Welcome to the third edition of Thursday Thoughts. First of all, Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for following along with us.
World Junior rules vs. Canadian Hockey rules
Nolan Foote has been assessed with a game misconduct after this hit on Kristian Kovacik. pic.twitter.com/sgxeH2EcJF
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 2, 2020
I understand that there are rules that everyone must follow, and the IIHF has always been more strict on the rules than other places, but this hit is not even worth a two-minute minor and we see one of Canada’s best players taken out of the game 53 seconds in as a result of the hit. This is frequently how the referees call the game at this level and it is unfortunate.
I also understand the nature of concussion injuries (I have suffered three in my “hockey career”), but there needs to be more evidence of direct head contact in these situations before the referees go banishing players to the locker room.
Return from holiday break results in suspensions galore
Since the teams have returned from the break on December 27, there have been six suspensions doled out by the WHL hockey operations department. None of the suspensions were for more than two games but this is a disturbing trend. Two of the suspensions were the result of a check from behind and two from kneeing incidents.
Hopefully, the players are just over-exuberant in returning to the ice following their holiday from the ice. This is a trend that needs to end quickly, mostly to avoid injury, but also to avoid games turning into all-out wars and devolving into the line brawls and constant fights the league had long gotten rid of (mostly). The onus is on the players to respect each other more, especially on the hits from behind, which are some of the most dangerous hits in the game.
More trade deadline discussion
With just eight days until the trade deadline, it has been mostly quiet on the trade front.
Three relatively minor deals and a larger deal have occurred since December 27. The larger deal came yesterday as the Edmonton Oil Kings brought in Beck Warm from the Tri-City Americans.
With the rules regarding 15- and 16-year-old signed players seemingly handcuffing teams and the parity in the league, there are very few teams with assets remaining to be dealt in 2019-2020.
There are rumblings that 2000-born goaltender Max Paddock of the Regina Pats is available in the right package for John Paddock’s team. Others have suggested that goaltenders Taylor Gauthier (2001-Prince George) and Ethan Anders (2000-Red Deer) are also potential tradeable assets.
Other trade targets could include 2001-born Tyson Upper (P.G.) and 2000-born players Eric Florchuk (Saskatoon), Chase Wouters (Saskatoon), Ty Kolle (Regina), Carson Denomie (Regina), Luka Burzan (Brandon) and Cole Reinhardt (Brandon)
There is a lack of 19-year-old defensemen available at the deadline this season, as the teams that have them are in the playoff picture. 2000-born Cole Moberg (P.G.) and 2000-born Dawson Barteaux (Red Deer) could be made available by their teams, but the prices will be extraordinarily high.
There are not a lot of prized 20-year-old players available, but Josh Maser (PG) could be a target of teams looking to add to their overage pool. Scott Walford (Saskatoon) could also be shipped to a contending team for the right price. There is also two-spotter Krystof Hrabik (Tri-City), but it could be difficult finding him a home.
One more note on deals — we need to stop calling every deal “blockbuster”. Just because there are several parts involved doesn’t make it a blockbuster deal. Let’s save those exciting words for deals involving NHL draft picks and first-round WHL Bantam draft picks — DUBNetwork included.
Mid-season superlative awards
MVP – There is a pile of excellent choices here, but my pick is Adam Beckman from the Spokane Chiefs. He leads the league in points and goals and is top-5 in assists. He’s got a lot of support on the Chiefs but he is the driving force. Minnesota Wild fans have a lot to be excited about — Beckman is a third-round steal. Honourable mentions to Joel Hofer, Dustin Wolf, James Hamblin, and Bryce Kindopp.
Defenseman – Again, there is another good group of candidates but the surprise entrant and “winner” is 2001-born Alex Cotton. He leads all defensemen in goals and assists and is eight points clear of the next highest scoring defenseman. He’s a good part of the reason the Lethbridge Hurricanes have not experienced the drop off many expected this season. Honorable mentions to Ty Smith, Wyatte Wylie, Johnny Ludvig, and Calen Addison.
Goaltender – There is one goalie that stands above the rest, and for the first time in a long time, that goalie is not from the Everett Silvertips. Joel Hofer of the Portland Winterhawks is a big part of the reason that the team has the best points percentage in the WHL and is the third-ranked team in the entire CHL. He’s the first (and only) goalie with 20 wins in the WHL and sits atop the league with a sparkling 1.81 goals-against average. Honorable mentions to Dustin Wolf, Beck Warm, and Sebastian Cossa
Rookie – A runaway winner, in my opinion, is Cole Sillinger of the Medicine Hat Tigers, who has done it all as a true rookie. The 16-year-old leads all rookies in scoring on a potent Tigers team. He sees power-play time often and has collected 20 points with the man advantage. Honourable mentions to Bear Hughes, Dylan Guenther, Sebastian Cossa, and Carson Lambos.
Coach – It was very tough to make a decision in this category. Do you pick one of the three or four coaches who have their teams in the top spots in their division? Do you pick a coach who has made something of not much? At the halfway point, I am going to go out on a limb and take Brent Kisio. He’s got the Hurricanes in the conversation for the Central Division title in a tough division with a team no one expected to be where they are. Honourable mentions to Dan Price, James Patrick, and Mike Johnston.
GM – This was another tough decision, especially with the trade deadline just days away. There also have not been a lot of moves made this season in comparison to other seasons. Winnipeg ICE’s Matt Cockell has done the most to improve his team by adding Liam Hughes, addressing their biggest issue without costing the team anything. He also was able to make moves at the WHL Bantam Draft to secure the first and second overall picks and has not had to move Peyton Krebs, Connor McClennon, or Carson Lambos in the process. Honourable mentions to Cam Hope, Kirt Hill, Peter Anholt, and Bil La Forge.
Surprise – There are three teams in contention here for surprise at the midpoint. I’ve chosen to go with the Lethbridge Hurricanes because of their great record in a tough division. The Hurricanes were dead in the water to many and were going to be looking to trade off assets like Calen Addison and Dylan Cozens. Instead, the team may be looking to counter moves made by the Edmonton Oil Kings so that they can “keep up”. Honorable mentions to the Victoria Royals, Winnipeg ICE, and Vancouver Giants.