The Moose Jaw Warriors depth on defence allowed them to regain some draft picks as they look towards the future.
Friday the Warriors dealt 18-year-old defenceman Shayne Gwinner to the Prince Albert Raiders for a fourth and a sixth round pick in the 2014 Western Hockey League Bantam draft.
“It’s a fresh start for Gwinner. I think it’s a good opportunity for him,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. “It’s certainly a reflection of the depth we have on the back end. We’re going into training camp eight, nine, 10 defencemen deep. It also gives an opportunity to recoup some valuable picks back.
“We felt the return was good for our hockey club.”
Gwinner, a six-foot-one Calgary product had two goals and 11 points in 51 games with the Warriors in his rookie season. He also picked up 51 penalty minutes and was a plus-12.
The Warriors are expecting Joel Edmundson, Travis Brown, Braiden Doucette and Reid Jackson to anchor the defence next season. There is also a strong chance that captain Kendall McFaull will be back for a 20-year-old season and that Morgan Rielly — whom the Toronto selected fifth overall in the NHL draft — will also be back.
“I think that in some shape or form there will be a 20-year-old defenceman on our back end,” said Millar. “The McFaull situation will play itself out. We would love to have him back, but we would also be very pleased for him if he got anything at a higher level.
“Rielly went fifth overall, he’s a talented guy, he’ll probably make the Leafs think about keeping him at 18, but that’s not something in our control.”
Added to that nucleus are 1995-born defencemen Spencer Morse and Kirk Johnson — who each played two games a year ago to get a taste of the league, They are both expected to push for roster spots.
“We like our top four or five regardless of how it plays out. The reality is that Gwinner fell into a group with Doucette, Johnson, Morse . . . Latrell Charleson played well in our prospect camp,” said Millar.
Millar felt that group of five players were fighting for the final three or four spots on the defence depending if the Warriors decide to keep seven or eight defencemen.
“(The trade) opens up a little opportunity for some of those 16 and 17 year olds coming in,” said Millar.