AROUND THE WHL
With the Western Hockey League trade deadline of January 15th lurking just around the corner, it appears some teams are trying to get the jump. Last week, on December 13, the Kamloops Blazers sent centerman Derek Krestanovich (’83) to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for right winger Ben Knopp (’82), a third round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blazers gain a legitimate scoring threat in Knopp (19goals, 14 assists in 31 games) who adds depth in scoring to an already potent line up with the likes of Canadian World Junior Team players Jared Aulin and Scottie Upshall, as well as 2002 draft eligible Eric Christensen, Ryan Annesley, Mark Rooneem, Scott Henkelman and Paul Brown.
Moose Jaw gives up some scoring, but gain an excellent checking center in Krestanovich who should help the Warriors cut down on the their 15th worst goals against total in the 19-team league. Krestanovich (7 goals, 13 assists) is effective in the face off circle and a premier penalty killer who can also chip in offensively. as his twenty points shows.
The Kelowna Rockets then entered the fray on December 18/01, dealing a pair of 19-year-olds, winger/center Carsen Germyn (10 goals, 19 assists, 21 games) and goaltender Jason Stone (2.99 GAA, .890 SV%, 12-9-2 record in 27 games) to the Red Deer Rebels in exchange for last seasons WHL Playoff MVP and the goaltender that backstopped the Rebels on their way to winning the 2001 Memorial Cup, 19-year-old Shane Bendera.
Kelowna obtains a proven, playoff hardened netminder who should help solidify a suspect back end. The Rockets had earlier dealt for some depth on the blue line acquiring Jesse Ferguson and Kevin Young from the Portland Winter Hawks for Richie Regehr, but Bendera can win you games on his own. While giving up some scoring in the currently injured Germyn, the Rockets go a long way to fulfilling the old adage “defense wins championships” and with the slim chance the Rockets may lure Tomas Oravec, a slick playmaker/scorer back from his home in the Czech Republic after the World Junior Championships, it was a risk worth taking. A proven goaltender is a tough commodity to come by and allows a team to play with more confidence and take chances they wouldn’t ordinarily take.
Red Deer on the other hand, go a ways toward boosting their offensive woes by obtaining Germyn, a gritty, agitating forward who can put the puck in the net and create scoring chances as well. The Rebels sit 15th in offensive production, yet have the fifth best record in the league, so if Germyn can provide some firepower and Sutter pulls off a least one other trade for some offense, the Rebels should make some noise in the second half. Stone will provide solid relief for the Rebels should seventeen year old Cam Ward falter, as he appears to be Brent Sutter’s choice to carry the load at this point.
These early deals seem to back popular belief that this could be one of the busiest trade deadline periods seen in a long time. With Prince George, Kamloops, Kootenay and Kelowna in the B.C Division looking capable, Portland and Spokane in the U.S., Lethbridge, Red Deer and Swift Current in the Central, and Brandon, Regina from the East Division all looking capable of making some sort of playoff run, these could be the opening salvos in an all out assault to build the perfect playoff beast in the WHL. The question is, are any teams currently on the outside looking in, willing to write off the season with three months left to play and three weeks before the trade deadline roles around.
Veterans on clubs currently on the outside of the playoff race who could be shopped or would be prime additions to playoff contenders are many. The following are simply names of players who many teams looking to make a run might have an interest in depending on their needs. They aren’t necessarily being shopped or part of any rumored deals, simply that they are guys who might interest other teams.
Michael Garnett (19): He could help any team unsure of their goaltending. Was behind an outstanding Shane Bendera last year in Red Deer before being shipped to the Blades, who have struggled. Would likely “kill” for the opportunity to play for a contender with a chance to win it all.
Steve Belanger (18): Currently playing second fiddle to Davis Parley in Kamloops and if a team is looking to solidify their goaltending, Belanger would be a perfect fit. Not likely though as Kamloops is intent on making a run themselves will likely lose Parley next year and Belanger would be the man.
Brent Krahn (19): Currently injured, but Calgary has played most of the year without him and Brent, if healthy, could be a solid insurance policy for any club.
Joel Martin (19): Backing up Tyler Weiman in Tri-City, Joel would be another guy who could help solidify any teams goaltending who feels they might want a veteran back up.
Nick Schultz (19): If Minnesota sends him back to junior after the WJC, this guy would likely be the Cadillac everyone wants to drive. Solid defensively, but brings mobility and solid puck skills to any blue line. If he comes back, look for a lot of tire kicking here.
Scott Balan (19): Currently out with a knee injury that no one is sure of how bad it is. If he could return healthy, which would likely happen after the trade deadline, a team that gambled would be getting a solid defensive player with the ability to join the rush and play the point on the PP. Also not afraid to be physical.
Brett Schefflemaier (20): What playoff team doesn’t need a big, tough, mean defender who can play on your top four blue line core. Drawback is he is an overager and it often means the teams looking will be trying to give one up in the deal while the Tigers are likely looking for youth. A team with an open overage spot?
Rod Sarich (20): Solid two way defenseman who has plenty of playoff experience. Can play the point on the powerplay and kill penalties. Buyers might not mind the price either if the for sale sign goes up in Calgary.
Grant McNeill (18): It would likely take a bundle to get this “junk yard dog” type defender out of P.A., but he would be an asset as his physical presence, like Shefflemaier’s, isn’t limited to when the gloves come off. He scares people and can play on most teams top two defensive units. Would likely come at a high price because of his age and what he brings to the rink.
Derek Engelland (19): Another physical, tough defenseman who can play.
Nathan Paetsch (19): Likely a big price tag on this guy because of his age, but you get a top four guy who has sandpaper in his game and plenty of offence from the back end.
David Selthun (19): Offensively talented defenseman who can play the powerplay and move the puck. Vancouver would likely want youth in return for a guy who would add depth.
Mark Ardelan (18): Big open ice hitter, more of a depth guy on the blue line, but his physical play would be welcome in the playoffs.
Mathew Spiller (18): If a team is kicking the tires on this guy, they will likely not like the price, but he could be a guy who solidifies most teams blue lines. Big, physical and an all around solid player, his age would likely make him an expensive purchase.
Gerard Dicaire (19): Pure offensive defenseman, great powerplay quarterback and can move the puck from the back end. More likely than team-mate Spiller to move as Seattle’s price tag would likely be lower.
Ryan Stempfle (19): A guy who could add depth and not likely to break the bank to acquire. Stay at home defender that brings some toughness and grit to the blueline.
Jeremy Jackson (19): Crafty centerman who would be a nice acquisition for a team down the middle. Solid playmaking center who plays with some grit. Vancouver would likely ask a high price.
Nick Marach (20): Overage forward that will go to war and chip in some offence. Not big, but gritty and determined with a solid work ethic. Great leadership qualities. Vancouver would likely start high on the asking price.
Jeff Coulter (19): Grinding, physical player who would add depth to a line up needing grit. Little playoff
experience, but a ton of grit.
Eric Johansson (19): Another high priced purchase, but his grit and offence would be a welcome addition to a number of teams. Solid two way forward. His age and skills would likely provide Tri-City with some youth should teams come knocking.
Matt Sommerfeld (19): Currently out of Swift Current asking for a trade the big, tough winger would look good on a number of teams looking to bulk up on the front end. Has enough skill to fill a prominent role on a teams fist three lines and creates room for his team-mates.
Warren Peters (19): Solid forward that could provide depth for a team looking to add a veteran forward. Can provide some offence and play a sound all around game.
Adrian Foster (19): This guy would be a high stakes gamble by any team, but when in the rare circumstance he’s healthy, could be a great addition to any teams offence. Blades would likely ask a lot, but the guy has only played something like 12 games in three years. Poker players only!
Mike Wirll (19): Speedy, playmaking forward would help any team needing a playmaker and some team speed. This guy can fly and as his more than point a game production shows, knows where the net is. P.A. has a number of guys teams might want, so the price would likely be high.
Greg Watson (18): Another high ticket item, Watson brings both skill and grit to a line up. If Prince Albert decides to build for the future a guy like Greg would be a sought after commodity as he can score and play at both ends of the rink, would take a solid package to get him though.
Jesse Schultz (19): Gritty forward who knows where the net is. A guy who will likely return for his overage season, might be a bit pricey, but would likely add depth for any team in need of offence.
Riley Cote (19): Agitating, gritty forward who can play at both ends of the rink and put up some offensive numbers. Another guy P.A. might deal should the playoffs be out of reach.
Josef Balej (19): Highly skilled winger would likely cost a bundle but any team looking for a game breaker who can put the puck in the net, might find there man in Balej. Problem is you’d need a European spot open and is Portland looking for youth or are they committed to making a run?????
Brian Sutherby (19): Not to say Moose Jaw is giving up the season, but they’ve had a revolving door on their dressing room this season and have a number of forwards that would draw interest with Sutherby being the most sought after likely. Solid two-way forward who can score, hit, fight and bring leadership to a team. Not a bad package, but would be a rent a player as he will either be with the Washington Capitals or the AHL next season.
Sean O’Connor (20): A signed overager with Florida, Moose Jaw may have some teams kicking the tires on this asset as he is feisty, physical, big and can score. Sean could play on any teams top three forward units and bring a big body who can do it all. Another rent a player as he graduates this season.
Shawn Limpright (20): Overager who brings speed, grit and offence to any line-up. Again, is Moose Jaw looking to make a late run or building for the future.
Steven Crampton (19): Often injured, but another of the gritty, but talented Moose Jaw Warriors. Teams looking for forward depth and a guy who plays hard every shift would likely look here.
Ben Thompson (19): With the Tigers on the outside looking in right now, teams may come knocking for a few guys with smallish, but talented Ben Thompson being a guy who likely would draw interest. Fast, skilled and gritty are attributes Ben brings to the rink and any team could use his speed.
Joffrey Lupul (18): The Tigers aren’t likely interested in moving this highly skilled scoring machine, but teams will kick the tires on this guy. Could be a game breaker for any team looking to score more. Plays with some grit and tenacity as well.
Ryan Hollweg (18): Would be a high ticket item like Lupul, however his work ethic and solid two way play will certainly garner interest in the Tiger center. A guy who can check the opponents top players to death.
Owen Fussey (18): Hard working, skilled forward is likely still a key cog for the Hitmen for next year, but his skill and playmaking will likely be sought after. Price tag would be high.
Michael Bubnick (19): Another forward who works hard and brings solid two way play to the rink. Would add depth to any team looking to solidify their forward depth.