EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips found their highly elusive center in the team’s final deal before the Western Hockey League trade deadline, along with adding a young, puck-moving Finnish defenseman.
It’s a move not only to compete for a championship in 2020, but for the future as well.
The Silvertips acquired 19-year-old center Ethan Regnier and 17-year-old import defenseman Kasper Puutio from the Swift Current Broncos on Friday in exchange for import forward Martin Fasko-Rudas, 18-year-old defenseman Parker Hendren, a first-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2022.
“For me, this is a good add for our program for the stretch run, both of them,” Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson said, “but they could also be very key in our group next year, which for me is also exciting.”
Regnier, a 2000-born forward from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, has played his entire career in Swift Current and was a member of the Broncos’ WHL championship team in 2018. A right-shot center, Regnier has registered nine goals and 21 points this season, the highest on the Broncos prior to his departure. The 11th-round bantam pick has posted 60 points total throughout his WHL career.
What’s more, he’s played center the past two seasons in Swift Current, although he’s struggled in the faceoff circle this season by winning just 333 of his 732 attempted draws, good for a 45.4% clip.
“I think Regnier is a very experienced center iceman, wears the ‘C’ and is supposed to be, not only from what I’ve been told by them, but from our people in Prince Albert, that he’s a real character guy,” Davidson said. “… We needed help in the middle and this was the key for me, was adding a centerman. There wasn’t very much available, but I think Ethan is going to be a real nice fit for us. I think he’s got the chance to grow his game and potentially be an overage the following year as well.”
Regnier fills an immediate need, while Puutio is an exciting piece for the future.
Puutio, the first-overall pick in the 2019 Canadian Hockey League import draft out of Vaasa, Finland, is a ‘C’-ranked prospect for the 2020 NHL draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, and will play in the upcoming Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects game on Jan. 16 in Hamilton, Ontario.
Puutio scored one goal and racked up 16 points in 35 games this season, leading all Broncos blueliners.
“I think they knew we needed a centerman and they needed to move this Euro player and obviously our reports on him are very positive,” Davidson said. “He’s a 17-year-old with some redeeming qualities at the NHL ranks and that’s certainly what our scouts saw, too.
“We were able to start to pull this together late yesterday and we got it done. He’s a guy that can skate and move pucks. He’s a guy that looks like a Silvertip-type defenseman and we’re really excited to get him.”
The Silvertips now boast an experienced and dynamic group on the blueline. Two defensemen — Wyatte Wylie and Gianni Fairbrother — have been taken in the NHL draft, two others – Ronan Seeley and Puutio — are expected to be picked in the upcoming 2020 draft and Jake Christiansen has played professional games in the American Hockey League before being sent back for his final junior season.
Puutio has upwards of three seasons of junior eligibility after this one, barring any complications. Regnier is an overager next season and could be back, depending on what three overage players Everett decides to keep.
Regnier is available for the Silvertips’ game on Saturday at Seattle, while Puutio won’t report until next Friday. Not only does the import defenseman need to apply for a U.S. Visa, the same thing that delayed Artyom Minulin’s arrival last year, but he will leave Tuesday to fly to Hamilton for the Top Prospects game.
The Silvertips did have to play a pretty penny for Regnier and Puutio, parting with a first-round pick in the 2020 bantam draft, which is regarded as strong in terms of top-end talent. With Everett at the top of the U.S. Division, that pick is likely at the bottom of the draft.
“It is a good year,” Davidson said. “Maybe we’ll fill in some of the holes we have. I’m sure it will be hard to acquire a first-round pick between now and the May draft, but we’ll just have to do what we’ve done well in the past. We’ll have to do well picking in the middle rounds.”
Dealing coveted assets was the price of doing business at this year’s WHL trade deadline. For example, Winnipeg dealt six draft picks, including four second-rounders, for Dallas Stars prospect Dawson Barteaux and Victoria traded seven pieces, including a first-rounder and highly regarded goalie prospect Brock Gould, for Anaheim Ducks first-round pick Brayden Tracey.
“It seems each year it’s more and more difficult to make deals,” Davidson said. “I think this year was very difficult because there were a few teams out, but a lot of teams in the middle and I don’t think anyone wants to sell when they… feel like they can do well, and that’s what it felt like this year for me. A lot of teams were trying to make themselves better.”
In order to make room for another defenseman and an import spot, Fasko-Rudas and Hendren were moved out.
Fasko-Rudas, a favorite in the dressing room and amongst the fan base, had eight points in 17 games this season and is coming off an appearance with Team Slovakia in the World Junior Championships.
“That was a real tough one to deal with because he’s been such a quality person in our program the last couple of years,” Davidson said. “He comes and plays and competes. He’s an ultimate team guy. He’s coming off a great World Juniors.
“But we got a centerman, and Fasko’s not a centerman, and we had the chance to get a nice young Euro defenseman who could be back next season, and let’s be honest, Fasko next year is going to be a 20-year-old and Euro and for me, it’s difficult to carry a player that eats up two spots.”
Fasko-Rudas didn’t stay in Swift Current long. He was flipped to the Saskatoon Blades later in the day and will play for former Silvertip assistant coach Mitch Love.
Hendren, a right-shot defenseman, had two points in 38 games for Everett.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH.