In order to add a much-needed dimension to his team, Brent Sutter had to move a quality person/player Tuesday.
When gritty forward Lukas Sutter was reassigned by the Winnipeg Jets to the Rebels Monday, the writing was on the wall for fellow 20-year-old Tyson Ness. The Grande Prairie native was a victim of the numbers game, with Brent Sutter deciding to keep his nephew — acquired from the Saskatoon Blades last June — reigning CHL goaltender of the year Patrik Bartosak and high-scoring forward Rhyse Dieno as his three overage players for the 2013-14 Western Hockey League season.
Considering the manner in which the Rebels were bullied by the Calgary Hitmen in a second-round playoff ouster last spring, this move was a no-brainer.
“It was a tough situation,” said the Rebels boss of the trade that sent Ness to the Kamloops Blazers in return for a third-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft.
“When this past season was over we addressed some areas in which we needed to improve our hockey team and one was to add more grit up front, and that was the reason we brought Lukas in.
“Unfortunately, Lukas is a 20-year-old and when you bring in an older player someone is going to become expendable. But we couldn’t make a move until we knew what Winnipeg was going to do with Lukas, if he would return or not.”
Sutter, a second-round pick of the Jets in the 2012 NHL entry draft, brings more to the table than Ness, who has an offensive flair but doesn’t play a physical game.
“Nesser has been here three years. It’s a tough trade to make but it’s the right thing for our hockey team at this point in time,” said Brent Sutter.
“The one thing that was important to me was if we were going to move Nesser it had to be somewhere he would be happy, to a really good organization, and Kamloops is certainly that.
“He’ll go there and be a real good player for them. It’s a good move for him and for us it’s pretty clear we had to go in this direction in order to get back to being an elite team in this league.”
Sutter said Kamloops was the most active team in the market for Ness — a Grande Prairie native who scored 48 goals and collected 91 points in 213 regular-season games with the Rebels.
“Kamloops was certainly the most interested team in wanting to secure his rights and I thought we got fair market value back,” said the Rebels boss. “It’s a good trade for both teams and the thing about it is 99 per cent of the time it’s hard trade the person. You trade the player, but it’s hard to trade the person. Tyson is a great kid, but when you’re a GM at this level you have to be able to separate that . . . put your feelings aside and do what’s right for the team. At this time the best thing was to have the three 20-year-olds we have here.”
l Sutter also reassigned netminder Rylan Toth, 17, to the North Battleford midget AAA team Tuesday, essentially giving 16-year-old Taz Burman the back-up job to veteran Patrik Barsotak, and recalled six-foot-two, 181-pound defenceman Austin Shmoorkoff from the midget AAA Edmonton Canadians.
Sutter admitted that Burman, the Rebels’ second-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft, outplayed list player Rylan Toth during the exhibition season.
“We sat down with both guys before the exhibition season started and told them that they would determine who stays with the team,” said Sutter. “Taz had a really good preseason and Tother had his moments too, but right now Taz right is just a bit ahead. Our coaching staff and goaltender coach (Taylor Dakers) all felt that this was the right decision with our goalies moving forward.”
As for the addition of Shmoorkoff, Sutter said the youngster’s size and propensity for playing a physical game played in his favour.
“He’s a big boy who plays a rugged game and he’s just going to get better,” said Sutter. “He played really well for us through training camp (in two games) but after sending him back to his midget team we started going through our evaluations on defence and felt we needed a little more grit and bite on our back end. In our system, he was next in line.”
Meanwhile, veteran defenceman Kayle Doetzel will arrive in Red Deer Friday from the Nashville Predators training camp and will play in the Rebels’s regular-season home-opener Saturday against the Kootenay Ice at the Centrium. Red Deer and Kootenay will open regular-season play Friday in Cranbrook.