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Spokane Chiefs happy to make minor moves ahead of Western Hockey League trade deadline

Spokane Chiefs head coach Manny Viveiros looks on during a practice at Eagles Ice Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 11. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
By Kevin Dudley For The Spokesman-Review

As the trade deadline approaches today in the Western Hockey League, the Spokane Chiefs haven’t been on the front lines of any major deals, though that could always change by the 2 p.m. deadline.

They did, however, make some midlevel deals.

Earlier this week, Spokane acquired 19-year-old Brad Ginnell from the Winnipeg Ice. The Chiefs gave up two draft picks: a 2020 fourth-rounder and a 2021 sixth-rounder. Ginnell had 10 goals and seven assists in 34 games with Winnipeg. He spent one season and half of another with the Portland Winterhawks from 2016-17.

On Thursday, the Chiefs sent 18-year-old Connor Gabruch to the Calgary Hitmen for a 2020 fifth-round draft pick. Gabruch had three goals and four assists in 36 games this season, spending time on the third and fourth lines.

The Chiefs find themselves comfortably in third place in a tough U.S. Division, with the Everett Silvertips and surging Portland Winterhawks battling for first place. Spokane sits at 45 points in the division, well behind Everett (55) and Portland (60). The Chiefs are well ahead of the fourth-place Seattle Thunderbirds (33).

While the Chiefs haven’t been involved in major moves, all eyes turned to the Western Conference Thursday afternoon when the Victoria Royals and Moose Jaw Warriors finalized a deal involving five players and six future draft picks.

Victoria sent three players to Moose Jaw – forward Logan Doust, goaltender Brock Gould and defenseman Noland Jones – as well as four future draft picks. In return, Victoria got two future draft picks, goaltender Adam Evanoff and the gem of the trade, Brayden Tracey, a first-round draft pick of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.

The move brings Tracey – the reigning WHL Rookie of the Year – to the Western Conference.

With a mostly secure roster – as of now – the Chiefs will focus on the second half of the season. The Chiefs’ roster has been in flux in some spots this season. The Chiefs have been without star defenseman Ty Smith for a month, as the team captain was with Team Canada winning a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Smith is back with the team and might play Friday.

The Chiefs were also without starting goaltender Lukas Parik during the same time. Parik was with the Czech Republic at the World Juniors and returned to the team this past Tuesday in Spokane’s 5-3 loss at Portland.

Getting Smith and Parik back is big for Spokane. The Chiefs lost backup goaltender Campbell Arnold to a season-ending knee injury during Parik’s absence and had to scramble to call up 16-year-old Mason Beaupit. The Chiefs also traded for 19-year-old goaltender James Porter Jr., a Bonners Ferry, Idaho, native.

Smith’s return helps with the team’s depth on the blue line, especially with Matt Leduc out for the season with a shoulder injury. Leduc is a veteran with a big body who provided solid depth and could deliver game-changing hits, as he did against Everett in last spring’s playoffs.

Ginnell will help with Spokane’s depth at the forward position. The top line of Adam Beckman, Jack Finley and Cordel Larson is Spokane’s best line, and recently the team slightly retooled its second and third lines. The addition of Leif Mattson in early December gave Spokane some depth on its wing, and Eli Zummack and Bear Hughes centering the second and third lines, respectively, gives Spokane great depth up the middle.

The addition of Ginnell could alter those lines a little bit, too.

On defense, expect to see more of 16-year-old Graham Sward and 18-year-old Jordan Chudley. They, as well as newly recalled Mac Gross, should rotate in on the third defensive pairing.

During the past two seasons, Spokane general manager Scott Carter made big moves before the New Year. Carter acquired veterans Zach Fischer (2017) and Luc Smith (2018), as well as Noah King, who was 19 years old.

This season, Carter was forced to make some quick moves early on due to the season-ending injury to Jake McGrew. The team initially brought in 20-year-old Baron Thompson before acquiring Mattson and sending Thompson back to Junior A.

Portland and Everett each made trades this week, though not the blockbuster trades of the past. With 30 games to go, Spokane will try and keep pace in one of the toughest divisions in all of junior hockey.