It was a quiet bus ride across the prairies for Red Deer Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
The Rebels’ brass decided to watch the WHL trade deadline slip past on Thursday afternoon as they traveled for a date with the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday, instead, staying confident in the group they’ve assembled.
“I didn’t want to trade any of our young prospects and I feel like we have a pretty decent team,” said Sutter of his Rebels, who are 23-13-2-1 and sit tied for second in the central.
“Guys are going to continue to grow and get better and we have a real good older group playing with these guys. We’re right in the thick of things. I just didn’t want to disrupt things to the point where it might go the other way. Wasn’t prepared to trade any more draft picks at this point.”
Red Deer did make one minor move Thursday, shipping blueline prospect Nic Draffin, 17, to the Vancouver Giants for a seventh-round 2021 WHL Bantam Draft pick.
“It wasn’t going to happen for him in Red Deer,” Sutter said.
“Vancouver was looking for a defenceman that could be a depth guy for them. Their coach in Vancouver (Michael Dyck) coached him last year in Lethbridge, it was a good fit.”
As it sits, the Rebels have a pair of second-round 2019 WHL Bantam Draft picks, a third, fourth, fifth and two seventh-round picks. They also have picks in rounds 8 through 12, but no first round selection.
Sutter has always been active on the trade market, with at least one trade between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10 in each of the last five seasons.
He was confident that his Nov. 30th swap for 19-year-old forwards Cam Hausinger and Brett Davis is yet to play out to its full potential. That along with the development of 17-year-olds like Zak Smith, Alex Morozoff and Oleg Zaytsev have the coaching staff confident in the present and future.
“We like our young kids and it doesn’t make sense to move young players out just to say we have more experience on our team. In the end, you don’t win in those cases,” he said.
“As a general manager, I have to be cognizant of our team today, but really where we are going to be in future. We want our team to be a good team every year. Not just one and out.”
Draffin was passed on the depth chart by guys like Leslie, Donohoe, Gottfried over the past year. So it makes sense to find him a new home. https://t.co/4TQePB5N6a
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) January 10, 2019
Late in the afternoon, it looked to be one of the quietest deadlines in recent memory. After last year where eight first-round WHL bantam selections were swapped, none were exchanged this year. Overall, 12 trades were made on deadline day.
With new rules in place that prevented WHL teams from trading signed 15 and 16-year-old players, as well as only 17-year-olds if the player requests the trade, fewer trades were inevitable.
“It’s hard now. In our league, it’s not like it was last year. Young players are the future of the team. It’s a lot like the NHL, teams aren’t trading away good, young players,” Sutter said.
“Those 19-year-olds, teams weren’t trading them away for draft picks or prospects this year. They wanted really good 19-year-olds back. “
The biggest splash came in the final hour, just minutes after the 3 p.m. deadline ticked by. The Edmonton Oil Kings shipped out veteran Brett Kemp to Central Division rival Medicine Hat, in exchange for 2001-born forward Josh Williams. Williams has 21 points in 41 games this year and is projected to be a first-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Kemp, 18, is nearly a point-per-game player, with 22 goals and 17 assists in 40 games.
Red Deer is tied with the Oil Kings for second in the Central at 49 points, but have three games in hand. Medicine Hat sits fourth in the division, with 41 games played and 47 points. Lethbridge sits atop the group with 52 points through 40 games played.
The Rebels will face a tough test Friday in Brandon when they square off against the Wheat Kings. They will finish their Eastern swing with a game against the Regina Pats on Saturday night.