The Western States Hockey League roster movement deadline has come and gone, as all 24 teams had to draw a line in the sand and decide whether they were buying, selling or staying put.
Below is a team-by-team look at all of the movement, organized by the current divisional standings.
- El Paso Rhinos- Despite holding the top spot in the Midwest Division all season, the Rhinos were the team that really got the ball rolling on all of the movement, as head coach Cory Herman was working the phones all week. Not only did the Rhinos get the services of hulking forward Austin Hoff back from the Rio Grand Valley Killer Bees of the NAHL and bring in Hungarian sniper Krisztian Nagy but they also pulled off two major deals within the WSHL. The first of which saw them acquire the top two scorers from the San Diego Gulls, in veteran forwards Eric Baldwin and Drew DePalma, as well as 6’6” Latvian d-man Kalvis Ozols, who also has an offensive flair to his game. On deadline day, Herman made another big splash when he acquired one of the most skilled goaltenders in the league, as he sent goaltender Olivier Gervais and future/cash considerations to the Seattle Totems in return for Bryce Fink, who immediately gives El Paso an incredible one-two punch in net, along with current starter Adam Vay. Herman finished up a busy week by adding another skilled forward to an already scary group, as Jiri Pestuka came over from the Czech Republic.
- Dallas Ice Jets- The Ice Jets weren’t very busy during the deadline and they didn’t need to be, as they had a couple of veteran forwards to return to the team over the last few weeks, with Nick Felan coming back from the NAHL and Alex Devillier, who was part of the original Ice Jets junior team, out of the SJHL. They also acquired skilled forward Yves Bader out of the NA3HL and brought in Swedish netminder John Groth, who stood on his head while facing in excess of 70 shots per night with the New Mexico Renegades.
- Texas- Texas was relatively quiet around the deadline, as they made their big move earlier in the season, when they picked up Miguel Caron from the Lake Tahoe Blue. They did bring in two key forwards however, as Dallas native Chris Stovall, who played six games in a Texas uniform last season, returned after a stint with Melville in the SJHL and Sebastien Tremblay came via the Quebec AAA ranks, both of whom have already given Texas a little more punch up front.
- Dallas Snipers- The Dallas Snipers have really picked up their play as of late and Aaron Davis made a few key moves to further bolster his lineup, as he brought in defenseman Elliott Langford in a trade with Tulsa and both forward Blake Whitener and goaltender Daniel Skinner came over from Texas. The biggest acquisition was made in January however, as the signing of forward Konstantin Ljubobratets paid immediate dividends, as the Estonian has notched 10 points in just nine games with the team.
- Tulsa Jr. Oilers- The Tulsa Jr. Oilers were sellers the second the calendar turned over but actually picked up someone who could be their goaltender of the future, in Teke Murphy, who they got from the Dallas Ice Jets, along with forward Ricky Green, in January. They also acquired depth players to help them get through the rest of the season, with Chandler Cole coming over from New Mexico, Austin Van Amen from Salt Lake City and Keiran Spettie coming back from the Snipers in the deal that sent top defenseman Elliott Langford the other way.
- Wichita Jr. Thunder- Sellers all the way, Rob Weingartner and the Wichita Jr. Thunder worked very hard to move a number of their older players, as they wanted to give some guys a chance to enjoy post-season hockey, while also acquiring assets to build toward next season. Captain Jordan Grywacheski, a rugged defenseman and skilled forward Keegan Hull were sent to Valencia, with forwards Travis Wilson and David Min coming back in return. Also being moved was goaltender Marco Medina, who still has a shot at the playoffs with the Southern Oregon Spartans.
- Phoenix Knights- One of the biggest movers and shakers, the Phoenix Knights picked up a couple of offensive stars in two separate deals with the nearby Arizona Redhawks. Back in mid-January, Tyler Ramsey pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in center Mitch Cobby, who is currently second in the league with 79 points on the season, sending away forwards Eric Calcavecchia and David Hornak to get him. Going back to the well again last week, Ramsey acquired Swedish sniper Mattias Marten, who played alongside Cobby for nearly two seasons and goaltender Colton Pankiw, while sending forwards Shane Fitzpatrick and Brandon Pentek and goaltender Troy Anderson down the road. The two forwards they brought in are both currently in the top 10 in league scoring and give the Knights an even more lethal offense, while the acquisition of Pankiw gives Phoenix a solid goaltender who should benefit from seeing far fewer shots.
- Cheyenne Stampede- The Cheyenne Stampede were one of the few playoff teams that stuck to their guns, as head coach Gary Gill and GM Mark Lantz like the way their boys have come along and who could blame them? One of the hottest clubs in the league in 2014, the Stampede didn’t mess with their team chemistry and the players should really appreciate. A move to bring in forward David Hornak from Arizona, which didn’t involve a body going back the other way, was in the works but never quite worked out.
- Colorado Jr. Eagles- The first-year Jr. Eagles recently clinched a playoff spot but Steve Haddon wanted to add a couple more pieces to round out a hardworking group that has done it by committee all season. Veteran goaltender Eric Messer came over in a trade with Tulsa in January and has already been solid, while giving Haddon a three-headed monster in net along with Tage Rustgi and Quinn Wold. Colorado also brought in a number of local kids before the deadline, led by defenseman Ben Gundry, who had four points in three games in his first weekend with the team.
- Boulder Bison- The Boulder Bison didn’t have to make a ton of outside moves, as a number of players are coming off injured reserve and will immediately bolster the lineup, including top forward Chris Lupinski and goaltender Colin Champine. Paul DePuydt still did what he could however and brought in a handful of high-level local players, including Thomas Jarman, Nicholas Kuhn and even Will Neff, a high-level forward that had 71 points in his two previous seasons with the team.
- Arizona Redhawks- The biggest sellers in the league, the Arizona Redhawks management staff, led by head coach Rob Powell and General Manager Greg Schursky, did a great job of getting what they could for their top players. Arizona pulled off two major deals with the nearby Phoenix Knights, sending away Mitch Cobby in return for forwards Eric Calcavecchia and David Hornak and then sending Mattias Marten and Colton Pankiw down the road with forwards Shane Fitzpatrick and Brandon Pentek and goaltender Troy Anderson coming back in return. If they can retain a couple of the players they picked up and build a team around them over the summer, the deals will pay off in the long run.
- New Mexico Renegades- Out of the playoff hunt for a while now, the New Mexico Renegades sold what they could at the deadline, as head coach Steve Harrison was looking for pieces to take into year two of his rebuild. The only real deal they conjured up, sent away the team’s MVP this season, as they traded netminder John Groth to the Dallas Ice Jets for future/cash considerations. They were also able to bring in Austin Borchert from El Paso to serve as Jacob Garvey’s back up over the last few games of the season.
- Idaho Jr. Steelheads- As usual, Idaho wasn’t a big player at the deadline, as they got their key additions much earlier in the season, when veteran forwards Jan Blasko and Dak Dice, who are currently one-two in team scoring, returned from the NAHL. They did pick-up defenseman Nick White out of the NAHL back in January and forward Drew Decker from the SIJHL and finished it off with the acquisition of forward Frances Desforges, a Quebec native who last played in the NOJHL.
- Salt Lake City Moose- The Moose have been getting the job done all season behind a tremendous amount of depth at every position and didn’t feel the need to tinker with a roster that currently has them sitting in second place, in what will be their first-ever playoff appearance. The only real move to speak of was the acquisition of Slovakian forward Adrian Schmidt, who is as skilled as they come but hasn’t been able to find a home over his five previous WSHL stops this season (Lake Tahoe, El Paso, New Mexico, San Diego and Colorado.)
- Ogden Mustangs- The Ogden Mustangs were another team that decided to stick to their guns and again, they can’t be blamed, as they are widely considered to be one of the most skilled teams in the league. The only move they made came back in January and brought defenseman Mike Kowickiover from Southern Oregon. The smooth-skating d-man has already looked comfortable on Jake Laime’s blueline and will be seeing a lot of power play time moving forward.
- Missoula Maulers- The Missoula Maulers weren’t very busy either, as a strong weekend against Boulder vastly improved their playoff chances and the defensive minded team proved to their coach that they don’t need anyone else. They did add a key piece back in January however, as forward Jordan Wheatly, who had 30 points in 46 games last season, returned to the team and has already been one of their more consistent forwards.
- Seattle Totems- Mike Murphy held off as long as he could but with his team’s playoff hopes fading, he decided to pull the trigger on a deal that all but sealed the Totems’ fate, as he dished veteran goaltender Bryce Fink to the El Paso Rhinos in return for goaltender Olivier Gervais and future/cash considerations. Although Murphy did get some assets he can use next season, the move was really made in homage to Fink, who has been sensational in his four seasons with the team and Murphy rewarded him by giving him a shot to play post-season hockey with a Thorne Cup favorite. There was also considerable interest for forward Frank Flight but Murphy didn’t see any offers he liked and held tight. Flight will have some scoring help around him the rest of the way however, as Seattle did bring Marek Nemec, Pavel Jon and Matous Jelinek over from the Czech Republic.
- Southern Oregon Spartans- The Southern Oregon Spartans were active in recent weeks, sending defenseman Mike Kowicki to Ogden for future/cash considerations and also letting top d-man Donny Nagle go. To offset the losses, they brought Drew Hill over from Ontario and then went out and got goaltender Marco Medina from Wichita, as Jeremy Bachusz now has three reliable netminders to choose from, despite the playoffs now being a long shot.
- Fresno Monsters- Bryce Dale let it be known early that he would not be very active at the deadline, as he saw how a rush of deadline activity hurt the Monsters during their early years and killed the chemistry of a team that was already in first place. For that reason, the Monsters didn’t make any moves and are more than happy to move forward with what they have, which includes Justin Plate, Cory Sikich and Filip Winkler, all of whom are studs that returned to the team over the last few months.
- Ontario Avalanche- Chris Shaw and the Ontario Avalanche will be making their first ever playoff appearance and they too have a strong group of veterans leading the way. Shaw did bring in three key players over the last few weeks however, using his ties in British Columbia to acquire defenseman Matt Martin out of the BCHL and forward Mark Readman from the NWJHL, while also acquiring nifty forward Nikita Salnikov from Texas.
- Valencia Flyers- Josh Berge has done a tremendous job in his first season at the helm and currently has his young Flyers squad just one point away from clinching their third straight playoff appearance. The team brought in two key players from Wichita last week, prior to what was a strong showing in Fresno, as defenseman Jordan Grywacheski and forward Keegan Hull, the latter of which has yet to make his Flyers debut, came over in a deal that sent David Min and Travis Wilson the other way. They also brought in Filip Andreasson from Long Beach at the deadline, a Swedish forward who will add some depth.
- Lake Tahoe Blue- The only team currently in a playoff position that played the role of seller at the deadline, the Lake Tahoe Blue decided to get what they could for a couple of top players, after being swept by the Long Beach Bombers over the weekend. The most active GM in the league over the last two seasons, Chris Collins, dished power forward Martin Vachal and skilled defenseman Jonas Gronlund to Long Beach for future/cash considerations. The Blue were also active the month prior, when they brought in Robert Donovan and Taylor McConnell from the Southern Oregon Spartans and David Brancik from the Czech Republic but it looks as though they’re now putting the pieces together for a run in 2015.
- Long Beach Bombers- The offensive juggernaut of the league got even scarier up front at the deadline, as after a sweep of the Lake Tahoe Blue moved them within three points of a playoff spot, Chris White pulled off a deal with the team he dealt the final blow to. Coming over from the Blue is forward Martin Vachal, who will likely play on the top forward line alongside Fillip Maritnec and Tomas Nemeth and defenseman Jonas Gronlund, who will join a backend that has improved dramatically in recent weeks. White also replaced defenseman Marcus Rhodin, who returned home to Sweden, with another Swede, as Daniel Skoglund came over and has looked great in his first few games with the team.
- San Diego Gulls- Sellers at the deadline for the first time in a while, the Gulls traded away their top two forwards and best defenseman, as they sent Eric Baldwin, Drew DePalma and Kalvis Ozols to El Paso and got forwards Halen Sampson, Trey Hughes and Adrian Schmidt in return. Sampson is the only player still with the team however, as Hughes never reported and Schmidt was quickly sent to Colorado in a separate deal. Craig Carlyle has brought in some bodies to fill the voids but the Gulls are definitely building toward the fall, where a young roster should be much improved.
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