If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The WHL Trade Deadline Day was on the quiet side for the Hitmen, with only one deal made that saw 17-year-old Bryce Bader dealt to Prince Albert in exchange for the rights of fellow 2001-born forward Quinn Olson.
With the roll the Hitmen have been on of late with a five-game win streak and a 15-4-1-1 mark since Nov. 11, general manager Jeff Chynoweth saw nothing that needed to be changed.
“When it comes down to making you deals, you have to think how it will make your team better not only today but down the road,” he said. “We believe our younger players have the potential and will get the opportunity to grow into the players that you tend to look for. It’s better to develop within the organization.
“If you look at our record as of late, we’ve been starting to find our way. We’re happy with our group and I think we’re trending in the right direction over the final 28 games of the year.”
The Hitmen made a splash on the trade market well before the deadline, when they brought in Kaden Elder from Swift Current, Josh Prokop – who joined the club after being acquired last season from the Broncos – and James Malm from Vancouver.
All three have paid dividends for the Hitmen with both Malm and Elder in the top five in team scoring. Malm has racked up 26 points (7G, 19A) in 25 games with the Hitmen and currently ranks third in team scoring with 41 points. The 19-year-old has found instant chemistry with Riley Stotts and has given the Hitmen another dangerous offensive threat.
Elder, meanwhile, has 34 points (17G, 17A), good for fifth on the team with his 17 goals ranking third. The over-ager has been the perfect fit alongside Mark Kastelic and Jake Kryski, and aside from his offence, has been a key part in the penalty kill.
The older Prokop brother has had a strong rookie season with 18 points (6G, 12A) to lead all Hitmen rookies while sitting in the top 20 in freshman scoring. The Edmonton native has developed a strong chemistry with Carson Focht and Luke Coleman, while also scoring some big time goals, including two game-winners.
“It always isn’t about making deals on Jan. 10,” Chynoweth said. “It’s good to make deals well before to get guys acclimatized to the new group and for them to see what the team is all about.
“We balanced out our lines with those additions and they were exactly what we needed and what we were looking for. You need depth and production from everyone, and they have come in and done an outstanding job in strengthening our team up front.”
In Olson, the Hitmen add some hometown talent, and the crafty forward is currently suiting up for the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL. In 35 games this season with the Oilers, the younger brother of Tri-City Americans forward Kyle Olson has 42 points (17G, 25A) in 35 contests.
“He’s a very skilled player who is having a tremendous season,” Chynoweth said. “We have a lot of draft picks in the next couple of years so we wanted to bring in a player who we felt would bring a lot to the club and further strengthen our ‘01 age group.
“We look forward to having him possible join our club in the near future.”
The Hitmen can now refocus on their current road trip that began with a 3-2 shootout win over the Moose Jaw Warriors on Wednesday. It’s a busy weekend with back-to-back games against Saskatoon and Prince Albert, Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“It’s a tough time as a player and I think it’s good for them now to just focus on playing hockey,” Chynoweth said. “It’s not fantasy hockey, it’s a business and you can’t just make trades for the sake of making trades.
“I think it’s a weight of their shoulders and we’ll now look to continue to marching up the standings in hopes of securing a playoff position.”