North Stars upgrade forward depth at deadline

By Nathan Kanter
January 11, 2018 - 12:00pm

A couple of days before the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League trade deadline, the Battlefords North Stars dealt Jared Power, who had just been acquired for Dylan Williamson, to the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Grand Prairie Storm.

In exchange for Power, the North Stars received 1998-born power forward Parker Smyth, who recorded 25 points in 34 games this year for the Storm.

That transaction didn't stop the North Stars from upgrading their forward depth even more during yesterday's deadline.

The North Stars also acquired 20-year-old Garan Magnes from the Spruce Grove Saints and dealt 18-year-old forward Jacob Tibbatts to the Lloydminster Bobcats for 19-year-old Cole Johnson.

"We needed to get gritty guys that can score," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said after practice Thursday. "We need more depth, especially coming up with that busy schedule. In a perfect world, we come at teams in waves. We can [now] limit guys minutes and they can go harder for those minutes and be more effective."

Magnes has the ability to play forward and defence, and recorded 35 points last season in 53 games.

He brings 73 games of Western Hockey League experience with him and sports a solid 6'0", 209 lbs. frame.

"He's so versatile," Heck said of Magnes. "He moves the puck as a d-man exceptionally well and as a forward, he can score or make his linemates better."

Johnson, meanwhile, played with Chaseton Braid during Braid's time early this season with the Bobcats and has totalled 21 points in 27 games in 2017-18.

He too has WHL experience, suiting up for 44 games with the Swift Current Broncos and 20 games with the Saskatoon Blades. He had 11 points in 54 games in the WHL last season.

"He's a pitbull," Heck said of Johnson. "He plays with an edge. He's very competitive. He'll fit right in with this group."

Smyth, who is the son of former NHLer Kevin Smyth and nephew of former Edmonton Oiler Ryan Smyth, said he is beyond excited to join the North Stars.

"You come to a team that has five losses is something that's pretty crazy," Smyth said in a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon. "Everyone wants to win at every level. So having a chance to go to the RBC Cup with what I'm sure is a tremdenous group of guys here in Battleford [is awesome]. I'm just really excited to join the crew and do whatever I can to help."

Smyth was an assistant captain with Grand Prairie this season and also brings a little bit of Western Hockey League experience with him.

He played one regular season game with the Blades in 2013-14 and has also suited up for exhibition games with the Vancouver Giants.

"I learned a lot from my experience having chances with a bunch of different Western [Hockey] League teams," Smyth said. "You're learning new systems, meeting new coaches and players and you're constantly seeing how hard it is and yet how fun it is...Obviously I ended up on a different path then going the Western [Hockey] League route and I don't regret anything. I don't like to be a regretful guy.

"It's kind of all about the now and focusing on my next step."

The biggest positive from the acquisitions is it gives head coach Brandon Heck options beyond just his top-six.

With injuries to Braid and Elijah Loon-Stewardson, Heck has relied heavily on his top-six this past week. With the new additions, that shouldn't be the case anymore.

But the players acquired can do more than just score.

"If you don't have grit, you won't score," Heck said. "I know everyone thinks a guy like Layne Young and [MacGregor] Sinclair are super skilled, but they're also gritty and strong on pucks and strong on their stick and beat guys to the net. They score more of those goals than the pretty goals."

Losing Tibbats was not an easy decision for the North Stars staff.

Heck said that was by far the toughest thing about going through his first deadline as a general manager.

"The thing I took away was how sad it was trading [Tibbatts]. That sucked," Heck said. "I came into [this job] in the summer and was like 'I can't wait until Jan. 10. It'll be such a fun day.' It wasn't a fun day."

Smyth was the only one of the three at practice on Thursday but all the new acquisitions are expected to be with the team for this weekend's road games in Flin Flon.

Across the league, the SJHL trade deadline was relatively quiet.

The biggest deal was Flin Flon sending 20-year-old Nick Shumlanski to the Humboldt Broncos for future considerations. 

Other buyers made moves as well, with Estevan picking up former Regina Pat Bryce Platt from Canmore in the AJHL, and Nipawin getting Jared Bednarksi from the La Ronge Ice Wolves.


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On Twitter: @NathanKanter11

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