The conundrum of trading a first-round pick away for a roster player, is that this pick could end up being a high one as you enter the down part of your cycle.
This is an issue facing both the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos this season.
Regina went all-in for two straight seasons and traded away their first-round pick in 2019 to the Saskatoon Blades as part of a move for defenseman Libor Hajek.
Swift Current traded away their first selection in 2019 to the Prince George Cougars as part of a move for defenseman Josh Anderson.
Both Hajek and Anderson were key contributors for teams that played in the Memorial Cup. The Broncos captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2017-18 and the Pats advanced to the semi-final of the Memorial Cup before falling.
Now that both the Pats and Broncos have lost big pieces off of their rosters, they are struggling to stay competitive this season.
This means that those first-round selections will end up being very high and quite possibly one could be the first overall pick.
Interestingly enough both times in recent history a first-round pick that ended up being the first overall pick came courtesy the Saskatoon Blades.
In 2012, the Blades dealt their 2014 first-round pick as part of a trade with the Brandon Wheat Kings for winger Brenden Walker. He had 33 goals and 43 assists for 76 points for the Blades in 2012-13. He was then held scoreless as the Blades were bounced in the first-round of the playoffs. Saskatoon hosted the Memorial Cup that season and finished last.
Saskatoon won the draft lottery and handed that first overall pick to Brandon. The Wheat Kings took center Stelio Mattheos with the top pick.
Mattheos has 223 points in 213 games and currently leads the team in scoring this season with 41 points. He was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the third round back in 2017. He has yet to be signed by Carolina.
The Blades also traded their top pick in 2015 to the Spokane Chiefs as part of a package for forward Colin Valcourt at the 2012-13 trade deadline. In 32 games with the Blades that season, he had 11 goals and seven assists for 18 points. He had two points in their first-round loss.
Valcourt played the first half of the next season for the Blades too before being moved to Prince Albert.
That first overall pick was defenseman Ty Smith. The smooth-skating d-man immediately made an impact with the Chiefs as he skated heavy minutes as a 16-year-old and put up 32 points. Last season he had 73 points and was named a Western Conference first-team all star.
After being selected in the first-round by the New Jersey Devils and then signed, he has led the way for the Chiefs this season. So far he has 36 points in 24 games which is the second most on the team.
Back in 2002, the first overall pick was moved on draft day by the Prince Albert Raiders to the Vancouver Giants in exchange for the third overall pick and a third-round selection.
That pick ended up being Gilbert Brule. He skated nearly three seasons with the Giants, potting 185 points in 165 games. Over his career with the Giants he was named WHL Rookie of the Year, Western Conference first-team all star, WHL Playoffs MVP and CHL and WHL Scholastic Player of the Year.
He also helped the Giants to a WHL title in 2006.
Those are three key players who had great WHL careers. Not surprising for players who were taken with the first overall pick in their draft year.
What has been the impact on missing guys like this?
Well the Blades lost out on the right to Mattheos and Smith and for a team that missed out on the playoffs for the past five seasons, even young versions of these two players may have been enough to push them over from non-playoff team to playoff squad.
Those two would surely have them contending for a top spot in the East Division, even with the 26-1 Prince Albert Raiders.
So it seems fitting that the Blades have a strong possibility of taking the first pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. They own the rights to the Regina Pats pick and the Pats seem to be destined for a free fall. A lot of this is due to them just trading their top two scorers in Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn. There may even be more trades coming as the Pats try to refill their cabinets.
Regina is 8-20 and is now 13 points out of a playoff spot. They have dropped five in-a-row. Currently they have the second worst record in the WHL and are prime candidates to “win” the draft lottery.
The only team with a worse record than them is the Swift Current Broncos. They are 4-21-1-1 and are 19 points out of a playoff spot. They, as mentioned before, do not have their first-round pick either.
The Broncos currently have a minus-61 goal differential and that is through just 27 games. They traded away their leading scorer Max Patterson earlier today and also seem primed to sell off more pieces as they try to set themselves up for the future.
So either one of these teams have a really high chance of handing over the top pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
What will make that even harder to take is that one of the most hyped players in the history of the draft is a lock to be taken first overall.
That is Matthew Savoie, who has applied for exceptional player status that would allow him to play in the WHL a year early. The WHL has never handed this out to anyone, but Savoie who has 50 points in 21 games with the Northern Alberta X-treme of the CSSHL has as a good an argument as any.
The forward, who has drawn comparisons to Nathan MacKinnon and Sidney Crosby, seems a good bet to get this early entry.
If he lives up to the hype and is taken by either Saskatoon (with Regina’s pick) or Prince George (with Swift Current’s pick) we could be looking back on the trades for Anderson and Hajek as ones the Broncos and Pats had to take, but will still look back on and wonder.
Considering the Broncos and Pats will likely have the worse records and teams can only move up a maximum of two spots, it is a really good bet this will be the case.
It would seem fitting in so many ways if the lottery balls fall the way of the Saskatoon Blades though.