It was one of the biggest Western Hockey League trades in recent history.
On January 9, 2018, the Swift Current Broncos traded center Logan Barlage – the fourth overall pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft – and six other assets to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for forwards Tanner Nagel and Giorgio Estephan and goalie Stuart Skinner.
Nagel, Estephan and Skinner were key in the run the Broncos made all the way to the WHL title.
With only Nagel left on the roster because Estephan and Skinner are playing professionally, the impact on the Swift Current Broncos is nearly over.
Now the attention turns to the impact the players acquired will have on the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The 2001-born Barlage thinks back on the team that drafted him and then traded him in his 16-year-old season.
“It was an honor going to Swift Current.” Barlage said. “I think just with the team they had last year, it was a good opportunity to come here.
“I’ve been pretty happy here so far, I think it has been good for me. I’m excited for the years to come.”
Barlage was picked near the top of the draft by the Broncos. He was at school when he found out.
“It was just a normal day at school and then I just found out from one of my teachers. The principal came in and let me know. It was a pretty awesome day for me and my family. It was pretty cool being drafted into the WHL.”
The adjustment from playing with the Prince Albert Mintos in the Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League to the Broncos in the WHL was a hard one for him.
“I think for sure the pace and speed, for me as a big guy, I need to work on my speed,” Barlage said. “I’ve been working on that really hard and am going to continue to do that. I think that is the biggest change to the WHL – just bigger, faster guys, harder passes, and all kinds of things.”
Then came the trade.
Unlike many deals where a team moves away a budding prospect for older stars in the league, Barlage joined a team that made a deep run in the 2018 playoffs as well.
“It was a pretty cool experience coming to a team that also had a good chance in playoffs,” he said. “We went to the third round and did a lot of things that people thought we couldn’t do.
“It was an awesome experience for me going that far in the playoffs. I think we have a really really good chance going that deep again this year.”
Barlage found some success in the Hurricanes playoff run. After collecting 20 points in a combined 71 games between the two teams, he scored five times and added three assists for eight points in 16 WHL playoff games.
“I think I found some good chemistry with my linemates during playoffs,” he said. “I think that experience getting a couple of big goals in the playoffs has helped me this year going forward knowing I can do it.”
Lethbridge fell to Barlage’s former team in the Eastern Conference final.
For now, Barlage looks forward to what his team can do this season. He has 26 points in 50 games so far this season.
“I think it has been good, and we have a really good squad here,” he said. “I think we just have to keep working together and good things will happen. You have to be part of the team, and that will go a long ways with our team. I’m excited for what is to come.”
This season it was his team that made some deals in preparation for a deep playoff run. In one trade, the Hurricanes added an experienced pair of forwards with Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn, who came over from the Regina Pats.
“I think just having fun and not thinking about it too much because it will get in your head,” Barlage said. “I think with lots of older guys, I talk with Leschyshyn and (Jordy) Bellerive who are signed, they just always strive to get better each day. It is not about the draft – it is just about getting better each day. This is what I’m trying to do.”
Barlage description of his game should not come as a surprise, considering he is a six-foot-four and 201 pound center.
“I think I’m hard working and can make skilled plays,” he said. “I try to be a 200-foot player and all-around centerman. I take pride in my defensive game. I’m working on getting more physical, and I think I’m doing that. Just trying to get that hard shot too.”
As for what he needs to work on, Barlage knows he needs to pick up his speed to be an impact-player at the next level.
“Want to keep focusing on my skating,” he said. “I’m a bigger guy, but have been working on that really hard and getting stronger in the gym. Trying to get more explosive and then also keep working on my physical game. I think it will all work out good.”
Hurricanes head coach, Brent Kisio, agrees with Barlage.
“He just has to keep getting stronger, just like everyone else,” Kisio said. “He is going to have to get quicker for the next level as it gets faster and faster. So he is going to have to keep working on his skating and getting stronger.”
As Lethbridge gets closer to the playoffs, Kisio knows Barlage can be a big factor for them.
“When he is scoring and playing the way he can he impacts our team tremendously. Just has to play hard and he has to keep working every night.”
As for next June’s National Hockey League Draft, Barlage, who was ranked 211th among North American skaters, knows the only thing in his control is how hard he works each night.
“I want to get drafted as high as I can, but still play for my team and do whatever I need to do to win,” he said. “I think going deep in the playoffs will help me with my draft stock. It has been a good experience for me so far, and I can’t wait for the rest of the year.”
Special thanks to DN’s Josh Critzer, who conducted the interviews for this article.