January was a busy mothy in the WHL, with many special events taking place including the NHL/CHL top prospect game, as well as the CHL trade deadline, players from the World Juniors returned and have found success in their return. Overall it is important to highlight these events and recognize those who have found success in the month of January, and the events that took place on a busy trade deadline.
Prince George Cougars – At the trade deadline the Prince George Cougars had a total shift in terms of the image of their team, going from a team competing for a playoff spot or rebuild in the near future. Moving veteran parts in Dennis Cholowski, Josh Anderson, Kody McDonald and Ethan O’Rourke for high picks and tops prospects. Originally going into the 2018 WHL draft without a first round pick, they will now be set up with two first round picks for the each of the next three years, as well as picking up two first round players from the 2016 WHL draft (Ethan Browne, Rhett Rhinehart). An impactful trade deadline that will have a huge impact on the future of the Prince George Cougars
Swift Current Broncos – An already competitor for the WHL championship this year added to their roster in a big way. Adding key piece in Josh Anderson, Giorgio Estaphan, Tanner Nagel, Andrew Fyten, Stuart Skinner, Matteo Gennero and Beck Malenstyn while giving up core pieces to show that they were a team that’s all-in for this year’s memorial cup.
Moose Jaw Warriors – The sole competitor it seems right now to spoil Swift Currents Memorial Cup run, Moose Jaw was already a top CHL team before making huge additions at the trade deadline. Adding two big defenders in Kale Clague and Brandon Schuldhaus to round out of the CHL top defensive cores.
Regina Pats – The memorial cups hosts went into the trade deadline occupying the last playoff spot of the Eastern conference. So they decided to make some big moves, adding Aaron Hyman, Brady Pouteau, Cameron Hebig, Ryan Kubic, Libor Hajek, Jesse Gabrielle, Jared Legien and Jonas Harkins. Certainly looking like a much more competitive team and someone who has been on an absolute surge since the acquisitions.
Saskatoon Blades – The Blades made moves at this year’s trade deadline that indicated that they will push for a top spot next season, moving out two of the WHL’s best in Libor Hajek and Cameron Hebig and adding one of next year’s top 20 year’s olds in Max Gerlach and Dawson Davidson. They also made a big deal with Victoria sending two firsts for draft eligible Eric Florchuk. Already looking like a team that will move in the right direction next season and compete.
Brandon Wheat Kings – After making no moves going into the final day of trade deadline, Brandon was question as a team that will go all in this year or attempt to rebuild in the future. They made their mind up late, moving captain Tanner Kaspick and world junior standout Kale Clague in term of picks and top prospects going forward.
Kailer Yamamoto – Since returning from the world junior championships, the Edmonton Oiler first rounder has posted 19 points in eight games for the Spokane Chiefs. Yamamoto had a slow start to the season production wise since returning from Edmonton but has produced at an elite rate in 2018.
Jayden Halbgewachs – Halbgewachs has had a season to remember, leading the WHL goal scoring race and on track to post over 70 goals this season, it would be only the second player in WHL history to do so. Halbgewachs earned a signing with San Jose this season and has looked like a great pick up for the Sharks.
Cole Fonstad – Scored in the top prospect game this past month and has been one of the more unique draft eligible. Showing much more creativity than most other eligible and producing at over a point per game pace on a team outside a playoff spot. Small in stature but dynamic and hockey IQ allows him to make an impact game in and game out.
Stuart Skinner – Despite not making the Canadian world junior squad, Stuart Skinner has come to find success since join the Swift Current Broncos. With a 2.00 GAA and a .932 Sv%, Skinner has emerged once again as one of the top goalies in the CHL.
Kale Clague – A standout at the World Juniors for the gold medal winning Canadian squad, Clague retuned to find himself in new colors as Brandon had moved him to Moose Jaw. One of the best players in the CHL, Clague’s pretense has made Moose Jaw one of the favourites to come out of the WHL, 10 points in seven games since landing in Moose Jaw.