The end of the NHL’s lockout is bad news for junior teams across the country, whose best players could be called to join pro training camps and eventually stick in either the NHL or the minor leagues.
The Swift Current Broncos, however, are safe as none of their drafted players were on the call-up lists NHL teams had to provide to the Canadian Hockey League prior to the beginning of the lockout.
Drafted Broncos include defencemen Richard Nedomlel (Detroit Red Wings) and Reece Scarlett (New Jersey Devils) along with forwards Adam Lowry (Winnipeg Jets), Coda Gordon (Calgary Flames) and Graham Black (New Jersey Devils).
The Broncos were also pleased to have rookie defenceman Brycen Martin and starting goalie Eetu Laurikainen back in the lineup Wednesday against Red Deer.
Move over Cody Eakin. See ya later Layne Ulmer. Buh-bye Tyler Redenbach, Jeremy Williams and Ben Ondrus.
Swift Current Broncos captain Adam Lowry has passed them all.
With two goals Saturday in Swift Current’s 3-2 win at Lethbridge, Lowry did something no Bronco had done in more than 13 years — score at least one point in 17 straight games.
“I wanted to be a leader on this team not only in the dressing room but on the ice and especially in the offensive category,” said Lowry, seventh in the league as of Tuesday with 56 points.
It’s finally here! The day when we join the world a few dozen people across Western Canada for the cliched tradition of making snap judgments on who won and lost at the WHL Trade Deadline. Oh happy day!
Additions: 1992 F Michael Ferland, 1993 F Erik Benoit, 1993 F Collin Valcourt
Subtractions: 1992 F Adam Kambeitz, 2013 Bantam Draft – 1st, 4th, 5th round picks, 2015 Bantam Draft – 1st round pick
About time we say something positive about the Blades this year. Fact of the matter was they needed to make some plus-sized moves (they’ve got a great personality too!) to at least try and start playing like a true contender, and they did just that. They may have not have cured all that ails them, but on paper they have a much better chance today than they did when they woke up Thursday.
See what we did there? Yesterday’s deals are very much a double-edged sword – it’s now or never for the Blades. The future is bleaker than an Estevan Bruins power play. They already mortgaged their future once recently (Brayden Schenn, anyone?) and after yesterday, no longer hold first-round picks in the next three Bantam Drafts. And as Alan Caldwell pointed out yesterday, they not only lose a minimum of 14 players from this year’s roster next year, they also don’t have any first or second-round picks from any of the previous three Bantam Drafts in their system either.
Swift Current Broncos
Additions: 1995 F Jay Merkely
Subtractions: 1993 F Josh Derko, 2014 Bantam Draft – 3rd round pick
As predicted here and in the Prairie Post, the Broncos did not necessarily set out to buy or sell but still ended up making one of the biggest splashes in the pre-deadline pool. Merkley fills virtually all of the Broncos’ needs up front in one shot, and all in exchange for a guy who wasn’t going to be in Swift next year anyway. He made a good first impression too, tapping in a power-play marker in Wednesday’s win over Red Deer.
If you didn’t resolve this year to give thanks every day for minor pro hockey, you probably should have because they’ve got the market cornered on this whole ugly jersey thing and making the world a better place. The latest and greatest: The Mississippi River Kings of the Southern Professional Hockey League and their Hawaiian-Elvis-themed jerseys for tonight’s game against Louisiana.
Proudly (is there any other way?) sporting these beauties for Mississippi tonight will be former Estevan Bruins/Notre Dame Hounds/Flin Flon Bombers defenceman Kyle Lundale, and one-game Saskatoon Blades goalie Matt Krahn. That’s one hell of a way to upstage your cross-state rivals.
The Swift Current Broncos made a mid-size deal this afternoon, trading 19-year-old winger Josh Derko and a third-round Bantam Draft pick (2014) to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for 17-year-old centre Jay Merkley. The deal helps clear up the Broncos’ 19-year-0ld logjam and, more importantly to the Broncos, brings in the young, right-handed goal scorer they so strongly desired. Merkley had 23 points in 58 games as a 16-year-old rookie and 14 goals in 44 games to start this season, though he only has two in his last 18. Broncos GM Mark Lamb stated tonight in a radio interview that Merkley had to waive a no-trade clause in order for the deal to be completed. On the surface, a steal of a deal for the Broncos.
The deal does leave Swift Current down a third and fourth-round pick between the next two Bantam Drafts, so it’s likely GM Mark Lamb (who hasn’t been known for trading away his draft picks) will try and acquire one or the other in a separate deal before Thursday’s trade deadline – possibly as part of a larger trade for a 1994 or 95 defenceman. Stay tuned.
Weekend wrapup: Pats on a roll, Adam Lowry’s once-in-13-years streak, and Millionaires embarass Bruins
Are the Regina Pats ready for some real competition? The Patricias got healthy over the Christmas break (Dyson Stevenson, Chandler Stephenson, Luke Fenske and Colton Jobke all returned from lengthy absences between Dec. 27 and 29) and have now won five in a row, including three games in three nights over the weekend. They’ve moved up to eighth in the Eastern Conference, just one point back of Swift Current for seventh. Next up: Two games in three nights against the East’s No. 2-ranked Prince Albert Raiders and No. 3-ranked Calgary Hitmen.
The other big question in the East is who will be the one to stop Adam Lowry? The Broncos captain scored twice Saturday against Lethbridge to extend his points streak to 17 games and pass Layne Ulmer’s career-best of 16 games. Lowry now has the second longest points streak for a Bronco since Jeremy Reich hit the scoresheet in 23 straight games to kick off the 1999-2000 season (something Reich credits Ulmer almost entirely for – read more later this week here and in this coming Friday’s Prairie Post.)
Elsewhere in the East Division, Saskatoon continued its Jekkyl and Hyde act with two convincing wins over Medicine Hat and P.A., the Moose Jaw Warriors lost three games in three nights to extend their losing streak to four, and the Raiders are also on a three-game skid.
In the SJHL, former WHLers Sean Aschim and Lucas Froese had a successful two-night stand with the Estevan Bruins, combining for five goals and eight assists in back-to-back wins for the Melville Millionaires this weekend. Aschim played 84 games for P.A., Kelowna, Moose Jaw and Seattle in WHL while Froese split eight games between the Pats and Broncos. No word on if Aschim and Froese cooked the Bruins breakfast Sunday morning or even gave them their real names.
Humboldt extended its winning streak to six games Sunday with a 5-1 win over the Weyburn Red Wings, who have now lost three in a row after winning their first two in the post-Dwight McMillan era.
And La Ronge Ice Wolves goalie/Swift Current product Myles Hovdebo stopped 40 shots Friday in a 1-0 win over the Flin Flon Bombers for the Swift Current product’s first shutout of the season.
In all fairness, it can’t be easy being the Saskatoon Blades this year – hosting the Memorial Cup, horrific early-season struggles, the public scrutiny that comes with employing a high-profile coach who’s won three playoff series since being rehired in 2004, and a web page my browser tells me is written in Latvian.
They’re not really buyers and they’re not really sellers, but for the second time in three seasons the Swift Current Broncos could be among the Western Hockey League’s biggest players at the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“The players we have on our team have value, so they are tradable,” said Broncos head coach and general manager Mark Lamb. “When you have players that aren’t tradable that’s when you’re in trouble. All these players are tradable.”
WHAT THE BRONCOS NEED
In a word: Youth. More specifically, they’d be well-served to add one or two young right-handed shots to their forward ranks. Levi Bews is currently the only one. Those right-handed forwards should be 1995 or 1996-born and include one high-end player and one depth guy. Currently the Broncos top prospects in those age groups (Dillon Heatherington, Brycen Martin, Zack Gonek) are all on defence. And with only four 18-year-olds on the roster – none of them defencemen and one, Shea Howorko, out indefinitely with a concussion – the Broncos may also want to bolster this age group, particularly on the blue line.
WHAT THE BRONCOS CAN OFFER
From this week’s Prairie Post:
At one end of the rink, Swift Current Broncos’ captain Adam Lowry capped a natural hat trick. At the other (the lonely end of the rink) rookie Broncos goalie Landon Bow put the finishing touches on a 20-save shutout — the first of his Western Hockey League career. The 4-0 home win Sunday over the Kootenay Ice was a good start for the Swift Current Broncos as they set out to disable the repeat button on the first half of their season. Tuesday they followed up with a 3-1 win over the Saskatoon Blades.
“We had great offence, great defence and we were just an unstoppable force out there,” Bow, who made his first start since going down injured Dec. 1 against the Brandon Wheat Kings, said of Sunday’s win. “Coming back from an injury and being able to pull a shutout, it feels really good.”
Twenty of the Broncos’ first 36 games — concluded with Dec. 14’s 4-3 loss to the Blades — were decided by one goal. Swift Current won five of them. With six extra goals over those 36 games, the Broncos (16-17-3-2) could have turned three of those losses into wins and been a comfortable fifth-place team in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they sit seventh, five points up on a team with three games in hand.
It’s not that the Broncos want to turn the page entirely on the first half of the year. They just know they’re so close to being so much better.