While the Power Dodge Estevan Bruins haven’t had the season they had hoped for, head coach/general manager Chris Lewgood doesn’t expect to be busy prior to the upcoming national junior A trade deadline Jan. 10.
The Black and Gold were ninth overall in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s (SJHL) standings with a 17-19-2-1 record, and 37 points, prior to Tuesday night’s home game against the Yorkton Terriers. (Results were not available at press time).
But the Bruins were just six points back of Yorkton for first place in the division.
“We quite like the group once we get healthy,” said Lewgood. “We’ve played seven games with our top six forwards together, and no games with our top six forwards and our top four defencemen.”
Once players like forwards Will Koop and TJ Irey return to the lineup, Lewgood expects the team to receive a big boost.
“It will feel like the trade deadline was successful, even though we haven’t made any trades since November,” said Lewgood.
Koop, who was a top scorer for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Steinbach Pistons last year when they won the league title, was acquired in the fall but suffered a broken wrist a few games later. He’s expected back for the Yorkton game.
Irey wasn’t expected to return Tuesday night, but is expected back soon. He has been sidelined since before the Christmas break.
Boosting the team’s depth at centre would be the top priority. If the club has the chance to add a player down the middle, without jeopardizing the future of the team, they would consider it.
“We’d like to add some depth down the middle. We’ve been with non-natural centremen an awful lot, and the likelihood of an injury does exist, so we want to guard against that by adding some more bodies,” said Lewgood.
The club definitely won’t be sellers at the deadline, he said, and Lewgood believes the answers for the team lie within the dressing room. With some hard work and good health down the stretch, Lewgood believes the club will be in good shape come playoff time.
There hasn’t been a lot of trade talk within the SJHL, but Lewgood expects teams in the SJHL are talking with other teams across the country.
“We’ve seen it here before where if you get busy making trades, you can do yourself more harm than good. In the 2015-16 season, that’s exactly what happened to our team. We sold the chemistry by adding a bunch of high-end players. At the end of the day, we want to guard against that.”
The Weyburn Red Wings decision to trade goaltender Riley Lamb to the Yorkton Terriers in early January likely ended a lot of trade talk, as Lewgood expects there were some other teams looking to add a goalie.