No one in junior hockey trades to make their team worse.
Free from the salary issues that their NHL counterparts contend with, Western Hockey League general managers make trades for two main reasons — to improve their teams now, or to bring in assets that can help them down the road.
The scary part is that an addition that seems foolproof on paper can turn out to be anything but once the player is in your lineup (see: Sundher, Kevin). Meanwhile, even the smallest of moves can bring in that missing cog that makes the surrounding machinery run so much more smoothly.
While it’s way too soon to make any lasting judgments, here are five off-season WHL additions that, based on early returns, look like particularly shrewd moves and are already paying dividends:
•Nick Buonassisi, Brandon Wheat Kings — The acquisitions of veteran defenceman Tyler Yaworski and promising forward Geordie Maguire look like potential steals, but snagging Buonassisi from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a 2014 fifth-round WHL Bantam Draft pick tops them all so far. Brought in by GM Kelly McCrimmon to bolster Brandon’s offence, the 20-year-old centre was tied for first in WHL scoring entering Tuesday with four goals and nine points in five games, helping the Wheat Kings to a 4-1-0-0 record.
•Colin Jacobs, Prince George Cougars — Guess who Buonassisi shares the scoring lead with. Despite a disappointing 19-point season with the Seattle Thunderbirds last year, he cost the Cougars captain Jesse Forsberg and a couple of mid-round draft picks, but the price has been worth it as Jacobs has four goals and nine points in only four games, and the Cougars are 3-0-1-0.
•Luke Siemens, Prince Albert Raiders — Deemed expendable by the Moose Jaw Warriors, the 20-year-old goalie was sent to the Raiders for third- and fourth-round draft picks and is off to a brilliant start in P.A. Going into last night’s game, Siemens had a 1.62 goals-against average and .948 save percentage, leading the Raiders to a 2-0-0-1 mark.
•Alex Gogolev, Victoria Royals — The Calgary Hitmen didn’t value Gogolev as a two-spotter (import, overage), but he has been a godsend in the Royals’ second season on the island, posting two goals and six points, while the Royals are 3-1-0-0. This deal has actually worked out both ways, as Zane Jones, who went to Calgary, is only 18 and has two goals and four points for the 3-0-1-0 Hitmen.
• Cam Lanigan, Portland Winterhawks — This actually wasn’t a trade, but a waiver pickup for the Winterhawks, who brought the former Kamloops Blazer aboard. Again, it’s early to jump to conclusions, but Lanigan has won both of his starts, with a 1.00 GAA and a .964 pct., and has done an admirable job of filling in for fellow 20-year-old Mac Carruth, who is attempting to make the jump to pro this season.
HOT TICKET: Count on seeing a lot of clipboards and notepads around Westman Place on Friday night when the Wheat Kings host the Winterhawks.
The game will be the only matchup this season featuring Brandon blue-line kingpin Ryan Pulock and prized Portland prospect Seth Jones, two projected top-10 picks for next year’s NHL Entry Draft, and McCrimmon expects the building to be loaded with big-league scouts and executives.
“I’ve talked to a number of people (from NHL teams) that are coming to the game Friday and it’s a great opportunity to see two of the top defencemen in this year’s draft play on the same sheet of ice,” he said. “So from a comparative standpoint, I think that’s valuable for scouts and as well it’s Portland’s only trip to the Prairies this season, so it’s a good opportunity for the scouts that are based in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to get in and watch their team play as well.”
AROUND THE WHL: Edmonton has signed GM Bob Green to a three-year contract extension, with an option for a fourth.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 3, 2012