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Above the Glass

From the Dub: Go Big or Go Home

To say that teams in the WHL went all in at the January 10 trade deadline would be an understatement. I have never seen a shopping spree like the one that transpired this week. The trades changed the landscape of both the Western and Eastern Conferences and clearly signals that most teams are gearing up for a deep playoff run. Alas, only one will really get what they want: the Memorial Cup. But watching them try is going to be one heck of a ride. Here in Portland, the Winterhawks made headlines when they swung a nine-player deal with the Prince George Cougars, which wasn't announced until the final five minutes of the deadline. The jewel in the crown: Detroit Red Wings first round pick Dennis Cholowski. 

Aaaannnddd they're back: Upon the return of World Junior players, WHL teams immediately started wheeling and dealing.  The Calgary Hitmen and the Tri-City Americans made one of the first blockbuster trades of the week, swinging a deal that had already been anticipated by the key player himself. On Saturday night, the Hitmen traded World Junior gold medalist Jake Bean to the Americans. In return the Hitmen will receive Dakota Krebs, Carson Focht, a second-round pick in the 2018 and 2020 WHL Bantam Drafts and a first-round pick in 2019. Jake Bean is expected to play for the Americans tonight in their game against the Portland Winterhawks. But this deal was mere child's play compared to what followed this week: 

North stars: The Everett Silvertips put the U.S. Division on notice Sunday, when they acquired Kamloops Blazers forward Garret Pilon and defenseman Ondrej Vala. In return, the Blazers received defenseman Montana Onyebuchi and forwards Orrin Centazzo, Kalen Ukrainetz, Nathanael Hinds, along with first and fourth-round picks in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. 

Bomb cyclone: On Tuesday, the Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Swift Current Broncos traded practically everything but the kitchen sink. Lethbridge acquired forwards Logan Barlage and Owen Blocker, defenseman Matthew Stanley and goalie Logan Flodell. They also received first and third-round picks in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and a conditional pick in the second round of the 2021 draft. In return, Swift Current received Lethbridge captain Giorgio Estephan, Stuart Skinner and former Portland Winterhawk Tanner Nagel.

Round and round they go: This year's Memorial Cup host the Regina Pats were involved in a three-way deal with the Saskatoon Blades and the Medicine Hat Tigers that ranks as one of the more creative deals this year. Saskatoon sent Cameron Hebig and Ryan Kubic to Regina. In return they received Tyler Brown, Bryan Lockner and four draft picks: first and second round in 2020 and third round in 2019 and 2021. Saskatoon then sent Lockner, a first round pick in 2020 and a second round pick in 2021 to Medicine Hat in return for Max Gerlach. 

But wait, there's more... The Brandon Wheat Kings made the one of the final deals of the day, one involving a World Junior player. They traded Kale Clague to the Moose Jaw Warriors in return for Luka Burzan, Chase Hartje, first round picks in the 2019 and 2021 WHL Bantam drafts and a second round pick in 2018. They also made a separate deal with the Victoria Royals. The Wheat Kings sent Tanner Kaspick and Cameron MacDonald to the Royals in exchange for Jonathan Lambos, Ty Thorpe, and a first round pick in the 2019 and 2021 WHL Bantam Drafts. 

Wait for it...With the deadline ticking down on Wednesday, many thought Portland would stand pat. But I knew better. The team is legendary for last-minute and/or blockbuster deals. I was here when they made an epic trade with Everett to acquire Seth Jones. I've seen their careful, patient and thoughtful approach to trades. But this year may have topped them all. The Winterhawks have acquired two players from the Prince George Cougars, most notably defenseman Dennis Cholowski. They also acquired the rights to goalie Ty Taylor. In exchange, the Cougars received Ilijah Colina, Connor Bowie and five draft picks: second-round picks in the 2018 and 2019 WHL Bantam Drafts, first and third-round picks in 2020 and a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft. I'm sure Red Wings fans don't need me to tell you this, but in case you are just joining us: 

About Dennis Cholowski: Drafted 20th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 2016 NHL draft. Named captain of the Prince George Cougars in November 2017. In 37 games with the Cougars this season, he has 39 points (13G-26A), including four power-play goals, one short-handed goal and one game winning goal. Ranked second in the WHL in goals among defensemen and sixth in points. You can watch Mike Johnston's thoughts on the trade here. Cholowski is expected to be in the lineup tonight in Tri-Cities. The Winterhawks also play at home on Saturday and Sunday, so look for an update on Sunday with my initial thoughts on the team's newest prize possession. I hope to speak with Dennis on Sunday about his thoughts on the trade. You can follow the Winterhawks on Twitter for live updates over the weekend. 

BTW: The Winterhawks also made several smaller deals in the past week. They acquired Lukus MacKenzie from the Red Deer Rebels in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. They also traded forward Bronson Sharp to the Everett Silvertips for a fifth round pick in the 2020 draft. 

Over and out: I'm off to prepare for an epic triple-header weekend. I'll keep you posted, but I can already guarantee it's going to be a scorcher. 

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Comments

ilovehomers's avatar

That’s a lot of trading - something about me feels weird that these young guys can get traded, but they are technically pro so..

Of course, any insight toy have into “Cholo” will be appreciated here! The Wings obviously made the right move signing him and moving him to the pros.


The idea at prince George was that he would be under the tootilage of a couple former NHL d-men. Have to wonder what the Wings feel about this movement, and any other team that have prospects go elsewhere without their control.

Posted by ilovehomers on 01/13/18 at 12:03 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

What’s your take, Samantha:  It feels like the Hawks kind of leveraged their future pretty heavily on Cholowski.  Lots of picks gone for him.  How many seasons do we realistically have him for?  I can’t tell if this was a good or bad move but well, they must think it was a good one.  Happy to get the chance to watch him play, anyhow.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 01/13/18 at 05:31 AM ET

Avatar

Thanks to both of you for reading this post and taking the time to comment. I’ll say this about the trades: every time I’ve talked to the Winterhawks this season, they all (players and coaches) believe this is their shot at a return to the Memorial Cup and they have the right team to do it. The trade reflects that. It’s also important to remember that we have guys like Seth Jarvis in the pipeline and some great rookie talent that will be even better in years to come. And something else to keep in mind: Mike J and company are really good at scouting talent beyond the draft.

As for Cholowski, he already looks good just one game in. I’m giving it the rest of the weekend to really get a good look at him and Lukus before I weigh in. But I like what I see so far. As for his development, I think he is in good hands. One of the main reasons players and their NHL teams like Portland so much is the great player development here. It’s like my mom says - “Mike Johnston is a great coach because he can make any player great.”

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 01/13/18 at 01:49 PM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com