The Swift Current Broncos made another big statement by adding one of the top shutdown defenceman in the WHL.
They sent both their 2018 and 2019 first round bantam draft picks to the Prince George Cougars for 19-year-old Josh Anderson.
"Josh was a guy we had had interest in from the beginning," said Broncos Director of Hockey Operations Jamie Porter. "He's a type of defenceman we don't have. He's a big body, he can defend, he's got an edge to him and he can eat up a lot of minutes. He's an NHL drafted player that bolsters the group we have. He does some things a little bit better than what we have and plays a bit of a different role."
Anderson is a 6'3, 220lbs defenceman who was picked by Colorado in the third round of the 2016 NHL draft. He has a goal and 6 assists for Prince George so far this season and is -1 on a team that is -23 for the season.
"He's a big, heavy player," Porter said. "He's going to allow our group to have some different options on the back end when it comes to roles. He's got some pro potential and there's a chance we could have him back again next year."
This is Anderson's fourth season in the WHL and he has played 177 games. The Vancouver Island product helped Prince George to the BC Division title last season.
“Josh has been with our organization for the past five years and has been a great leader for us on the blue-line and in the dressing room,” said Cougars General Manager Todd Harkins in a team release. “He’s an NHL drafted defenceman who is going to a contending team in the East and he’s getting a great opportunity to make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Prices are high this season for buyers as the league approaches the January 10th WHL Trade Deadline. The Broncos still wanted to do what they could to compliment a group with the second best record in the league.
"With the Memorial Cup being hosted in the west that affects prices," Porter said. "At the same time we've been happy with our group and feel we can do something here. Kind of you need to reward the group for what they've done. We've made a couple of deals to bolster us as time has gone on and this is just another one of those to add to an area of strength already. We're happy with our defence. We just bolstered it we thought significantly with another guy."
Swift Current also dealt 15-year-old prospect defenceman Joel Sexsmith to Vancouver for their 2019 first round bantam draft pick. That deal allows them to replace the 2019 pick they sent to the Cougars in the Anderson deal and ensure they still have a selection in the first round of that draft. Swift Current hadn't yet been able to sign Sexsmith after selecting him this past May.
"The two deals were kind of happening at the same time," Porter said. "We moved a guy out we were going to have to continue to recruit and got a pick back right away that kind of cushions the blow of what we've done. It kind of made it smoother for us."
For the Giants it's a chance to add a talented player that fits with a draft class they feel strongly about.
“Joel Sexsmith is a top-end, highly skilled two-way defenceman that we followed very closely during his draft year,” Giants GM Glen Hanlon said in a team release. “We are very proud of our 2017 draft and to add another player like Joel to our organization from that 2002-born group sets us up very nicely for the future.”
Adding Anderson drew the attention of former Broncos defenceman Michael Hengen who coached him with Prince George in 2015-16.
"The Anderson trade was a great one," Hengen said on Twitter. "Playoff opponents better start packing ice bags now in preparation for minutes against the big man. He will be the hardest D man to play against in the conference below the goal line. He's a throw back with great feet, minimal minor pims. Great addition."
He will be the hardest D man to play against in the conference below the goal line. He's a throw back with great feet, minimal minor pims. Great addition. I'm going to dust off my old jersey because I know who I'm rooting for.— Michael Hengen (@MichaelHengen) January 8, 2018
While Anderson doesn't take a lot of minor penalties he has been known to drop the gloves at times with 29 regular season and pre-season fights over his WHL career. He hasn't fought as much this year although his overall physical play is part of what he is known for.
"He's got an edge to him," Porter said. "There's a presence there. That's a part of his game."
Anderson hasn't put up big numbers in his WHL career with 28 points over his 177 games. He has taken a step up that way this season with 7 points in 25 games versus 11 points in 69 games as an 18-year-old. Anderson also produced big numbers with 52 points in 52 games during his final bantam season. That doesn't mean the Broncos are expecting an offensive contribution.
"He did it when he was younger so there is some potential there," Porter said. "We're going to let it evovle and see the role he carves himself out in our group. If he brings more offence obviously we're happy with that, but it's not the end-all, be-all with him. He can shoot and he does have puck skills there's no question, but as this game goes on you end up this is the type of role you're going to be and this is what you're sucessful at. I think probably he understands what he is as a player."
Many of the trades happening this week include high-end young roster players going from the contending team to the rebuilding club. The Broncos had to do that when they sent Riley Stotts, Dom Schmiemann and Conner Chaulk to Calgary in the deal for Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn. This time they paid a big price in draft picks, but avoided taking anyone off of their roster.
"That's the ideal thing," Porter said. "You have a good team and you're happy with what it's doing... to take off of that to add you've got to be careful about that. We were hesitant to take anything off the roster in this move so our discussion with Prince George were about adding without subtracting from our core group right now."
That also leaves Swift Current with eight defencemen. They've been very happy with the play of rookies Noah King, Connor Horning and Jacson Alexander, but this move insulates them somewhat from having to play against the toughest competition during the stretch run.
"We've got that group where we want to allow them to continue to play," Porter said. "But at the same time you're looking long term. This is a guy that bolsters this group. He'll give some of those guys an opportunity to see where they're at, but at the same time protect them ice-time wise if there is some issues. When it takes another step you never know how a guy is going to react to that. We just wanted to stay concious about that and bolster the group."
Trading away first round draft picks does put a litle more pressure on Swift Current's scouts to find hidden gems in later rounds and as list players. Swift Current now doesn't pick until the 4th round of the 2018 draft and will still need to produce some useful players from the 2003 age group.
"As a staff we'll continue to do what we're doing," Porter said. "It's just that when we get into the final weeks and start to narrow the group down a little bit we're going to be targetting the group that we know is going to be in that third round and on. We don't want to get lost in those first couple rounds if we don't have any picks, but at the same time we have to be prepared. We have as a group been discussing we have some room on our list and have been targetting some free agents. Our scouting staff has done a very good job of bolstering the lineup over the years with some guys like that. Our fans just got to see Carter Spenst and Grayson Stewart... so we've had some additions that way."
The Broncos are continuing to talk to other teams with an eye to possibly making further additions to their roster before Wednesday's deadline.
"We've still got three more days and we're still in a lot of conversations," Porter said. "We'll just see if something makes sense to us. We'd probably like to do a couple more things. It has to make sense. We're not going to get lost in what we're doing just to add."
Anderson could make his debut when the Broncos visit Prince Albert on Friday. They will then return home to host Edmonton on Saturday.