Major junior’s three leagues all held their trade deadlines within the past day and though many deals were swung, only a few could be considered “blockbusters” by anybody outside the deepest rungs of local fandom.
But there were a significant amount of NHL picks and prospects who found new addresses, so in the interest of covering off both the landscape of the leagues and how your favorite NHL team may have been affected, here’s a CHL deadline wrap-up. Note that some deals occurred in the days leading up to the deadline, so not all of these moves are super-fresh news.
The most obvious takeaway from the Quebec League is that Charlottetown has thrown in the towel and is looking ahead to the future. Considering the worst two teams in the ‘Q’ also won two of the past three Memorial Cups (Saint John and Shawinigan), this is not a bad strategy: Junior hockey is intensely cyclical.
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie prospect Antoine Bibeau was sent to Val-d’Or just before New Year’s, while 2014 draft prospect Mason McDonald was brought in to replace some of that crease time from Acadie-Bathurst. Phoenix Coyotes prospect Pavel Laplante had been dealt the week before to Victoriaville and 2014 prospect Alexis Pepin, a big power forward who has struggled with conditioning at times but won gold with Canada at the under-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament this summer, is now in Gatineau.
William Carrier, a goal-scorer for Cape Breton and a St. Louis Blues selection, is now heading to Drummondville, where he will be joined by Calgary Flames property Ryan Culkin, a good-sized defenseman with some offensive punch who was playing for the Quebec Remparts.
But the biggest name to move was Montreal Canadiens pick Charles Hudon. Fresh off a stint at the world juniors, the two-way forward was shipped to Baie-Comeau from Chicoutimi.
The Ontario League is interesting this year because the West is so much better than the East, but also features the Memorial Cup host London Knights. So the West could have two teams in the continental tournament, assuming a squad such as Erie or Guelph knocks off London in the playoffs. In order to fortify, the Knights added speedster Gemel Smith, a Dallas Stars prospect, from Owen Sound, with Edmonton Oilers pick Kyle Platzer going the other way.
Not to be outdone, Erie bolstered its blueline by adding Owen Sound’s Kurtis MacDermid, who signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings last season. MacDermid brings both size and toughness.
With the East looking wide open, the Sudbury Wolves made some bold moves, adding Dallas Stars first-rounder Radek Faksa from Kitchener and Carolina Hurricanes blueline prospect Trevor Carrick from Mississauga. Faksa looked great for the Czechs at the world juniors, while Carrick has a nice offensive dimension to his game.
One earlier trade to keep an eye on involved 2014 prospect Blake Clarke, who struggled with both injuries and production in North Bay this year. Now he’s with Saginaw and his two points in five games nearly surpasses the three points he had in 21 contests with the Battalion. A change of scenery may have been just the thing to save Clarke’s draft year, since he has the size and pedigree to be selected.
Nothing gets college hockey fans crowing than players leaving their ranks for major junior, so when Adam Tambellini scored as many points in his first game as a member of the Calgary Hitmen as he did in 16 outings at the University of North Dakota (four), the knives came out. But while NCAA fans screamed about inferior competition, Calgary was no doubt pleased they got the New York Rangers prospect’s rights from Portland shortly before Tambellini left Grand Forks.
Not that Portland is crying poverty. The Winterhawks landed Matt Dumba’s rights from Red Deer and after a woozy world juniors, the talented defenseman was sent back to junior by the Minnesota Wild, so now he can shoot for a WHL title.
One team that might get in the way is Kelowna. The Rockets are in fact the best squad in the country right now and added to their ranks by landing Detroit Red Wings selection Marek Tvrdon from Vancouver. The right winger can put up offense, which the Rockets will need as they fend off Victoria, which added Chicago Blackhawks defensive prospect Travis Brown in a deal with Moose Jaw.
Kelowna, Portland and Victoria are the top three teams in the West, while Calgary rules the East.