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Home Opinion Allan trade shows the arms race is on in the WHL

Allan trade shows the arms race is on in the WHL

Allan trade shows the arms race is on in the WHL
Former Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Nolan Allan. -- Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald.

The Prince Albert Raiders have to give an assist to the Kamloops Blazers.

Thanks to the Blazers making a crazy trade to get import Slovakian right-winger Jakub Demek from the Edmonton Oil Kings on Monday, the Raiders were able to get a huge haul for defenceman Nolan Allan on Wednesday. Allan, who is 19-years-old, was selected in the first round and 32nd overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks and has a signed NHL entry-level contract with that team.

Allan, along with the WHL rights of 17-year-old list player in centre Reese Shaw, who was born in Coon Rapids, Minn., were dealt to the Seattle Thunderbirds for a massive return. From their active roster, the Thunderbirds sent the Raiders 18-year-old left-winger Gabe Ludwig, 17-year-old rookie right-winger Brayden Dube and defenceman Easton Kovacs, who will turn 18-years-old on November 29.

The Thunderbirds sent the Raiders a number of WHL Prospects Drafts selections too in the deal including first round picks in 2023 and 2024, a third round selection in 2024, a sixth round selection in 2025, a second round pick in 2026 and a conditional sixth round selection in 2026.

Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt smashed a home run worthy of New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge with this deal. The conditions were made possible thanks to the Blazers making a move to get Demek from the Oil Kings two days earlier.

In that trade, Demek, who is 19-years-old, was shipped to the Blazers for a first round selection in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft, a fourth round pick in the 2026, a conditional second round selection in 2024 and conditional third round pick in 2026.

Demek, who was selected in the fourth round and 128th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, played last season as an 18-year-old rookie with the Oil Kings posting 20 goals, 34 assists and a plus-18 rating in the plus-minus department in 55 regular season games. The skilled playmaker, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 196 pounds, recorded five goals, 12 assists and plus-eight rating in 19 games he skated for the Oil Kings in the WHL playoffs as they won the league championship.

He suited up for Slovakia at the world juniors that took place in Edmonton last August and suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery. Demek is still recovering from that injury, and the Blazers are hoping he will return to action in late January. The two conditional WHL Prospects Draft selections the Blazers sent to the Oil Kings depend on how much time Demek plays in games for the Blazers.

This season in the WHL, the Blazers, who are hosting the Memorial Cup tournament, the Thunderbirds and the Portland Winterhawks are viewed as the big contenders for the WHL championship in the Western Conference. The Winnipeg Ice and Red Deer Rebels are viewed as the contenders for the WHL title in the Eastern Conference.

On paper, all five of those clubs have stacked rosters and have gotten out to starts that have ranged from great to outstanding. At the moment, those teams are eyeing up what each other does in the trade department.

After the Blazers paid a fairly high price to get a star forward who is still recovering from injury, it appears the Thunderbirds got antsy when it came to making the next move.

Star defencemen are always valuable to WHL teams and that includes offensive-defencemen, defensive-defencemen and defencemen who are gifted at both ends of the ice. Defencemen are always pressured to make numerous tough decisions on the back end, and it is a spot that takes some time to become comfortable with at the major junior level.

Allan, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 193 pounds, is viewed as one of those must have pieces. Over the past two seasons, he has played major minutes giving the Raiders stability on the backend as they go through a reloading period.

The Davidson, Sask., product focuses on his own end first, but his offensive side was starting to show through last season and this season. This season as the Raiders captain Allan had posted four goals, seven assists and a minus-five rating in 16 games.

Last season, Allan recorded seven goals, 34 assists and a minus-four rating in 65 regular season contests. During his career with the Raiders, Allan has appeared in 162 regular season games posting 14 goals, 49 assists and plus-four rating. There is a high likelihood he will play for Canada at the upcoming world juniors, which will start Dec. 26 and run through to January 5, 2023 in Halifax, N.S., and Moncton, N.B.

Allan was too much for the Thunderbirds to resist, so they elected to make the Raiders an offer they couldn’t refuse sending a haul of players and WHL Prospect Draft picks to “Hockey Town North.”

Now, Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette must be salivating at the prospect of using Allan on a top pair with 20-year-old Luke Prokop. Back on October 25, the Thunderbirds acquired Prokop’s WHL rights from the Oil Kings in exchange for a conditional first round selection in the 2025 Prospects Draft and conditional third round picks in the 2023 and 2025 Prospects Drafts.

When the NHL’s Nashville Predators returned Prokop to the WHL on November 8, those conditional selections were full out transferred to the Oil Kings. Ultimately, the Thunderbirds acquired Prokop, who has a signed NHL entry-level contract with the Predators, for a lot less that Allan thanks to making that trade in an earlier timeframe.

To make things even better for O’Dette, he has the option now of rotating Allan, Prokop and Saskatoon product Kevin Korchinski on the Thunderbirds top pairing. Korchinski is a stellar offensive-defenceman that was selected by the Blackhawks in the first round and seventh overall in last June’s NHL Entry Draft, and he was promptly signed to an NHL entry-level contract by the Blackhawks.

In the Western Conference, you have to be thinking the Blazers or Winterhawks would have loved to land Allan, and now he is with the team that won the conference title last season and is looking to make a big run this season.

On the Raiders front, they have to be extremely happy with the draft picks they’ve received. On top of that, they will be helped in the present with the addition of Ludwig, Dube and Kovacs. All three were likely getting limited ice time with the Thunderbirds, and now they will have a great chance to develop and realize their potential.

Ludwig, who 5-foot-10 and weighs 170 pounds, has appeared in 93 career regular season games with the Thunderbirds posting nine goals and 15 assists. He appeared 20 games in the 2022 WHL playoffs as the Thunderbirds advanced to the league championship series falling in six games to the Oil Kings.

Dube, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 174 pounds, has two goals, two assists and a plus-three rating having dressed for 14 games in his rookie campaign. The Roblin, Man., product has put up huge point totals coming up through minor hockey.

Last season as a 16-year-old playing in the junior A ranks, Dube appeared in 49 regular season games with the Dauphin Kings posting 24 goals and 22 assists. He added three goals and six assists in 16 Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoff games helping the Kings win the league title.

Kovacs, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 186 pounds, appeared in 10 games with the Thunderbirds this season recording an assist and a minus-one rating. He has mainly been a sound defensive-defenceman who has chipped in points throughout all levels of his hockey career.

The addition of Ludwig, Dube and Kovacs will add some overall strength and depth to the Raiders roster.

Now, the eyes on the WHL as a whole turn to see what the Blazers, Thunderbirds, Winterhawks, Ice and Rebels will do next in what appears to be a quest to build super teams at the major junior level. The arms race is on and the price to acquire talent has been set to be exceptionally high.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if deals that are even more insane than the one made to get Allan are made between now and the WHL trade deadline on January 10, 2023. The craziest times on the trade front are still to come.