By Nick Patterson Herald writer
The NHL lockout is over.
And its conclusion comes at an awkward time for the Western Hockey League.
The WHL trade deadline is Thursday, and the end of the NHL lockout could have an effect on player movement.
The NHL and its players union reached an agreement Sunday, five days before the WHL’s trade deadline. With the NHL getting back to work, that means some of the WHL’s top players will be departing, at least temporarily.
The player who would have been most effected by the NHL’s lockout ending is Everett Silvertips captain Ryan Murray. The 19-year-old Murray, who was selected second overall in last year’s NHL draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, was expected to play in the NHL this season, and when the lockout ended it was assumed he would depart the WHL for good. However, Murray’s season was ended by a torn labrum in his shoulder, pushing back his NHL debut.
No other player currently in the WHL was expected to stick in the NHL this season. Nevertheless, a number of WHL stars, including Moose Jaw defenseman Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs), Edmonton defenseman Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oilers) and Red Deer defenseman Mathew Dumba (Minnesota Wild), are expected to leave their WHL teams to attend NHL training camps, beginning this weekend.
None of those players are thought to have a realistic chance of making their NHL team, meaning they likely won’t be away from their WHL teams for long. However, once camp starts, one never knows who’s going to impress. Some may be kept around to play in some NHL regular season games before being returned.
Should any of those players stick for good, it could dramatically change the balance of power in the league. Even the uncertainty about player status could affect how general managers act at the trade deadline. Are some players, who may be on the block, unable to be moved because of fear they won’t be coming back? Do some teams make deals to insure against the possible loss of a key component?
There has been some talk in the Ontario Hockey League about pushing its trade deadline back to accommodate NHL training camps. There’s no indication the WHL is considering a similar measure.
Around the WHL
With the trade deadline looming, several teams got an early start. … Prince Albert pulled off the biggest deal in the week before the trade deadline, acquiring 19-year-old defenseman Dylan Busenius, disgruntled 18-year-old forward Jayden Hart and a sixth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft from Medicine Hat. In return the Tigers received 19-year-old defenseman Zach Hodder, 18-year-old forward Logan McVeigh, 15-year-old defenseman prospect Connor Hobbs and a second-round pick in 2013. … Kamloops filled its vacant overage roster spot by acquiring forward Kale Kessy from Vancouver in exchange for 18-year-old forward Rob Trzonkowski and a fifth rounder in 2015. … Calgary’s Cody Sylvester was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 20-year-old forward had two goals and six assists as the Hitmen went 3-1. … Swift Current’s Adam Lowry was named the WHL Player of the Month for December. The 19-year-old forward had 13 goals and eight assists in 12 games. … Kelowna’s Jordon Cooke was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for December. The 19-year-old went 6-0-0-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and .908 save percentage. He has won 13 straight games.
Points — Colin Smith (Kamloops) 68; goals — Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon) 29; assists — Smith 41; penalty minutes — Adam De Champlain (Portland), Carter Proft (Spokane) 117; wins — Luke Siemens (Prince Albert) 23; goals against average — Mac Carruth (Portland) 1.77; save percentage — Carruth .937.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.