As badly as last week ended on home ice for the Medicine Hat Tigers, the current week evolved into a massive power display through northern Saskatchewan.
After a gutsy, come-from-behind shootout victory Friday in Lethbridge over the Hurricanes, the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips waltzed into the Gas City the next night and thrashed the Tigers, 5-0. It was the third time Medicine Hat has been shut out this season, two of those coming at Canalta Centre.
Of course, Saturday was rather tumultuous for the Tigers as the team said goodbye to 20-year-old forward Tyler Preziuso and 19-year-old defenceman Trevor Longo. Along with a few draft picks, the players were sent to the Vancouver Giants in a deal that landed the Tigers an overage defenceman and a promising young forward.
Preziuso had played his entire career in Medicine Hat. Selected in the third round, 61st overall by the Tigers at the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, the Victoria, B.C. played 316 games with Medicine Hat. If all goes well, he’ll play his 300th regular-season game on New Year’s Day against the Victoria Royals.
Longo, from North Vancouver, was a 2015 sixth-round pick by the Tigers. He is a veteran of 120 WHL games.
Trades are a fact of life in the WHL and along with every deal comes questions about chemistry. For example, how does the group react emotionally? How welcoming is the group when new players arrive? How do the new players fit in?
It’s an adjustment for everyone, a dynamic that exists, and it can take time to see results and assess productivity.
For the Tigers, it didn’t take long for the offence to explode, as the group scored 19 times in two games on consecutive nights against Saskatchewan-based teams.
It was reported that forward Lukas Svejkovsky had advised the Giants he would sit at home and await a trade. He arrives in Medicine Hat as a young forward with a bright future.
According to Dan O’Connor, the Giants veteran play-by-play voice, Svejkovesky is a “highly-skilled, dynamic player. (He) has a tendency to turn pucks over. But, he has huge upside.”
The speedy forward, who celebrated his 18th birthday Nov. 28, would seem to be a good fit with his skill set. How his work ethic falls in line with expectations in the dressing room will also be monitored closely as the Tigers veteran group is a hard-working bunch.
Svejkovsky scored twice in the Tigers 11-3 romp over the Saskatoon Blades.
In defenceman Dylan Plouffe, the Tigers acquired a player with much the same career path as Preziuso. A second-round pick by the Giants in 2014, 29th overall, the Sherwood Park-native played his 275th WHL regular-season game Wednesday in the Tigers 8-4 win over the Raiders at Prince Albert.
A steady, puck-moving defenceman, Plouffe brings the benefit of playoff experience to the Tigers, having played in the Giants deep playoff run last season. That effort culminated in an overtime loss to Prince Albert in game seven of the WHL championship final.
The Tigers are 22-8-1, second overall in the WHL standings behind the Edmonton Oil Kings (20-6-5-2), with two games in hand. In what could be considered a trap-game, Medicine Hat visits the Red Deer Rebels (10-17-3) Friday before hosting the Oil Kings Saturday.
After the weekend, the Tigers will adjourn for the Christmas break in the WHL schedule, returning to game action Dec. 27 in Swift Current against the Broncos. The Calgary Hitmen come calling to Canalta Centre Dec. 28.
Tigers Tales…With its recent offensive outburst, the Tigers are the top-scoring team in the WHL with 137 goals in 31 games…Lethbridge is next with 128, Kamloops with 123…James Hamblin collected six assists in the two road games in Saskatchewan and has taken over top spot in WHL scoring with 17 goals and 32 assists…With goaltender Mads Sogaard away at the IIHF U20 tournament with Team Denmark, Garin Bjorklund has filled in admirably for the Tigers. Bjorklund, 17, has started the last four games, earning three victories. All told, he has compiled an 11-2 record this season along with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage…The Tigers have the top power play production in the WHL, scoring 37 times in 128 opportunities for a 28.9% efficiency. If there is a downside, the Tigers have surrendered five shorthanded goals, among the most league-wide. However, the trade-off makes sense as the Tigers often employ five forwards on its first power play unit. The second unit at times consists of three defensemen and two forwards…The penalty-killing unit is ranked 18th…Cole Sillinger is tops in rookie scoring with 12 goals and 22 assists in 26 games…According to the WHL, the Tigers have drawn 40,937 fans to 14 home games, an average of 2,924 per contest.