It was five years ago today the Red Deer Rebels acquired Adam Helewka as the team made its run towards the WHL playoffs and hosting the 2016 Memorial Cup.
Helewka, then 20-years-old, was brought into the Rebels organization in exchange for team captain Wyatt Johnson, then prospect Eli Zummack, a second-round draft pick in 2016 (Carter Chorney), and a fifth-round pick in 2017.
Rebels General Manager Brent Sutter knew he would need to give up assets on the team’s way to hosting the Memorial Cup.
“Unfortunately, it’s taken a player and a person like Wyatt out of our dressing room. That part stings, no question about it. We also gave up a very good young prospect and two picks,” Sutter told the Red Deer Advocate.
At the time, Helewka was a San Jose Sharks draft pick and had picked up 16 goals and 13 assists in 19 games as a Chief. 20-year-old Johnson had played 38 games with the Rebels in 2015-16, scoring nine times and adding 17 assists.
Following the trade, Helewka stepped into the Rebels lineup and provided a scoring touch. In 34 regular-season games with the Rebels, Helewka scored 26 goals and added 19 assists.
Then it was time for Red Deer to make a run in the playoffs, not only to keep their momentum going but to prove they belonged as Memorial Cup hosts. The team made a good showing, playing 17 games before bowing out to the eventual Ed Chynoweth Cup champion Brandon Wheat Kings in five games. Helewka had 18 points in the playoffs on nine goals and nine assists.
Over in Spokane, Johnson hit the ground running with seven points in nine games.
“We feel this trade works well for our organization this year and also helps to build for our future,” said Spokane Chiefs General Manager Tim Speltz told SpokaneChiefs.com at the time of the deal. “Wyatt Johnson is a good leader, exemplified by his role as the Red Deer Rebels’ captain. He will contribute offensively and his drive and competitiveness will help our team in a very tough Western Conference and U.S. Division.”
Unfortunately, injuries derailed the season for Johnson, meaning his WHL career was finished before the end of the season and playoffs. It was unfortunate for Spokane also as they were headed towards a third-place finish in the tough US Division and just missed out, settling for a wild card playoff birth.
The biggest asset obtained by the Chiefs though was Eli Zummack. While he was just 15-years-old when he was traded to the Chiefs, Zummack went on to lofty heights with the Chiefs. Over 233 games in four seasons, Zummack has scored 61 goals and added 156 assists. Last season as a 19-year-old he scored 22 goals and added 64 assists in 64 games, breaking out for career highs. Big things were expected for him in 2020-21, but the season has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Zummack was a second-round pick in the 2015 WHL Draft by the Rebels.
It is unknown what happened to the 2017 fifth-round draft pick as Kamloops made the selection from the Rebels at the draft.
Carter Chorney was the second-round pick in 2016 taken by the Chiefs as part of the deal with the Rebels. Chorney played just 68 games with the team before being dealt to Swift Current as part of a five-player and a conditional draft pick trade. The Chiefs took a gamble acquiring Noah King and Matthew Davis while sending Chorney, Devin Aubin, and Kye Buchanan to the Broncos. King has turned into a reliable defenseman, posting 40 points in 64 games last season. Davis has elected to stay on the path to an NCAA career, he’s currently playing with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. It is unknown if the conditions were met for the conditional fifth-round pick in 2021 to change hands.
Overall the trade worked well for both sides. Red Deer obtained the services of a highly-skilled, scoring forward in Helewka, while Spokane got the long term upside of Zummack and a short stint of good play from Johnson. Chorney also returned even more assets for the Chiefs with King becoming a reliable defenseman with some offensive upside.