The Swift Current Broncos and Moose Jaw Warriors have not been common trading partners in recent years.
The old rivals have come together on their first trade in nine years as Swift Current sent 19-year-old forward Alec Zawatsky to the Warriors for 18-year-old forward Tyler Smithies, a 4th round draft pick in 2020 and a 5th round draft pick in 2021.
"Alec came to us as a free agent, after training camp. For us, he did a great job," said Broncos head coach and director of hockey operations, Dean Brockman.
"It's not someone we wanted to give up, but again, the opportunity to get more picks, to bring in a player that's a year younger - we jsut feel that the timing was right, and certainly we thought it gives us more assets."
It`s the first Swift Current/Moose Jaw trade since July of 2010 when the Warriors swapped Preston Amundson for Matthew Francyzk.
"I think any time you're dealing with your rival, it does make it difficult," said Brockman. "But, in the same breath, assets are assets - where you get them from doesn't seem to matter, as long as we accumulate them and use them the right way."
Zawatsky joined the Broncos after Saskatoon released him at the beginning of the season. He led Swift Current in goals (13) and points (26) through 39 games this season.
"We did a good job of doing our homework, and thinking about what we needed to go forward, and to rebuild this thing," added Brockman. "For us, we feel really good about it - we certainly feel Alec is going to help the Moose Jaw Warriors."
Meanwhile on his way to Swift Current is Smithies, who had three goals and five assists in 57 games in the last two seasons. He quietly vanished from Moose Jaw's roster in late November with only a note in the WHL Weekly Report that he had been among the Warriors roster deletions with a TBD destination.
The Calgary product wound up playing for Drayton Valley of the AJHL where he has 2 goals in 5 games.
Smithies is listed as a 6'1" and 190 lbs pivot who wasn't picked in the WHL Bantam Draft before Moose Jaw later signed him.
"The experience in the league, for one," said Brockman on what stood out for him in Smithies' game.
"He's just kind of one of those simple players, that's going to get pucks out and pucks in. We gave up a pretty good player, and got an asset back in Smithies, who I think is going to come in - I hear he's great in the dressing room, and good with younger players, so that's also important as we go forward."
Smithies broke out offensively during the 2017 Alberta Midget AAA playoffs putting up 11 points in 14 games helping Leduc to a league championship. He had only put up 9 points during the 31 regular season games before finding his scoring punch in the playoffs.
After being in and out of the lineup for the stacked Warriors last season, Smithies focused on getting bigger and stronger in the summer.
"Last year went good, it was just about getting my feet underneath me and this upcoming season, I'm looking to be more of an impact player up front," Smithies told Discover Moose Jaw. "(In the summer) I was skating lots, working out lots, I gained 20 pounds this summer, so I just want to be able to lay the body a bit more. In the corners, you don't want to lose those battles when you're going up against a guy that's bigger than, you want to have the confidence and weight to go up against him.
"I've just got to keep working hard and putting the grind on."
His offensive output this season came all during one game where he struck twice and had an assist on November 18th against Kootenay.
Smithies is expected to join the Broncos and add to a 2000 born forward group that now includes Ethan Regnier, Tyler Lees, and Owen Blocker.
Zawatsky got off to a hot start with Swift Current putting up 11 points in his first 12 games. His production slowed a bit during the middle of his Broncos run before he heated up again recently with 8 points in his last 11 games.
The Winfield, BC native caught fire with Notre Dame in the SJHL last season with 19 points in 14 games to earn a shot in the WHL with Saskatoon where he had 8 points in 43 games for Dean Brockman's Blades.
He re-joined Brockman in Swift Current after receiving his release from Saskatoon this fall.
Trading Zawatsky leaves the Broncos with only two 19-year-old players left on their roster. Ian Briscoe and Ethan O'Rourke are now the only Broncos eligible to return as potential overage players next season.
This last deal concludes what has been a very active trading season for the Broncos as they re-shaped their rebuilding roster making 14 trades since Dean Brockman took over as Director of Hockey Operations in July. Their biggest deal this season saw goaltender Joel Hofer shipped to Portland for six draft picks including two in the first round.