While it often takes years to truly gauge the success of a Western Hockey League trade, clues will sometimes emerge in the first few weeks as to whether a blockbuster acquisition was worth the price.
With a month having passed since this year’s WHL trade deadline, here is a look how some of the biggest buyers have fared with their key acquisitions following the Christmas trade freeze:
Notable addition: C Nathan Burns (from Saskatoon).
Burns has been a good Bronco, with 18 points in 16 games, but Swift Current isn’t exactly burning it up since the deadline, going 6-6-1-1 as the team clings to the East Division lead.
Notable addition: D Travis Brown (Moose Jaw).
Brown hasn’t been the same offensive threat as a Royal as he was with the Warriors, with seven points in 14 games. But he is +9 and Victoria has been flirting with elite status in the WHL, going 8-0-1-1 in the past 10 games.
Notable additions: C Adam Tambellini (Portland), LW Connor Rankin (Tri-City), C Mike Winther (Prince Albert).
Tambellini, who started the season at the University of North Dakota, has been worth the first-round pick the Hitmen gave up for him, with eight goals and 19 points in 15 games. Winther, who has eight points in 11 games but has a plus/minus of -8 with Calgary, and Rankin (five points, -6 in 13 games) have been less productive. The Hitmen are only 6-7-1-0 since the deadline, but had won three straight games going into last night’s meeting with the Prince Albert Raiders.
Notable additions: G Taran Kozun (Kamloops), C Russell Maxwell (Lethbridge).
No one could have known at the time of the trade the impact Kozun would have as he’s gone 9-2 with a 1.51 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage with his new team. The 19-year-old already has four shutouts as a T-Bird and on Tuesday he won his second Canadian Hockey League goalie of the week award in a month. Maxwell has had only three points in 14 games, but the Thunderbirds, who had fallen to the fringes of the Western Conference playoff race after a fast start, have gone 11-3 since the deadline and are in position to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Notable additions: LW Zach Franko (Kelowna), D Tyler King (Spokane).
Franko has been dynamite with the Ice, posting six goals, 14 points and a plus/minus of +11 in 11 games since arriving for a pair of picks, while King — a former first-round bantam pick — has come into his own with nine assists in 15 games. The Ice are moving up the Eastern Conference standings with a 9-1-0-1 record since the deadline and wins in their last five games.
The Rockets let Franko go so they could add more size up front, bringing in 6-foot-2, 217-pound LW Marek Tvrdon from Vancouver. With five goals and nine points in 13 games, Tvrdon hasn’t produced like Franko, but the real test for the league-leading Rockets will come in the playoffs.
Notable addition: G Corbin Boes (Lethbridge).
The former Brandon Wheat Kings netminder has certainly done his job as a Winterhawk, going 4-0-0-1 with a 2.32 GAA and a .923 pct. since the deal, but perhaps the biggest benefit for Portland is the fire it lit under his crease partner Brendan Burke. Burke is 9-0 with a 1.44 GAA and a .947 pct. Although he was acquired before Christmas, the arrival of D Mathew Dumba (10 points, +19 in 11 games) following the world junior championship has also been key as the defending WHL champs have won 13 straight contests.
Notable additions: D Graeme Craig (Saskatoon), LW Collin Valcourt (Saskatoon), LW Calder Brooks (Calgary).
The Raiders’ bold moves haven’t helped them as the club sputtered to a 4-8-0-1 post-deadline record going into last night’s game in Calgary, falling out of playoff position. A point-a-game guy in Saskatoon, Valcourt has only nine points in 17 games in P.A., three less than D Dylan Busenius, who went the other way. The hulking Craig, who had 24 points in 44 games with the Blades, has only three points and is -3 in 13 games as a Raider, while Brooks has just seven points in 17 games with P.A.
Notable addition: D Blake Orban (Vancouver).
The addition of a defensive defenceman like Orban, who cost Edmonton a second-round bantam pick, may not be seen by many as a big purchase, but he’s an eye-popping +25 in 16 games with the Eastern Conference-leading Oil Kings, who are on an 11-game winning streak.
Notable addition: C Matt Revel (Saskatoon).
Admittedly, it’s hard to say which team is the buyer, with Revel and Wawanesa’s Jordan Thomson being the principals of this exchange, which also featured high draft picks moving both ways and Mitch Lipon heading to Saskatoon.But the trade was a blockbuster, and since Revel has 12 points in 15 games with the Blazers, we’ll say they’re the buyer. Of course, Saskatoon’s success in this deal hinges on the first-round pick it got from Kamloops and whether Thomson, who is playing with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Dauphin Kings, eventually reports to the Blades.
AROUND THE WHL: Kootenay C Sam Reinhart is the WHL and CHL player of the week, after recording three goals, eight assists and a plus/minus of +8 in three games last week. Although those games came against the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference, with two against Lethbridge and one versus Saskatoon, Reinhart has been scoring against every team he’s faced since returning from the world junior championship, totalling 26 points in 10 games, with at least a point in each of those contests … Lethbridge announced last week that first-year assistant coach Brad Lukowich had been “terminated for cause.” Lukowich, a former NHL defenceman, had left the team the previous week.