Ready or not, trade deadline fever has broken out in the Western Hockey League.
The Prince Albert Raiders and Medicine Hat Tigers have officially kicked off the countdown to the Jan. 10 cutoff by pulling off a five-player trade that sends high-scoring defenceman Dylan Busenius, 19, and disgruntled forward Jayden Hart, 18, to the East Division leaders.
Along with Busenius and Hart, the Raiders receive a sixth-round pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. The Tigers get 18-year-old forward Logan McVeigh, 19-year-old defenceman Zach Hodder, 15-year-old blue-line prospect Connor Hobbs and a second-round pick this year.
“We felt we had to solidify the back end with an experienced defenceman,” Raiders GM Bruno Campese told Dave Leaderhouse of the Prince Albert Daily Herald. “(Busenius) has played 23 games in the playoffs and we don’t have a lot of playoff experience.”
Busenius is 11th among WHL defencemen in scoring, with 26 points, including six goals in 37 games this season. Hart, 18, played only 18 games in the first half due to injuries, producing five goals and five assists, then requested a trade during the holiday break. The biggest piece going the other way is McVeigh, who had nine goals and 23 points in 38 games this season as a Raider, then scored in his Tigers debut last night.
The Raiders may not be done before the deadline, but Campese told the Herald he feels no urgency to make another deal.
“The things we wanted to accomplish we’ve accomplished, but certainly we will still listen,” he said.
One team that seems certain to make a move is the Prince George Cougars, who will say goodbye to former first overall bantam pick Alex Forsberg.
Forsberg, 17, is third on the team in scoring this season, with 19 points in 31 games, after producing 40 points as a rookie, but he did not return to the team after the break and asked for a trade.
EARLY RETIREMENT: Hearing the news last week that Liam Liston was hanging up his pads at only 19 years old was surprising given the promise surrounding his arrival with the Brandon Wheat Kings only two seasons ago, but less so given his comments to Steve Ewen of The Province.
“It’s hard to force yourself to come to the rink every day,” Liston, who hopes to study law at the University of Alberta, told Ewen. “I had always told myself that when a time came that the days I wanted to go to the rink were outnumbered by the days I had to drag myself there, it was time to go.”
Liston showed potential in his rookie campaign with the Wheat Kings in 2010-11 — earning a spot to the CHL Top Prospects Game — before being traded last season to the Lethbridge Hurricanes where he fell behind Damien Ketlo on the depth chart. Given another chance to start with the Vancouver Giants this season, both he and the team struggled.
AROUND THE WHL: Another player said goodbye to the WHL over the Christmas break as Regina D Alex Theriau called it quits at 19 due to recurring hip problems … Prince Albert C Anthony Bardaro is the WHL player of the week after notching four goals and three assist in two games.