One day before the Western Hockey League trade deadline, the Swift Current Broncos announced a franchise altering deal.
The rebuilding Broncos dealt goaltender Joel Hofer to the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for six draft picks, including two first-round picks.
The 18-year-old goaltender has been simply sensational in his first season as a starting goaltender. He has a 6-21-2-1 record, 4.02 goals against average, and a 0.904 save percentage for the Broncos this season while leading the WHL with 1,136 saves and 1,257 shots faced. His most recent outing was a 46-save shutout of the Regina Pats.
Hofer, who has only appeared in 51 WHL games, is obviously viewed as a top-tier netminder in the league despite his numbers with the Broncos this season.
“He hasn’t played a tremendous amount. In the short time that I’ve had him he appears to be an elite guy. Time will only tell that, but he is on a better team now than we have presently,” said Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Dean Brockman.
The 6’3’’ Winnipeg native was outstanding in his rookie season with an 8-3-1-1 record, a 2.61 goals against average, and a 0.914 save percentage while backing up Logan Flodell and Stuart Skinner all the way to a WHL championship. The St. Louis Blues took notice and selected Hofer in the third round, 107th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.
The emergence of rookie Isaac Poulter certainly helped make the trade possible. The 17-year-old Winnipeg product has a 3.91 GAA and 0.901 save percentage in nine games during his rookie season.
“We think a lot of Isaac,” said Brockman. “He is the kind of guy that you can win games with. He’s another quality player and a quality kid. He’s still got a long ways to go, but at least, at this point, we’re going to give him every opportunity to try and succeed at this level.”
The Broncos receive first round picks in 2019 and 2021, a second round pick in 2020, a third round pick in 2019, a fourth round pick in 2020, and a fifth round pick in 2020.
“When you get the job in June or July your realize what you have to try and accomplish to try and get your team back on track. We identified some points throughout the year. Obviously you need to get draft picks and in order to get draft picks you have to give up really good players,” said Brockman, who took over this summer from Manny Viveiros, who led the Broncos to a league title last season.
“It was something that we felt we needed and was necessary to do in order to move a quality player like that. I think we were prepared also to keep him if we didn’t get that kind of a return. These draft picks are a long ways from playing for us, but it does give us that opportunity to restock the cupboard,” added Brockman.
The Broncos are at home tonight to face the Red Deer Rebels.
The Broncos also announced that they had added overage goaltender Riley Lamb to their roster. He had a .910 save percentage and a 3.42 GAA with the Weyburn Red Wings in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Lamb has appeared in 73 games over two seasons with the Red Deer Rebels.
The WHL trade deadline is Thursday at 4 p.m. Brockman said the team would likely remain active in trade discussions right up until the deadline.