Thoughts on the WHL deadline

Simon Stransky stays in green and gold colours as the deadline passes ---- Dustin Saracini/Daily Herald

Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt addressed the media to discuss the deadline and the future of the organization

If there is one thing that has been constant for the Prince Albert Raiders this season, it’s change.

Sixteen deals later, the WHL trade deadline has past, and the green and gold have a pair of players who will be brandishing the Raider logo for the first time this week. Jordy Stallard, a former Calgary Hitmen and Brayden Pachal from the Victoria Royals will be making their debuts.

The 2016-17 season has been a “trickle-down effect” as a result of losing top goal scorer Reid Gardiner to the AHL, who is now a member of the Kelowna Rockets.

Prince Albert has lost or dealt seven of their past eight top skaters this season, but have cemented themselves as a team on the rise – all while assembling a top line with potential.

“We chased goal scoring [early], for the most part, we chased the back-end, trying to bolster our “D”, we had some movement there,” general manager Curtis Hunt said of the season prior to the deadline.

“I feel now, where we are today, we have a strong list, we’ve got some great prospects in the organization, we have a lot of high picks. We feel we’ve improved our scoring for the remainder of this season. We have a true top line that should be able to compete with every line in the league and we’ve also bolstered our “D”, so it’s a great day to be a Raider.”

Hunt has now set the Raiders up to be a force for years to come and has stockpiled draft picks. If Prince Albert chooses to use their first round selection as part of the Gardiner deal this year, they will have two first rounders in the upcoming draft, as well as two second and third round selections. If they choose 2018, they will have three picks in the opening round – their own, as well as the pick they received in the Brendan Guhle deal.

“We are hoping to get out of the draft by lunch,” Hunt joked.

Moving forward, Hunt stresses the value of patience to the fans.

“The diet pill industry in America is a 10 billion dollar industry,” he said.

“People don’t want patience. But unfortunately, in the hockey world, you’re dealing with development, there’s no free agent market. You’ve got to build; we’ve got young players, that’s true. We have young, skilled players that make mistakes, but we have a great coaching staff and we will build this group. You can see the development in the play.”

Hunt went on to explain how well 17-year-old Max Martin has handled his incredible workload since coming over from the Prince George Cougars, and discussed the offensive future in Carson Miller and Cole Fonstad.

One player that will be given the task to help mold these youngsters is Simon Stransky, who stayed put despite the constant chaos surrounding the deadline.

“We explored Simon,” Hunt said.

“It’s a very limited market because first-year Europeans can’t be traded … If we could have given Simon a chance somewhere where he could have helped the team — because we know he can, he’s a tremendous player, he’s a great person off the ice, he just loves to play — we would have done that for him. Part of that means a deal that’s fair to the Prince Albert Raiders … we weren’t able to find a fit that works for us as well as him.”

Stransky is glad to be back with the organization, mentoring the young guns and believes the future is bright.

“I was watching the guys play during the World Juniors,” he said.

“I saw Carson Miller and Cole Fonstad had a few points and it’s good, it’s really good. They are going to be good players, they are now good players, but they will be even better in a few years … I want to help them a lot in their growth.”

From the front office to new players, rookies or veterans, it appears the product on and off the ice are on the same page, which paves the way for an exciting rest of the season.