The Lethbridge Hurricanes made a big splash and perhaps kickstarted the WHL hot stove with a blockbuster trade on Thursday, acquiring top scorers Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn from the Regina Pats.
The next day, the Red Deer Rebels made a splash of their own, acquiring Dallas Stars prospect Brett Davis and Cameron Hausinger from the Kootenay Ice.
The Pats and Ice undoubtedly received plenty of offers for their high-caliber forwards —Henry is a Colorado Avalanche prospect with 40 points this season, Leschyshyn is a Vegas Golden Knights prospect with 32 points, Davis is a Stars prospect with 19 points and Hausinger owns 17 points.
Perhaps the Everett Silvertips were a possible suitor that couldn’t — or wouldn’t — top the respective offers.
Everett’s possible involvement would line up with what Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson told me last week, before the trades were announced.
“We would certainly like to add a piece or two that would strengthen our team,” Davidson said. “I’m out there looking and listening and reaching out to other general managers to see what might be available. … I’m working at it.”
This shouldn’t come to much surprise, as the Silvertips are on top of the Western Conference with 43 points and are 11-2-1-0 in their last 14 games. Davidson has remained adamant from the start of the season that he’s keen on building a contender.
But Everett will need to pay handsomely for an impact player on the trade market if recent activity is any indication.
In exchange for Henry and Leschyshyn, the Pats brought in a monster haul: 19-year-old forward Jadon Joseph, 18-year-old forward Ty Kolle, the Hurricanes’ first-round and eighth round picks 2019, third-round pick in 2019 and fourth-round pick in 2022. Also included was the Swift Current Broncos’ first-round pick in 2020 and two conditional picks if Henry and Leschyshyn return for their overage seasons next year.
The Ice received 18-year-old forward Austin Schellenberg, 17-year-old forwards River Fahey and Justin Stevenson, 15-year-old forward Chase Bertholet, first, third and sixth-round picks in 2019 and a second-round pick in 2020 for Davis and Hausinger. The Ice also nabbed a third-round conditional pick in the 2022 draft.
That’s four total players in exchange for six players and 12 draft picks.
From a roster construction standpoint, the Silvertips would benefit from a top-six center to pair with 19-year-old Riley Sutter. The Silvertips would prefer to eventually move Connor Dewar to his natural position on the wing, and adding another center would allow that to happen.
That brings us to Davidson’s comment about adding a piece or two. The second piece would almost certainly be another forward, with Everett set at defense with acquired overagers Sahvan Khaira and Artyom Minulin, 19-year-olds Jake Christiansen and Wyatte Wylie, 18-year-olds Gianni Fairbrother and Ian Walker and rookie Ronan Seeley, and at goaltender with Dustin Wolf.
This hypothetical forward would prime Everett with three potent lines and provide the Silvertips with a great opportunity to advance out of the Western Conference.
Everett’s roster construction somewhat hamstrings what it can accomplish. The Silvertips filled all three overage spots by acquiring Minulin in October. Everett possesses a loaded 1999-born class with Wylie, Christiansen, Dewar, Sutter, Bryce Kindopp, Akash Bains, Luke Ormsby and Bronson Sharp, and adding another 19-year-old player will complicate the 20-year-old-player logjam Everett will inevitably have next year.
But the Silvertips are serious about contending, and might prefer a benefit-now-figure-it-out later approach. Conversely, Everett’s 2000-born class, which includes Dawson Butt, Martin Fasko-Rudas, Walker and Fairbrother, is a bit thin and would benefit with some additions.
American Thanksgiving is thought of as the point when the trade market initially sparks, progressively heating up after Christmas break in advance of the Jan. 10 deadline.
Here are some potential “sellers” that could be trade partners with Everett before the trade deadline:
Calgary Hitmen (23 points, 10-14-2-1, ninth in Eastern Conference)
The Hitmen, who were trounced 4-0 when they made a stop in Everett for their U.S. Division road trip, are struggling to find traction in the Eastern Conference and might be in a position to sell. Mark Kastelic (22 goals, 11 assists), a 1999-born forward and the team’s leading scorer, could be a nice fit, as well as 2000-born Carson Focht (six goals, 13 assists), a former first-round pick by the Tri-City Americans in 2015.
Kamloops Blazers (22 points, 10-11-1-1, ninth in Western Conference)
The Blazers, who traded Ondrej Vala and Garrett Pilon to Everett last year in a deadline blockbuster, don’t have much to wheel and deal, especially after trading Luc Smith to the Spokane Chiefs and Nolan Kneen to the Saskatoon Bladese last week. Zane Franklin (15 goals, 13 assists), a 1999-born right wing, is Kamloops’ most productive player. But perhaps a reunion with Orrin Centazzo could make sense for the Silvertips. The 18-year-old forward, shipped across the border in the Vala-Pillon trade last year, is a point-per-game player this year with six goals and 17 assist, would fit in nicely with Everett’s top six and bolster Everett’s thin 2000-born class. Of course, it will take a healthy package of picks to make that trade work.
Moose Jaw Warriors (32 points, 14-5-3-1, fourth in Eastern Conference)
The Warriors are a difficult team to read as they’re in fine position to obtain a playoff appearance, but with how the one-loss Prince Albert Raiders have played this season and the aggressiveness Red Deer, Lethbridge and Saskatoon have shown in the East, there could be some teams like Moose Jaw hitting the reset button and compiling assets instead of trying to keep up. They have some nice pieces to sell of if they choose that route.
Justin Almeida (five goals, 23 assists) could be a nice fit in Everett. The Pittsburgh Penguins prospect would fill Everett’s need for a top-six center. If Everett wanted to create an even bigger splash, 2000-born defenseman Jett Woo (three goals, 11 assists in 19 games) would be a dynamic piece to add. The Vancouver Canucks’ second-round pick in 2018 is Moose Jaw’s most tantalizing player and would be a nice addition for the Silvertips on the back end. Woo is most likely not being moved, and with defense not being a need for Everett, it’s a pipe dream.
Brandon Wheat Kings (30 points, 12-7-3-3, seventh in Eastern Conference)
The Wheat Kings set a precedent last season, selling off three key pieces at the trade deadline last season despite having a winning record. Will they do it again?
If so, Stelio Mattheos (21 goals, 18 assists) would be the grand prize. The Carolina Hurricanes’ third-round pick in 2017 is a bonafide No. 1 1999-born center and likely will play in the American Hockey League next year, so he’d be just a half-year rental. The Wheat Kings might be willing to part with him for a healthy trade package if they don’t view themselves as contenders. Luka Burzan, a first-round pick from Moose Jaw in 2016, is a 2000-born forward with 29 points (16 goals, 13 assists) and would be a solid pickup for the Silvertips. 1999-born Connor Gutenberg (seven goals, 12 assists) could fill in as a No. 2 center.
Seattle Thunderbirds (21 points, 9-12-3-0, 10th in Western Conference)
With former Everett director of player personnel Bil La Forge now in the Thunderbirds organization as general manager , the trade compatibility between the Silvertips and their U.S. Division rival is probably as high as its been in quite some time.
The Thunderbirds have some nice pieces, especially Dillon Hamaliuk, who is expected to be a high pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. There is obviously animosity baked in between the two teams, and La Forge’s presence may not matter. But Seattle is last in the Western Conference standings and might want to build for the future.
Medicine Hat Tigers (27 points, 12-12-1-2, eighth in Eastern Conference)
The Tigers are in a similar position as Calgary, and it’s unclear if they possess the firepower to compete with Prince Albert. If they decide to sell, 1999-born center James Hamblin (11 goals, 18 assists) would be an appealing asset. Ryan Chyzowksi (10 goals, 12 assists) would provide Everett with a 2000-born center.
Swift Current (10 points, 4-20-1-1, 12th in Eastern Conference): Aside from St. Louis Blues prospect and goaltender Joel Hofer, the Broncos don’t have much left to sell. They would be an obvious seller with a league worst four wins.
Regina (16 points, 8-18-0-0, 11th in Eastern Conference): A situation similar to Swift Current’s, with not much left in the cupboard after dealing its top forwards to Lethbridge.
Kootenay (18 points, 7-18-3-1, 10th in Eastern Conference): The Ice would be a viable option if they didn’t ship Davis and Hausinger to Red Deer on Friday. The real prize to be had for Kootenay would be 17-year-old center Peyton Krebs, who is projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft. But he’s either off-limits or would require a king’s ransom of draft picks and promising young players.
Prince George Cougars (23 points, 10-13-1-2, eighth in Eastern Conference): The Cougars are near the bottom of the Western Conference, but with their most productive players being Vladislav Mikhalchuk, an import, and defenseman Cole Moberg, the Cougars might not be a great trade partner for Everett.
Kelowna Rockets (25 points, 12-15-1-0, 5th in Western Conference): The Rockets own a losing record, but with since they’re hosting the Memorial Cup in 2020, they’ll be reluctant to sell pieces that could help them next season.