The Sea-to-Sky Boner Report: Jan 8th, 2014

That's Offside!
January 08 2014 06:44PM

It's been an eventful first week of action around the WHL. The Giants won a couple of huge games and made a significant trade, while the rival Victoria Royals made a huge splash in the trade market and the annual World U-17 and U-20 Championships came to an end. For a look at what's gone on in the past week around the WHL and how some recent moves will affect the playoff landscape going forward, read past the jump.

Vancouver's first game coming out of the Christmas break was against the high-flying Kelowna Rockets. Coming in to the matchup, Kelowna had won an astounding 16 games in a row, sat atop the WHL with a 32-3-0-2 record and 5 games in hand on the 2nd place Victoria Royals, a +76 goal differential (Portland and Edmonton, the 2nd and 3rd place teams in goal differential had a combined +80), and averaged 5 goals per game on the road. With all of their roster in tact as Hockey Canada decided not to take Damon Severson or Madison Bowey to the World Juniors, Kelowna is absolutely a juggernaut.

Well, as expected if you've been following our coverage of the Giants this year, Vancouver played a really strong game, outshooting the Rockets 26-17 and winning by a score of 4-2. Whenever he needed a jump or to calm the game down, Don Hay sent out his loaded veteran line of Jackson Houck, Cain Franson, and Tim Traber with Dalton Thrower and Brett Kulak on defense. They did an excellent job of holding Kelowna's potent attack in check, pushing play in the right direction, and generating offense. Houck notched the hat trick, and Franson and Arvin Atwal had two assists apiece.

It was Kelowna's turn to host the Giants the very next night, and they did not disappoint their home fans, turning in a much more impressive effort in a 4-2 win of their own to get back to their winning ways. Myles Bell, who was named the WHL Player of the Week this past week had two goals and one assist, as the Rockets out-shot Vancouver 36-23, and 18-5 in the second period.

Vancouver would finish off their 3rd game in 3 nights on Sunday against the 8th place Tri-City Americans - the WHL's worst offensive team. The Giants got to Tri-City's star goalie Eric Comrie early, scoring twice on their first five shots. But true to form, Comrie held his team in the game especially a 2nd-period deluge that saw Vancouver out-shoot the Americans 19-4. Dalton Thrower would manage to score a powerplay goal to give Vancouver a 3-0 lead, but Comrie's heroics would almost pay off as the Americans managed to score twice in the 3rd to make the game interesting. It was ultimately not enough though, as Jackson Houck would add an empty net goal to give the Giants their second 4-2 win of the weekend.

The most notable development in Giants-land though was that GM Scott Bonner dealt away the first significant piece of the roster, defenseman Blake Orban, for a 2nd round pick in 2014 from the Edmonton Oil Kings. Although not a top defender on the Giants, Don Hay still trusted Orban to a fair degree, as he handled reasonably tough assignments and posted decent offensive numbers:

Orban had 4 goals and 11 assists in 38 games with Vancouver to go along with 75 penalty minutes. My impression of him was that he was an adequate depth piece that brought a fair amount of sandpaper, but I preferred Arvin Atwal's game just a bit more. Still, Don Hay seemed to trust him, which is more than what can be said for highly-touted 17-year old import Dmitry Osipov. All in all, it shouldn't be a huge blow to Vancouver's depth as Thrower, Kulak and Mason Geertsen will continue to do the heavy lifting, but it's interesting considering where the Giants sit in the conference, compared to what their underlying stats tell us.

After 9 losses in 10 games to start this season, during which they were just getting putrid goaltending, Vancouver has posted a 20-6-5-2 record while still recieving mediocre goaltending. In the first two periods, the Giants are 3rd in the West behind Portland and Kelowna in shots for per game, and 2nd in the West behind Everett in shots against per game. They are a really strong team and playing some very good hockey at the moment, as this updated WHL fancystats table shows:

If trading Blake Orban is the start of a tear-down process with 2016 in mind, I think it's a monumental mistake. This is a very good team that is poised to make some serious noise in the back half of the season if goaltending holds up. The dream scenario would see Scott Bonner land star goalie Eric Comrie and oft-injured forward Parker Bowles from Tri-City but the fact that both are just 18 and likely core players makes that nearly impossible to see happening, so the Giants may look elsewhere.

Vancouver has an extra import spot to fill, but Patrik Bartosak or Eetu Laurikainen would require moving an overage player like Tim Traber out. Patrik Polivka and Marek Langhammer would fit as 19-year olds, but their teams are in contention and Polivka's Royals look like they're in "go for it" mode with a couple of big recent trade acquisitions, despite a 2-period shots for percentage of under 47%.

Maybe the most prudent course of action is to roll the dice on Saskatoon Blades backup Troy Trombley. The 19-year old is 6'6 and has a career .908 save percentage in extremely limited action, and his Blades team is open to trading basically anything with a pulse, but not named "Nikita Scherbak." One thing's for certain: it's going to be very interesting to see what path the Giants decide to take.

Around the B.C. Division

Kamloops Blazers: Prospects Jake Kryski and Deven Sideroff made their WHL debuts in a 9-5 loss to Prince George...Remain last in the Western Conference at 10-27-2-2.

Kelowna Rockets: Ranked 1st in the CHL power rankings after a 12-0-0-0 December...F Myles Bell was named WHL player of the week after 5 goals and 5 assists in 4 games...F Tyson Baillie was named WHL player of the month...F Ryan Olsen signed an ELC with the Winnipeg Jets.

Victoria Royals: Made a huge trade, acquiring D Travis Brown from Moose Jaw in exchange for prospect Noah Gregor, two 3rd round picks and a conditional draft pick. The 19-year old Brown has 9 goals and 29 assists in 43 games...Recieved an "honourable mention" in the CHL power rankings, with a 28-14-0-2 record.

Other WHL News and Notes:

  • Prince Albert acquired F Collin Valcourt and D Ryan Coghlan from Saskatoon in exchange for D Dylan Busenius, a 2nd round pick and a 5th round pick.
  • Saskatoon also traded F Nathan Burns and a 7th round pick to Swift Current in exchange for F Connor Sanvido, prospect Wyatt Sloboshan, a 2nd round pick, and a conditional 3rd round pick.
  • Calgary acquired F Mike Winther from Prince Albert in exchange for F Calder Brooks and a 2nd round pick.
  • Moose Jaw acquired D Spenser Jensen from Medicine Hat in exchange for a 3rd round pick and a 6th round pick.
  • Kootenay acquired D Tyler King from Spokane in exchange for F Hudson Elynuik.
  • Everett acquired F Remi Laurencelle from Lethbridge in exchange for two 6th round picks.
  • Prince Albert acquired Brennan Riddle and a 3rd round pick from Calgary in exchange for a 2nd round pick and a 4th round pick.
  • Regins acquired Issac Schacher from Victoria in exchange for two 5th round picks.
  • Saskatoon acquired MacKenzie Johnston, Tyler Dea, a 3rd round pick and a 5th round pick from Prince Albert in exchange for Graeme Craig, a 7th round pick and a 5th round pick.
  • Prince George acquired Wil Tomchuk from Tri-City in exchange for a conditional 4th round pick.
  • Kootenay acquired Zach Franko from Kelowna in exchange for a 6th round pick and a 3rd round pick.
  • Kelowna acquired Marek Tvrdon from the Giants in exchange for a 2nd round pick,
  • The WHL Trade Deadline is on Friday at 10:00 AM MST, so stay tuned this weekend for a look at how each team shapes up going into the playoffs.
  • Suspensions this week included Shaun Dosanjh (VAN), Blake Penner (MH), Evan Wardley (SEA), Mads Eller (EDM) and Jayce Hawryluk (BDN).
  • Team Canada Pacific, featuring Giants Ty Ronning and Tyler Benson, won a silver medal at the World U-17 Championships, losing 4-0 to the powerhouse United States in the final. The USA finished 6-0, winning each game by an average of 8-1.
  • At the World U-20's, Canada finished 4th to Finland, Sweden and Russia. Cam Charron has a good take here, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds Director of Player Personnel Victor Carniero had an epic Twitter rant on the topic starting with this tweet, and I wrote a thing about the goaltender selection that you can check out here.
  • Mat Dumba is expected to return to the Portland Winterhawks after he meets with Minnesota Wild medical staff, according to Michael Russo and Bob McKenzie.
  • WHL Plays of the Week, woohoo!

As always, thank you Josh Weissbock for the #fancystats that went in to this post. Go follow him on Twitter and read his Weekly Prospect Reports!

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Covering the WHL - with a focus on the Vancouver Giants - for the Nations. Helping feed your sea-to-sky boners. Follow my inane ramblings on Twitter @Thats_Offside.
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#1 Gmen
January 08 2014, 09:52PM
Trash it!
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If they can keep this up I really really hope Van brass pays attention to #fancystats and tries to go for it. What are they chances they do? It's not looking too good?

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