Hunt planning similar approach to trade deadline

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt speaks during the team's annual general meeting in August 2018.

With the top team in the Western Hockey League, all eyes are on the Prince Albert Raiders and what they will be doing to possibly improve their roster ahead of the Jan. 10 trade deadline.

However, general manager Curtis Hunt’s game plan will look familiar to what he’s done in recent years.

“From our perspective, things haven’t really changed,” Hunt said during the WHL’s Christmas break. “If you look back at last year, we were able to make moves that improved our depth by bringing in guys such as Jeremy Masella and Kody McDonald, who were both able to come back this season.

“If there’s something that makes sense for the Prince Albert Raiders that makes ourselves a better team, we’re going to do that.”

One of the key aspects of the trade deadline for Hunt is to make sure that any new additions to the lineup doesn’t mess up the strong chemistry that this year’s Raiders squad has.

“It’s easy to say that getting in this guy or that guy might help the team, but that’s not always the case,” Hunt said. “You need to be really mindful of the situation your team is in, no matter where you are in the standings.

“We have an incredible group of young men here that are committed to the common goal. They work together and they are all accountable to each other, which has been a big part of our success.”

Prior to the WHL Christmas Break on Dec. 16, a couple of major moves had taken place by teams looking to strengthen their rosters for a playoff run.

The Lethbridge Hurricanes acquired forwards Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry from the Regina Pats for Jadon Joseph, Ty Kolle and seven draft picks, while the Red Deer Rebels added forwards Brett Davis and Cameron Hausinger from the Kootenay Ice in exchange for River Fahey, Austin Schellenberg, Justin Svenson, Chase Bertholet and five draft picks.

“Like everyone else, we’re just watching to see what other teams are doing,” Hunt said. “There’s teams that have elected to make their big moves earlier but there are others that have made smaller moves, as we’ve seen a lot of movement on the 2000-born players this year.

“It really comes down to what any individual is prepared to do to make a trade that will set the market. What I think is a good deal might be one that someone thinks is too expensive in terms of the picks and players that are exchanged.”

Unlike last year’s trade deadline, which saw 155 total assets dealt in a little over two weeks following the holiday hiatus, the WHL is not allowing any 15-year-old or 16-year-old player that has signed a standard player agreement to be traded under any circumstances.

The first deal since Christmas took place Friday afternoon as the Portland Winterhawks acquired the rights to forward Bobby Brink from the Prince George Cougars for three draft picks.

Brink, a 17-year-old forward from Minnesota, has 33 points in 19 games this season for the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers and was named the MVP of the World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alta. earlier this month after leading the United States to a gold medal.

He’s currently committed to the NCAA’s Denver Pioneers and could be a potential first round choice at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver.