By Woodard, Dale on January 11, 2019.
As the 3 p.m. came and went on the Western Hockey League trade deadline Thursday afternoon, all was quiet on the Lethbridge Hurricanes front.
With the exception of one small addition, the early homework done by the Canes equated to a low-key media conference as general manager Peter Anholt met with the media outside the dressing as the clock ticked past the deadline.
And so, the lineup the Canes took into Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the Kootenay Ice and again tonight against the Edmonton Oil Kings come to at 7 p.m. at the Enmax Centre are what fans will see as the stretch drive officially begins.
“I think when you assess everything as a whole, we did our deals early,” said Anholt. “You continue to try and maybe see if something works and nothing really stood out and we weren’t able to do anything of any significance.”
The one addition Thursday came from the midget ranks as the Hurricanes brought in defenceman Rylan Thiessen from the Brandon Wheat Kings midget AAA team from the Manitoba Midget Hockey League.
Thiessen, 17, was undrafted and played two games with the Hurricanes this season after signing with the team in Dec. 11.
“We’ll bring him in from the Brandon midget AAA and add him as a 17-year-old,” said Anholt. “It was much the same as we did with Nolan Jones last year. It helps to get him get a kickstart for this season. So we’ll do the same.”
As for the bigger roster moves, those came earlier, starting with the Nov. 29 blockbuster that brought in Regina Pats leading scorers Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn in exchange for Jadon Joseph and Ty Kolle and seven draft picks, including two first-rounders and two conditional picks.
“I think Henry and Leschyshyn were two big adds for us in very important adds,” said Anholt of the duo who have formed the Hurricanes top line alongside Jordy Bellerive.
The moves continued on New Year’s Day as they acquired goaltender Liam Hughes from the Seattle Thunderbirds for forward Keltie Jeri-Leon, local prospect Michael Horon and a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft.
Two days later, the Hurricanes grabbed forward Scott Mahovlich from the Pats for a third-round pick in this year’s draft.
“Hughes was an important add and it looks like the Mahovlich deal has been a very important deal because (Logan) Barlage’s line has been much better since, too,” said Anholt. “So I think there is been a domino effect with those other deals. I basically sat on my butt for nine hours (Thursday) and accomplished nothing when it comes right down to it.
“I went into today with no real designs on having to make a deal. I think when you really look at it, we thought that if we could add to our defence corps in some way, shape or form, we wouldn’t have minded doing that. That being said, you have to give up something to get something and I didn’t like maybe hurting the chemistry that we do have with our group and by just adding a player that is within our system doesn’t cost us anything and we know what we’re getting.”
With the roster set, the Hurricanes begin what is shaping up to be a tough stretch drive battle in the Central Division.
Heading into tonight’s action, the 22-10-4-4 Canes sit in first in the Central, three points up on the Red Deer Rebels (23-13-2-1) and the Oil Kings (21-14-4-3).
Another two points back are the 22-16-1-2 Medicine Hat Tigers, while the Calgary Hitmen (20-16-3-1) continue to surge, on a five-game winning streak and 7-2-1-0 in their last 10 games.
“I think overall the Central division is so much better this year,” said Anholt. “So it’s going to be a real challenge to get out of our division this year. Edmonton is a good team and Red Deer is a really good team. Calgary continues to improve their record and in the last 20 games or so and they’ve been very good. And because of our rivalry with Medicine Hat, we always have our hands full with them.
“It looks like five teams in our division could very well make the playoffs. So it’s going to be hard to get out of our division. That being said, if we get to the conference finals it looks like there are going to be some real dogfights on that side, too. There are some good teams and I think it’s exciting. It’s exciting for the fans that our Central Division has gotten better so fast. I think it’s a real credit to the organizations that are in our division. We’ve got our hands full, but our expectations don’t change.”
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