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WHL’s Top 4 Cement Their Playoff Berth In Deadline-Day Trades

By Ryan McCracken on January 13, 2017

The Prince George Cougars acquired Radovan Bondra from the Vancouver Giants in a deadline-day deal in exchange for Tyler Ho, Bartek Bison and a third round pick next year. (CJ Relke image)     

It’s the time of the year when strong teams get even stronger, and 2017 was no exception.

The Western Hockey League’s four juggernauts all made moves leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline, but the Regina Pats and Prince George Cougars managed to stand out above the rest with some blockbuster deals.

The Pats went all in on deadline day, locking up standout defenceman Josh Mahura and forward Jeff de Wit and a pick from the Red Deer Rebels in exchange for Lane Zablocki, Dawson Barteaux and three early-round selections. Both Mahura and de Wit come to the table with Memorial Cup experience, while Mahura is clicking at nearly a point-per-game from the back end this season.

All this comes after a trade eight days earlier that sent Wyatt Sloboshan to Regina in exchange for Rykr Cole and Riley Woods, making the CHL’s top-ranked Pats an even more considerable threat as the postseason approaches.

The Prince George Cougars also looked to improve their stock on deadline day, adding some serious size to their forward lines in the form of Radovan Bondra and Nikita Popugaev. The Cougars picked up Bondra from the Vancouver Giants in exchange for Tyler Ho, Bartek Bison and a third round pick next year, and Popugaev from the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for Yan Khomenko, Justin Almeida and a pair of picks. The Cougars also added 19-year-old winger Tanner Wishnowski from the Spokane Chiefs in exchange for an eighth rounder in 2018.

South of the boarder, the U.S. Division leading Everett Silvertips and Central Division leading Medicine Hat Tigers had a quieter week on the trade front, but it didn’t go by without some action on the wire.

The Silvertips picked up some size and skill on the back end with the addition of point-per-game defenceman Aaron Irving — sending centre Brett Kemp, winger Graham Millar and a first round pick in 2018 to the Edmonton Oil Kings in return. With one of the league’s best defensive corps and Team Canada’s Carter Hart between the posts, Everett was already one of the deepest teams in the Dub, and now they’re even stronger.

It seems the Tigers are the only division leader in the Dub that may have taken a step back entering the new year. While the Tigers managed to acquire two players to immediately assist things in the Hat using nothing but a pair of draft picks, the loss of stud defenceman David Quenneville far outweighs the gain of acquiring 19-year-old defenceman Jordan Henderson.

Henderson was Medicine Hat’s final acquisition of the season, coming five days before the deadline and two days after Quenneville broke his tibia blocking a shot in a loss to the Pats.

The Tigers also opted to add some experience behind starting goaltender Nick Schneider, trading away a seventh round bantam draft pick for 19-year-old netminder Michael Bullion. The move gives the Tigers a bit more freedom in their push for the playoffs, especially given their tendency for end-to-end barnburners, while allowing 16-year-old goaltender Duncan McGovern to soak in some more ice time at the Junior A level with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Dauphin Kings.

The big four weren’t the only buyers at the deadline, as Medicine Hat’s rival Lethbridge Hurricanes pushed themselves right back into the Central Division chase with a pair of key additions in Zak Zborosky and Matt Alfaro while Swift Current Broncos boosted their veteran presence by adding WHL champion goaltender Jordan Papirny and overager Ryley Lindgren.

The ’Canes parted ways with Brett Davis, Colton Kroeker and a pair of draft picks next year to get Zborosky and Alfaro, but gained a pair of point-per-game players in their push for the playoffs. Lethbridge also added Brady Pouteau from the Pats and Kyle Yewchuk from the Oil Kings in exchange for a pick apiece, while sending Carson Dyck to Swift Current in exchange for Lindgren.

The Broncos were one of the most active teams in the mix this week, engaging in four trades in the two days leading up to the draft — picking up two 20-year-olds, rookie blueliner Jake Hobson from the Portland Winterhawks and three draft picks while parting ways with four players and four picks.

Those are just a handful of the many moves made in the days and hours leading up to the WHL deadline. Who was your winner? Let us know on Twitter @HockeyNow.  

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By Ryan McCracken| January 13, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior
Keywords:  WHL

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