Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tinkering Before Camp

What's the old saying when you make a trade? You have to give up something of value to get something of value in return. Well, that is certainly the case with the latest trade by the Seattle Thunderbirds.

On Wednesday the T-birds sent Lane Pederson to Red Deer, along with a 5th round draft pick, in exchange for goalie Taz Burman. Pederson is listed as a center but showed versatility with Seattle last season playing on the wing as well. In 65 regular season games with the Thunderbirds he registered 20 points (8g, 12a). Going into his 18 year old season, his best is yet to come. There's no doubt he has the potential to be a 20+ goal scorer in the WHL. He'll now be doing that with the Rebels rather than the T-birds. Not only is he a very good hockey player, but he was also well liked in the locker room by his teammates and last season, on their swing through the Eastern Division, the entire team stopped off at the Pederson home in Saskatoon for a home cooked meal. That just shows he comes from a terrific family and Red Deer is getting a real asset.

That being said, the Thunderbirds are deep enough among their forwards to absorb this trade. I don't know where he pencils in on the Rebels roster, but as talented as he is, he was still a third or fourth line player had he remained with the T-birds this season. Seattle's top three centers are Matt Barzal, Scott Eansor and Alexander True. Don't forget former first round draft pick Kaden Elder, another center, is entering his second season with the team and Seattle also drafted Gustav Olhaver earlier this summer in the Import draft and he is listed as a center as well. Additionally, Donovan Neuls can play center if needed, so they're fairly well stocked at that position.

I've mentioned in the past that Seattle did well in the 2012 Bantam Draft, the 1997 born class. At year's end last season the top eight selections from that draft were on the T-birds roster, including Pederson who was taken in round five. But five of those players are forwards and that doesn't include Nick Holowko, another '97 born forward who was listed, then signed as a free agent. At some point that group was going to have be broken up. You have to make room for other young players from subsequent drafts. For instance, Seattle has three forwards from the 2014 bantam draft already signed; Matt Wedman, McKenzie Wight and Wyatt Bear. All three are eligible to play full-time in the league this coming season but you can't just stick them on the roster and healthy scratch then every night. They have to play a minimum number of games. Then there is Elijah Brown, the team's 2015 first round selection and another forward who they've already signed. He's not eligible to play in Seattle this season but will be in 2016-17. The T-birds are going to have to create ice time for him when he arrives so at some point trading one or two of the '97 born forwards was inevitable.

So, why trade Pederson and not one of the other '97 born forwards? Well it comes back to my opening sentence, you have to give up something of value to get value in return. Go back two seasons to the 2014 trade deadline when Pederson was in the T-birds system but not yet on the Seattle roster. The one player other teams were asking for in trade back then was Pederson. Other teams valued him even then as a 16 year old playing back home in Saskatchewan.

General Manager Russ Farwell held on to that chip and now, when the team needs goaltending depth after the graduation of Taran Kozun, he uses that asset to trade for Burman. Burman is also a 1997 born player. He was selected in the second round (30th overall) of that deep 2012 draft, going 17 spots ahead of the guy he's going to compete with for the starting job in Seattle, Logan Flodell. You don't go that high in the draft unless good, knowledgeable hockey people think you have upside. In his first two seasons in the league, Burman has been the back up in Red Deer. As a 16 year old two years ago, his first season, he backed up 20 year old Patrik Bartozak, the WHL's Goaltender of the Year that season, so he saw very little of the ice. Last season he posted a 9-5-1-1 record with a 3.08 GAA in spot duty. Now he's ready to make the next step.

Remember, goalies usually don't blossom at this level until their 18 or 19 year old season and now Seattle has two such 18 year olds to compete with each other for ice time. The '97 born players are still the strength of this team and that includes Flodell. This is a team that believes it can compete to be one of the top clubs in the WHL this coming season. This move was made to strengthen one of the few weaknesses they were perceived to have and they made it without weakening another area of the roster, rather dealing from a position of strength.

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