Tanner Kaspick’s legacy will live on for a long time with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Kaspick, now 21, was serving as captain in his 19-year-old season when he was dealt to the Victoria Royals on Jan. 10, 2018 for a package of picks and players. He’s fine with how it all turned out.
"Obviously I have deep connections with this organization and always want them to do well," said Kaspick, who was helping out at the team’s hockey school on Wednesday afternoon. "For them to be able to get a good return was awesome to see. I’m happy that I could help out the organization for years to come."
On the same day that defenceman Kale Clague was dispatched to the Moose Jaw Warriors for three picks, Luka Burzan and since-traded defenceman Chase Hartje, Kaspick also garnered a king’s ransom.
Both players thrown into the Victoria deal — forward Ty Thorpe and defenceman Jonny Lambos — signed with Brandon and played last season.
The 2019 first-rounder the Wheat Kings received from the Royals was packaged in a deal with the Kelowna Rockets that allowed Brandon to trade up and select highly touted forward Nate Danielson in May.
They still have a 2021 first-rounder as well, which they could use as trade bait or to select another player. If Brandon did use the pick and that player stayed until his overage year, the Kaspick trade could be impacting the Brandon lineup in the 2026-27 season.
After the initial heartache subsided, Kaspick quickly found his way and ultimately enjoyed his time in Victoria.
"It was awesome," Kaspick said. "Right away I felt comfortable with the group of guys there. We had an older team, and that helped a lot. It was real easy to fit in because there were a lot of other new guys so I think the team was very receptive of all of us. For the hockey side of things, just to get new systems, new organization, new coach and just a different feel for things gave me a lot of confidence. I just wanted to show them that I could help their hockey club. It motivated me a lot to perform well there."
It certainly did.
In 25 regular season games, he scored 13 goals and added 14 assists. But after earning three points in the first two games of the playoffs, Kaspick was injured and missed the rest of the post-season as the Royals eventually fell in the second round to the Tri-City Americans.
He then graduated to the pro ranks after a fine WHL career that saw him earn 159 points in 216 regular season games and 18 more in 39 playoff games.
Kaspick spent 46 games with the San Antonio Rage of the American hockey League last season, scoring four goals and adding four assists with 24 penalty minutes. He spent six games with the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers, adding an assist, but in 18 playoff games, he had three goals and two helpers.
He said there are some major differences between junior and pro that include things like the age and strength of the players, and also the fact that you’re living on your own for the first time.
"You definitely have a longer leash," Kaspick said. "You’re expected to do your job but outside of that, you kind of have to fend for yourself. It was a good year for growth for me in that regard. I enjoyed the independence, and I’m trying to continue to grow and be out on my own. As far as differences, the level of hockey and strength is definitely a big difference. Playing against all men, you definitely notice that. There is less time with the puck and basically any inefficiencies in your game are kind of pointed out at the pro level.
"Just to get a year under my belt, I’ve learned a lot and I was able to come home with a lot better idea of what I have to work on for training camp."
Kaspick said there is also a difference between a dressing room full of teenagers and men, although he noted you eventually realize even the men are "just big kids too." He enjoyed meeting older guys and players from difference places, and noted veterans like Chris Thorburn and Chris Butler were very helpful in showing him how to be a good pro.
He did face some adversity in his first season. Kaspick suffered a rib injury in rookie camp, which really set him back because he couldn’t participate in main camp.
"Starting the year with an injury and missing all the exhibition games puts you behind the 8-ball as far as depth-wise," Kaspick said. "Coming back in, and starting with limited minutes, it’s a little harder to get comfortable compared to when you’re playing lots and really into the groove of the game. As the season went on, I just tried to focus on my personal development, and eventually injuries (to other players) came about, and by the end of the season I felt that I got a bit of an opportunity to show the coaches what I can do there. I think that was very positive for me."
He was briefly sent down to Tulsa to rehab the first injury, and after suffering a concussion later in the season, spent more time down there before finally remaining for the playoffs.
Kaspick said there are a lot of moving parts in pro hockey, so it’s paramount to simply focus on what he can control.
One of those things he controls is how he spends his time in the summer in Brandon, which led him back to a familiar spot. He first started working at the Wheat Kings hockey camp when he was 14 or 15.
"It’s always nice to come back and see people from the organization again and help out with the kids," Kaspick said. "There are a lot of Brandon kids and from around the area. I was definitely one of those who looked up to the Wheat Kings growing up so any time we can give back, it’s definitely something I’m happy to do."
In local hockey circles, Tanner wasn’t even the most closely watched player in own family last winter.
His younger brother Mason — Jordan is three years older and Mason is three years younger — was a key member of the Brandon AAA U18 Wheat Kings as they captured a league title in March.
Tanner takes a lot of pride in the way Mason’s game has developed. Three years ago, his younger brother played high school hockey, but after two seasons with the U18s, Mason will join the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Flin Flon Bombers next season.
Tanner was in San Antonio so he didn’t get to see Mason live, but he was able to find a stream online in the playoffs, especially when they defeated the Winnipeg Wild in the final.
"It was almost hard to recognize him compared to when I saw him previous, that’s how much he’s improved," Kaspick said. "For him to step up in a big series like that against a big team was unreal to watch. He was definitely a big part of that championship, and that whole group was very deserving."
There’s also a lesson there for young hockey players, such as the ones Tanner was working with on Wednesday.
"Everyone develops at their own pace, that’s how much he’s improved," Kaspick said. "He’s got a lot of skill and he’s a real smart player. He’s obviously got good height on him too, so I think he could be a really good player in the years to come."
» Twitter: @PerryBergson