As announced shorty after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the Swift Current Broncos have re-shaped the next three years of their bantam draft, dealing 18-year-old starting goaltender Joel Hofer to Portland for six draft picks.
The Broncos receive Portland's 2019 and 2021 first round bantam draft picks. They also add 2020 2nd and 4th round picks from the Winterhawks, Kootenay's 2019 3rd round pick and Everett's 2020 5th round pick in the deal.
"Obviously the emergence of Isaac Poulter has helped with that," said Broncos head coach and director of hockey operations, Dean Brockman, on dealing his starting goaltender. "For us, when you can grab six assets for a guy that's going to be a really good goalie - maybe not even just at our level - you kind of have to do a difficult chore. When we got it to the point where we thought what we needed and what we've asked for right from Day 1, we thought it was important to pull the trigger."
In recouping assets from the previous management's transactions in the 2018 WHL Championship run, Brockman noted a pair of opening round picks was crucial.
"I think really that was always the starting point in any conversations that we had - we needed the two firsts, because that gets us back to square one," said Brockman. "The other assets now are important as well. We have a good start on it with a couple of firsts this year, and next year getting more picks in a very important draft, because I think it's a really good one in 2020. So, you want to try and accumulate assets the best way you can, and this certainly helps us."
Hofer has impressed this season maintaining strong performances while facing the most shots of any other netminder in the WHL. He is 6-21-2-1 this season with a 4.02 goals against average and 0.904 save percentage while facing an average of 41.9 shots per game.
Hofer's last start with the Broncos was a 1-0 shutout win over their rivals from Regina, though Brockman noted, if the right return wasn't there, the hockey operations staff was happy to keep their goalie in a Broncos jersey.
"We were more than comfortable - he's a great player and a great kid. Certainly he's done everything that we've asked. That's where it makes it a very difficult day for everyone around here. In the same breath, it's important to get this franchise back going in the direction that we need it to go," he explained, adding that the Winterhawks' acquisition of the Winnipeg-born Hofer aids Portland's focus on the not-too-distant future.
"That legitimately gives the Portland Winterhawks a great chance to win this year, and even a better chance to win next year," said Brockman.
For his career, Hofer carries a 3.55 goals-against-average, a .907 save-percentage, and 14-24-3-2 record over 49 regular-season appearances.
Moving forward, the Broncos's hockey operations staff will be able to showcase their skill set that landed them jobs in southwest Saskatchewan in the first place.
With a slew of future assets back in the cupboards, though with attention still on developing their current young squad, focus will need to be ramped up on scouting with an additional first and third-rounder in the upcoming bantam draft.
"We, as a group, have had several discussions in the direction that we want to go. Yeah, it's going to be important for me to put more miles on the truck. I believe it's important. Every draft is important, but this one is crucial. I trust my scouts - these are the people I've hired to do a job for us, and they've done a great job so far. As a group and as an organization, we feel we're all a part of it, and we all have to do a good job."
In a corresponding move, the Broncos have added goalie Riley Lamb ('98) to the roster, filling the vacant backstop spot.
Lamb played the previous two seasons at the WHL level with the Red Deer Rebels, and has spent his overage season this year in the SJHL between the Weyburn Red Wings and Yorkton Terriers.
"He's a great kid, a great person, and also fits the character mould. But, he's a competitor. He's going to push Poults in every possible way. He wants to be in the Western league, and we liked what we saw out of him last year. Coaching against him last year, he played against us on a few different occasions. Another guy that competes hard, and fits the mould of what we want to bring in here."
Yes, the Broncos appear to have leapt forward quite rapidly in the rebuilding process - a process Brockman has no intent on slowing down on.
"Going forward, there is a process and there is a plan... at the end of the day, I'm not saying everything fell into place but, we've got a good part of it - at least half the puzzle is done, and we've still got the rest of the half to go."
The Broncos welcome the Red Deer Rebels to the southwest tonight.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex. Catch all the action live on The Eagle 94.1 for Robertson Family Group Broncos Hockey, with pregame set for 6:30.