The Red Deer Rebels moved one 20-year-old defenceman and added another overage rearguard during the WHL bantam draft Thursday.
General manager/head coach Brett Sutter is confident the trades resulted in an upgrade on his blueline.
Sutter dealt Brady Gaudet to the Kamloops Blazers in return for a third-round pick in the draft — which he used to select defenceman Ethan Sakowich — and also traded the Rebels’ second-round pick to the Victoria Royals for Brett Cote.
“He’s just a real good puck-moving, steady defenceman,” Sutter said, in reference to the six-foot, 207-pound Cote, a native of Oakbank, Man. “He has some size and he’s one of those kids who wins battles and plays a smart game.”
Gaudet, who was acquired from Kamloops in October of 2012, enjoyed a solid first season in Red Deer but struggled mightily last winter.
“He had a tough year, but I talked to Kamloops after the season and they were interested in bringing him back,” said Sutter. “Kamloops had a tough year and asked that if I acquired another 20-year-old would I give them the first opportunity for ‘Gauds’ to go back there.”
The Blazers traded overage forward Matt Bellerive, whom they acquired from the Rebels at this year’s trade deadline, to the Vancouver Giants to make room for Gaudet.
“Kamloops needed a 20-year-old and they know him (Gaudet),” said Sutter.
Cote, meanwhile, garnered six goals and 34 points in 72 regular-season games with the Royals and added five assists in nine playoff outings. In three seasons with the Royals — including 2012-13 in which he had eight goals and 41 points — he scored 15 goals and recorded 89 points in 207 regular-season games.
“I saw him play down the stretch this spring and then into the playoffs. He played very well,” said Sutter. “He’s what we were looking for. We tried to acquire a defenceman when we traded (Mathew) Dumba (to Portland in December) and could not and there was nothing being offered to us that could play in our top four.
“We felt like we should be patient with it and make a move at the right time.”
Thursday was the right time.
“I talked to Victoria during their (unsuccessful) playoff series with Portland and then it progressed to the point it got to today,” said Sutter. “We gave up a second-round draft pick, which is a lot, but at the same time we felt it was worth it for the type of player we were getting.
“If I had waited through the summer then he may not have been available to us. I felt we had to do it today.”
Cote, as a seasoned veteran, will help smooth the way for Josh Mahura and possibly Austin Shmoorkoff as new additions to the Red Deer blueline next season.
“We know Josh Mahura is going to play here next year,” said Sutter. “He’s a heck of a young player and we’re excited about him and (centre) Jeff de Wit coming in as a rookie as well.”
The bottom line is that the Rebels upgraded their defensive corps.
“We knew we had to improve our back end and this is one step towards doing that. Let’s just see what happens from here, how the summer unfolds,” said Sutter.