Warriors look to the future by trading defenceman to Victoria
The Moose Jaw Warriors parted with one of their veteran leaders Monday.
© photo courtesy of the WHL
The Moose Jaw Warriors acquired Victoria Royals prospect Noah Gregor Monday.
They hope that with what they got in return, they’re not selling assets at the WHL trade deadline any time soon.
The Warriors dealt 19-year-old defenceman Travis Brown to the Victoria Royals for 15-year-old prospect Noah Gregor, third round bantam picks in 2014 and 2016 and a conditional pick.
“You never want to be in a position where you have to move a player like Travis Brown because of the realities of where we are as a team,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar. “We don’t want to be in this position where we’re moving older guys to get young players and assets. We’ve been here two years in a row. We have to get better. Those tough decisions have to be made and today is another day where we’ve made that tough decision. We’ve traded a good player and a good kid. We’re excited about the return, but not necessarily pleased that we’re in this position.”
Brown has nine goals, 29 assists and 38 points in 43 games this season. He played 182 games with the Warriors over three seasons and has 109 points.
“It’s mixed emotions. It’s a little bit of a surprise. Obviously, you kind of see it coming, but when it happens the initial shock sets you back a little bit,” said Brown. “Victoria has a good team and they’re doing really well right now and I just hope to help.”
Brown said it was going to be hard to leave behind his teammates and his billet family — Nicole and Steve Boynton and his “billet brother” Javin.
“It’s hard leaving the guys and the organization. The organization has been nothing but great to me. They’ve been first class. All of my teammates are like brothers to me so it’s like leaving family,” said Brown. “My billets are a second family to me. It’s tough leaving them after three years of living with them.”
Brown is a fifth round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. He attended their training camp this fall, but has yet to sign a pro contract with the team. If he does, it would be unlikely he would return for his 20-year-old season next year.
“They keep watching my progress and they’re pleased with it,” said Brown who said that he was focused on his play on the ice and wasn’t worried about signing right now.
Gregor has 12 goals and 35 points in 27 games with the Leduc Oil Kings of the Albert Midget AAA Hockey League. He is third in league scoring and was taken by Victoria in the third round, 55th overall, in last year’s bantam draft.
“He’s the key to the deal,” Millar said of Gregor. “We believe he’s a very good young player. We consider him a top prospect in the ’98 age group. Since draft day and what he accomplished so far, we think he’s ... projected himself to be better than a third round pick.
“He’s a 15-year-old playing in a very good Alberta midget league that is dominated by 17-year-old players.”
The Warriors traded their second round pick in last year’s draft to Lethbridge for Cam Braes, but Millar said that if they did have that pick at the top of the second round, Gregor would have become a Warrior sooner.
“The key in this deal was getting the best young player we could and picks and Gregor was the guy that we wanted. He was the guy that had to be in the deal,” said Millar.
Gregor is a 5-foot-10 centre from Beaumont, Alta. whose father Colin Gregor played four years in the WHL from 1987-91.
Warriors scouts watched Gregor play in the Mac’s midget hockey tournament in Calgary. They watched him against this weekend and Millar was in the stands Sunday when he scored a goal and added an assist in their 3-2 win over Calgary Northstars.
“He brings a high hockey IQ, he’s a good skater, he has good skill,” said Millar. “He played in all situations, he took key face-offs, he was on the penalty kill, he was on the half boards on the power play.”
The Warriors acquired 18-year-old defenceman Spenser Jensen Friday from the Medicine Hat Tigers. They expect Jensen to help fill the void caused by Brown’s absence and that trade made it easier to get a younger package of players for Brown.
“We felt it was important for our team to remain competitive and to put a good defenceman into our lineup if we were moving Brown. I feel it’s important for our fans that they see that we’re committed to staying competitive this year and improving ourselves for the future,” said Millar. “Once we got the Jensen deal done, it allowed us to key in on the best deal. If the best deal was a prospect and picks — and not necessarily a roster player — it allowed us to do that.”
The Warriors have won five of their last eight games and Millar doesn’t see the trade as an excuse to take a step back.
“We need to continue to compete and we need to continue to play well,” he said. “This is an opportunity for guys like (Alexey) Sleptsov and (Reid) Zalitach. They’re going to get more power play time, they’re going to develop offensively. They have to be the future of our team on the power play.”
The trade deadline is Friday afternoon and Millar said it is possible that more moves are coming.
“We’re still in some discussions on other potential moves. We’re fine if this is it,” he said.