What Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter admires most about Luke Philp is that the Canmore native does not appear to have a ‘best-before’ expiry date.
“Let’s face it, he’s a high-end player. The thing you like about Luke is that every year he’s continued to get better and he’s always risen to the occasion in the playoffs,” Sutter said Sunday, a few hours after acquiring the 20-year-old forward from the Kootenay Ice.
“He’s a playoff guy. The bigger the game, the better he plays. He’s the kind of player who can put up points but is also a 200-foot player with a great understanding of the game.”
In exchange for the Ice captain, who underwent ankle surgery in November and is slated to return to action before the end of January, Sutter relinquished overage forward Presten Kopeck, 17-year-old defenceman Ryan Pouliot, 16-year-old prospect forward Tanner Sidaway and a second- and third-round pick in this year’s WHL bantam draft.
Philp is an obvious upgrade on Kopeck, who is an excellent penalty killer but has struggled offensively this season, while Pouliot was barely utilized by the Rebels and Sidaway was considered a marginal prospect.
“At the end of the day we’re very happy with the young players we still have in our system,” said Sutter. “In regards to Pouliot, we looked at our young players and felt that (Carson) Sass, (Ethan) Sakowich, (Jacob) Herauf and possibly Jace Foskey from Dallas — if things worked out with getting him signed — are all ahead of Ryan (on the Rebels depth chart).
“And with Sidaway, we feel we have other players in the system who can play his role.”
The 2016 Memorial Cup hosts, as Sutter pointed out, still own their first-round pick in this year’s bantam draft. Red Deer is missing a second- and third-pick in the draft and have already dealt their first-round pick in 2017.
Sutter also gave up promising prospect Eli Zummack in the trade that landed overage forward Adam Helewka from Spokane, but has picked up three elite up-front skaters in the past week in Jake DeBrusk, Helewka and now Philp.
“We feel we’ve covered all of the assets and pieces we’ve dealt and the key thing is we’ve been able to keep our first-round pick in this year’s draft,” said Sutter, who stock-piled draft picks over the past two to three years, for example getting three second-rounders from Portland in exchange for Mathew Dumba in December of 2013.
Philp, a five-foot-10, 180-pound center, recorded 94 points, including 35 goals, in 78 regular-season and playoff games in the 2014-15 WHL campaign. In total, he has produced 95 goals and 140 assists for 235 points in 247 regular-season games since 2011, and 28 points (12-16) in 28 playoff contests.
“He fits right in with our top three to four forwards,” said Sutter.
Sutter said Kopeck was relatively reserved when informed of the deal.
“Kopes is the type of person who doesn’t show a lot of emotion, he kind of keeps it inside,” said Sutter. “I’m sure he’s disappointed, but it’s all going to work out for him at the end of the day.”
With the Ice in full-blown rebuild mode, there is every chance that Kopeck will be dealt to another team before or at the Jan. 10 trade deadline.