MHL team adds three players at deadline for run at Kent Cup
SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals have sent a strong message.
© TC Media Photo
Sam LeBlanc reaches for the puck while playing with the Amherst Ramblers of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).
The Caps made three moves before Sunday’s 10 p.m. trade and roster deadline that the organization hopes will result in a run at the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) championship.
The Caps added forwards Riley Whittingham and Sam LeBlanc, who both have extensive major-junior experience, and goaltender Kyle Michalovsky.
“Riley Whittingham and Sam LeBlanc are two veteran 20-year-olds, both bring experience and both played a ton of games at the major junior level,” said Caps general manager Pat McIver.
All three players are expected to join the Capitals this week.
“We worked tirelessly through the deadline and from Dec. 1 calling numerous contacts across Canada trying to find the right pieces and players,” added Caps head coach Billy McGuigan.
The Capitals sport a league-leading 22-9-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses) record. However, Woodstock (20-6-3-0), hosts of the Eastern Canadian junior A championship, and Dieppe (21-9-1-0) are only two points behind in the Roger Meek Division.
“With the 20-year-olds that we have, the window of opportunity for us is this year,” explained McIver. “There are no guarantees that we will win a championship, but I feel we put ourselves in a good position to compete for one.”
Along with Sunday’s acquisitions, last week’s signing of defenceman Alex McQuaid and forward Johnathan Larter being moved from a junior B to a junior A card, the Caps have filled all 23 cards.
The Caps now have 10 20-year-olds and teams are allowed to dress nine a game.
“We will figure that out,” said McIver, who added no other players were reassigned.
“With the 20-year-olds that we have, the window of opportunity for us is this year. There are no guarantees that we will win a championship, but I feel we put ourselves in a good position to compete for one.” Capitals general manager Pat McIver
The Caps have paid a steep price for veterans this season, including conditional first-round picks in 2016 and 2017 for forward Mitchell Dempsey; second- and third-round picks in 2016 for Damon MacDonald, and three players and a third-round pick in 2017 for goaltender Daryl MacCallum.
MacDonald left the Caps just before Christmas due to a medical condition and is now playing in the Island Junior Hockey League, which offers a less demanding schedule. After requesting a trade to Summerside, MacCallum left the Caps last week for Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
“At the end of the day we didn’t deplete our lineup a whole lot,” assessed McIver. “We are going to have to work to get some draft picks over the next couple of years.”
The Caps acquired Whittingham from Kootenay of the Western Hockey League (WHL) for a player development fee, and dealt a fourth-round pick in 2017 to Amherst for Michalovsky. The Caps sent rookie forward Julian Makary, goaltender Daryl MacCallum, the MHL rights to forward Chris Sarault and a first-round draft pick to Amherst for LeBlanc.
“Trading Julian Makary for us was heart-wrenching,” said McGuigan. “This kid is one of the nicest individuals you would ever want to meet.
“Having to talk to him here today (Monday) is going to be one of the tougher ones (conversations).”