With their final move before the trade deadline expired on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at midnight, the North Stars moved out 20-year-old centre Brett Horn in order to get under the 23-player roster maximum.
Horn was shipped to the Humboldt Broncos in exchange for 17-year-old defensive prospect Mathew Fletcher, a third-round pick and a player development fee.
Born in North Carolina, Horn has dual citizenship and was acquired just before the start of the 2016-17 season from the Pembrooke Lumber Kings of the CCHL. This season, Horn put up 23 points in 35 games.
North Stars head coach and general manager Nate Bedford said it was tough trading Horn, but that with the team carrying nine 20-year-olds after acquiring Jared Blaquiere and Zach Nedelec from La Ronge, someone had to be moved.
You’re only allowed to dress eight 20-year-olds per game, and Bedford felt it wouldn’t be fair to constantly be scratching one 20-year-old for what is likely to be a deep playoff run.
“I wasn’t comfortable going into the playoffs with nine 20-year-olds,” Bedford said. “If we are to be successful, I don’t think I would be happy if a [20-year-old] is sitting up in the stands. So rotating guys through I don’t think is good for their development at 20 and they’ve been in junior long enough that they deserve to play every day. It’s unfortunate that we lost Horn, that was a tough move, but at the same time it’s good for him as well.”
The main piece coming back in the package was Fletcher, a 1999-born defenceman currently playing for the Saskatoon Blazers in midget AAA.
Although the Blazers are struggling, Fletcher has put up 10 points in 26 games from the blue-line.
“He’s a top ‘D’ in the midget AAA league right now,” Bedford said. “He’s a character kid and I think he’s very steady and I think he’s got a real good chance of playing with us next year. We’re going to try to get him up here and see what he can do.”
Fletcher won’t have an immediate impact, but the hope is the big acquisition of Jared Blaquiere and defenceman Zach Nedelec will.
Blaquiere and Nedelec both played their first year of midget with the Midwest Red Wings along with current North Stars Layne Young, Reed Delainey, and Connor Manegre back in 2012-13. Delainey, Blaquiere, and Young finished one, two, three in scoring for the team that season.
Delainey, Blaquiere and Nedelec also all hail from Edam, Sask.
Blaquiere “is a gritty kid, that’s for sure,” Delainey said. “He’s not the biggest guy but he’s definitely not going to shy down from anything. He has a lot more skill than people think as well. Hopefully our chemistry comes back and we’ll get another duo – not the Young and Downs but the next one.”
By acquiring both Edam natives, Bedford made it clear acquiring grit was more important at this point in time than more scoring – which the North Stars already have an abundance of (they’re second in goals for in the league with 157).
Experience was also a factor.
“They’ve played a lot of games in the SJ so they’re very familiar with the competitive nature of our league,” Bedford said. “I like both of their skill sets. Nedelec is a stay at home tough ‘D’, hard to play against, and Blaquiere is very similar. And we’ve got one on ‘D’ and one on forward. So we’re feeling like we’re ready for a long playoff run with a little bit more grit.”
Nathan Kanter is battlefordsNOW’s sports reporter and voice of the Battlefords North Stars. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @NathanKanter11
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