Now that the WHL trade deadline has come and gone, we know who will be wearing the green and gold for the Prince Albert Raiders for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
Altogether, the Raiders have welcomed 20-year-old forward Regan Nagy, 19-year-old forward Kody McDonald, 18-year-old defenceman Jeremy Masella, and 17-year-old defenceman Konrad Belcourt to the team. Heading out are 20-year-old forward Devon Skoleski, 19-year-old goaltender Nick Sanders, 18-year-old forward D-Jay Jerome, 18-year-old defenceman Austin Crossley, and 16-year-old defenceman Rhett Rhinehart.
Seven points back of playoffs, with games in hand on both Saskatoon and Regina, I believe the Raiders have put themselves in a better position to contend for a wildcard spot this year.
My thoughts this week:
The WHL trade deadline was as crazy as ever this year, with high profile players like Kale Clague, Jake Bean, Tanner Kaspick, Stuart Skinner, Giorgio Estephan, Dennis Cholowski, Josh Anderson, Kody McDonald, Cam Hebig, Libor Hajek, Garrett Pilon, and Ondrej Vala finding new homes in exchange for prospects and draft picks galore.
The Raiders did get in on the action, but it is comforting to see the future kept intact as the team still has, by my count, at least one pick in each of the first six rounds of every draft moving forward.
While other teams around the league have sacrificed the near future for a shot at it all this year, the Raiders have improved their current situation while keeping the future health of the team intact.
Many eyebrows were raised when the Raiders sent a package including former first round pick Rhett Rhinehart, defenceman Austin Crossley, and the team’s first rounder in 2018 for 19-year-old forward Kody McDonald from Prince George.
When I first saw it, I was certainly shocked, but after hearing the explanation from Curtis Hunt and looking at the prospect pool, it makes good sense.
First, McDonald will make an immediate impact this year, and could be one of the top 20-year-olds in the league next season.
Second, The Raiders gave up their own first round pick for 2018, but have kept Prince George’s first rounder (acquired in the Brendan Guhle trade), which will likely be an even higher pick than the Raiders’ after the Cougars sold off assets at the deadline.
And finally, when you look at the talent pool the Raiders have, you can see why moving Rhinehart became an option. On defence, the Raiders have seven current players eligible to return next year (age next season in brackets):
- Vojtech Budik (20), Brayden Pachal (19), Zack Hayes (19), Max Martin (19), Sergei Sapego (19), Jeremy Masella (19), and Konrad Belcourt (18).
That group alone is a strong defensive core, but the Raiders will also have four players pushing for a spot who have already suited up for the team:
- Kaiden Guhle (16), Tyler Lowe (18), Lane Kirk (18), and Adam Herold (17).
Furthermore, the last three drafts have included another five defencemen:
- Chase Felgueiras (18), Mkyllan Couture (17), Aidan Bulych (17), Braydon Clark (16), and Graham Skinner (16).
There will be decisions to be made come next fall, and I would expect the 2018 training camp to be highly competitive.
Raider fans got a chance to see Regan Nagy, Jeremy Masella, and Kody McDonald debut on home ice last weekend, and it will be Konrad Belcourt’s opportunity to do the same Friday night.
Belcourt was acquired from the Kelowna Rockets on Sunday evening in exchange for a fifth and an eighth-round pick in 2018.
From Sherwood Park, Alta., Belcourt was a fourth round pick by the Rockets in the 2015 bantam draft, and has four points in 64 games played with Kelowna so far.
Asked about him on Wednesday, GM Curtis Hunt said Belcourt is a mobile, puck-moving defenceman who will get a great opportunity to play in the next few weeks.
On Twitter: @Trevor_Redden
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