward in Connor Dale, two 15-year-old prospects in Owen Brees and Hudson Lundmark, first round Prospects Draft selections in 2024, 2025 and 2026 and a fifth round pick in 2025.
Combined with the trades they made earlier this season, the Ice should still be solid next season due to the youth of their best players already on their roster, but their chances of being a top of the standings team took a hit. They will likely have a big drop off the season after.
Another WHL title contender in the Seattle Thunderbirds made a trade for injured Kelowna Rockets captain in centre Colton Dach, who turned 20-years-old on Jan. 4. Dach, who has a signed entry-level contract with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, injured his right shoulder playing for Canada at world juniors and is pegged to potentially return to action in late February.
The Thunderbirds acquired Dach and a fifth round selection in the 2024 Prospects Draft in exchange for 18-year-old forward Ty Hurley, 17-year-old defenceman Ethan Mittelsteadt, a first round pick in the 2024 Prospects Draft, a conditional second round pick in the 2025 Prospects Draft and a conditional fourth round selection in the 2023 Prospects Draft.
Combined with the trades they made earlier this season including the blockbuster to acquire Prince Albert Raiders captain and star defenceman Nolan Allan, the Thunderbirds will likely see a sizable drop off next season to put earning a playoff berth in question. The Thunderbirds still have some better younger players, but they might be traded off next season as part of a rebuild.
The trade action was a lot more quiet on Monday and Tuesday leading up to the deadline. On Tuesday, the Saskatoon Blades made a smart trade acquiring 19-year-old forward Jake Chiasson from the Brandon Wheat Kings for a first round selection in the 2023 Prospects Draft, a second round pick in the 2025 Prospects Draft and a conditional second round selection in the 2026 Prospect Draft.
Chiasson will add scoring depth and help a Blades squad dealing with three key injuries in their forward group. Away from the rink, Chiasson proved he has great character as he was one of four Wheat Kings who save the life of a distressed person on a bridge in Brandon.
The Prince Albert Raiders made a minor move on Monday sending 16-year-old prospect defenceman Landon Cowper to the Kelowna Rockets for a conditional fifth round pick in the 2025 Prospects Draft. The Raiders also sent the WHL right to overage right-winger Ozzy Wiesblatt to the Portland Winterhawks for a first round condition Prospects Draft pick in 2025 and conditional second round selections in 2025 and 2026. Wiesblatt is currently with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, who are the farm club of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
Overall, the prices most of the top teams in the WHL paid to bolster their rosters will be costly in the future. Teams would be better off like the Blades, where you have a solid roster and add one or two players to help with depth.
Ultimately, only one team can win the WHL title and the Memorial Cup. The consequences the following campaigns for going all in this season are way too high.
Guenther writes perfect curtain call at world juniors, other notes
Dylan Guenther’s final bow in junior hockey was golden.
The 19-year-old right-winger was loaned to Canada for world juniors by the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. In the gold medal game played last Thursday in Halifax, Guenther had two goals including the overtime winner and an assist as Canada downed Czechia 3-2.
Playing in all of Canada’s seven games at that event, Guenther recorded seven goals and three assists for 10 points. He tallied six goals on the power play, which was record for most power play goals by a Canadian at one world juniors.
Last season, Guenther played in the WHL for his hometown Edmonton Oil Kings in a memorable campaign. Appearing in 59 regular season games, Guenther posted 45 goals, 46 assists and a plus-51 rating in the plus-minus department. In 16 games in the WHL playoffs Guenther recorded 13 goals, eight assists and a plus-12 rating.
In 2021-22, the Oil Kings finished second overall in the WHL standings with a 50-14-3-1 record. In the WHL playoffs, the Oil Kings captured a league championship posting a 16-3 record. Guenther was unable to play for the Oil Kings in the Memorial Cup tournament that crowns a CHL champion due to sustaining a knee injury in Game 3 of the WHL final.
Guenther followed up a stellar 2021-22 campaign by making the Coyotes as a 19-year-old rookie this season. Entering play on Tuesday, Guenther had appeared in 22 games with the Coyotes posting three goals and eight assists. He has shown he is ready for life in “The Show.”
With the Oil Kings sitting last in the WHL entering play Tuesday with a 5-33-1 record, they have been trading off the veterans they have in order to stockpile WHL Prospects Draft selections. Had Guenther been returned to the WHL, the Oil Kings could have potentially traded Guenther and gotten a massive haul in assets in return.
Still, Guenther’s curtain call to the junior ranks to play for Canada at world juniors provided a storybook ending to that part of his hockey playing career. Guenther will always be remembered for scoring the golden goal in overtime for Canada.
Brad Lambert, who is a 19-year-old forward from Finland, was assigned by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets to the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds on Monday. He played 14 games with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose this season collecting two goals and one assist. He suited up for Finland at this past world juniors recording one goal in five games. His WHL rights were originally held by the Saskatoon Blades, but the Blades dealt his rights to the Thunderbirds this past June. With Lambert landing in the WHL, the Blades get Seattle’s first round selection in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft and second round pick in the 2024 Prospects Draft.
Chaz Lucius, who is a centre from White Bear Lake, Minn., was assigned by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets to the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks on Monday. Lucius played 12 games with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose this season posting two goals and three assists. He suited up for the bronze medal winning United States at this past world juniors recording five goals and two assists in seven games. He netted a hat trick including the OT winner for the United States in the 8-7 OT win over Sweden in the tournament’s bronze medal game. The Winterhawks selected Lucius in the fourth round and 74th overall in the 2018 then WHL Bantam Draft.
Regina Pats 17-year-old phenom centre Connor Bedard did not get traded. As a reminder, the WHL changed its rule regarding trading players aged 15, 16 and 17 following the 2017-18 season due to the ridiculous amount of trades made dealing with high school aged players. For 17-year-old players, those players can only be traded if they go to a team’s general manager requesting a trade. Teams can’t make the first move asking a 17-year-old player if he wants to be traded. That rule is in place in spirit to allow for 17-year-olds who aren’t seeing much ice time to get a fresh start with a new team. Bedard didn’t fit into any of those specifics, so he remains a member of the Pats.