December 28, 2013
Prince Albert Raiders general manager Bruno Campese didn't want to wait until the Jan. 10 trade deadline to shake-up his roster. He saw enough throughout his club's first 36 games, where they clearly underachieved with a 18-16-2-0 record.
In the first deal with the Saskatoon Blades, the Raiders sent overage blueliner Dylan Busenius and second and fifth-round 2014 bantam picks to the Bridge City for overage winger Collin Valcourt and 18-year-old defenceman Ryan Coghlan. These players will see their former teams right off the hop as Saskatoon hosts Prince Albert tonight (Dec. 28). Campese then sent Dallas Stars second-round pick Mike Winther to the Calgary Hitmen for 19-year-old winger Calder Brooks and a second-round 2014 bantam pick.
Valcourt is a valuable addition to the Raiders' offense as he adds talent, size - 6-foot-2, 216-pounds - and a veteran presence. The Red Deer, Alta., native, who has 14 goals and 38 points in 36 games, will likely suit up on the first line beside German sensation Leon Draisaitl, once he returns from the world junior championship. The second deal, meanwhile, makes sense because Winther, 19, has clearly underachieved - only scoring three goals and 14 points in 18 games this year - and the trade recoups the second-round pick they sent to Saskatoon in the Valcourt deal. In addition, the trades send a message to the team that they have to pull up their socks.
Prince Albert has largely underachieved this season under new head coach Cory Clouston. Led by Draisaitl, Winnipeg Jets first-round pick Josh Morrissey and offseason goalie acquisition Cole Cheveldave, they seemed to have the talent to win the East Division. Yet over half way into the season they sit outside of the playoffs in ninth spot. Some of the blame sits on Cheveldave because he hasn't lived up to expectations, posting a 3.43 average and .893 save percentage in 28 contests, but the main problem has been on the blueline. They desperately lack a shutdown specialist who can log 20-plus minutes a night. Since this hole wasn't filled in the deals, it seems Campese might be looking to make a third trade.
It will be tough for the Raiders to quickly turn around their season now since their top two players, Draisaitl and Morrissey, are away from the team at the world juniors. They do not have the toughest schedule in late December and January as they mostly play teams close to them in the standings, though.
This is the third year in a row under three different coaches where the Raiders have underachieved. Last year, the Raiders didn't exactly disappoint in the regular-season under Steve Young, who was let go at the end of the year, with a fifth place finish; however, up against the Red Deer Rebels in the first round of the playoffs, the Raiders didn't muster a valiant effort as they were swept. The year before, while Campese held the bench-boss duties, they had enough tools to crack the playoffs, but finished in last spot in the Eastern Conference.
Trade deadline watch
Unlike last year where Blades GM Lorne Molleken made the trade deadline interesting because he practically had a gun to his head to improve his team for the MasterCard Memorial Cup, it seems this year's deadline won't be too crazy. Moreover, most teams have already made their big moves with the Kootenay Ice landing Tim Bozon from the Kamloops Blazers and the Brandon Wheat Kings acquiring Ryan Pilon from the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Nonetheless, there are some players to keep an eye on as the Jan. 10 deadline approaches. Two NHL blueline prospects – Moose Jaw Warriors' Travis Brown (Chicago Blackhawks) and Hurricanes' Nick Walters (St. Louis Blues) – could be in the mix of trade talks. They can move onto the pros (AHL) next year as they are in their 19-year-old seasons; however, since they haven't solidified themselves as clearly being ready to take the next step, their respective WHL teams might hold onto them because of the chance they could return as overagers. In addition, if the Blades go all in as sellers, 20-year-old forward Nathan Burns should garner some interest.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Contact him at Friesenkelly@live.ca and follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen