WHL Notebook: Season of malcontent continues in Lethbridge

Dave Leaderhouse
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The number of players to leave the Lethbridge Hurricanes this season has risen to four. Joel Topping recently told the Hurricanes he was heading home, but unlike Ryan Pilon, Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie he didn’t do so requesting a trade to another team. Topping just wanted to go to school and plans on attending Red Deer College in January. He would like to play with the school team, but will need a release from Lethbridge in order to do so…Lethbridge isn’t the only southern Alberta team to have a player walk out on them this year. Spenser Jensen recently told the Medicine Hat Tigers he was leaving the game because it was no longer any fun. In 28 games with the Tigers this season Jensen had just three assists.

Still on the topic of departures, Moose Jaw Warrior trainer and athletic therapist Curtis Amiot is turning a new page as the eight-year veteran is set to become a police officer with the Moose Jaw police service in the New Year. Amiot has a young family and decided that being a police officer would keep him closer to home…The Everett Silvertips are the only WHL team not to have a Teddy Bear Toss event this year. When the Silvertips first joined the league back in 2003, their first two attempts at the special event ended with the club being shutout so they have opted to have a toy drive instead. This year, the Kamloops Blazers were the lone team to be shutout when hosting a Teddy Bear Toss night which resulted in the fans littering the ice with stuffed toys at the end of the game. After being blanked 7-0, the players had further salt added to the wound when they had to help gather the toys.

The Red Deer Rebels didn’t want to be burned three times by having a commodity move up to the NHL at an early age and get nothing in return so this time they moved defenceman Matt Dumba to the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for 18-year-old Presten Kopeck and a trio of second-round draft picks. Dumba has spent all of this season with the Minnesota Wild, but as a 19-year-old can be returned to the major junior ranks before he plays in 41 games. Dumba is presently on loan by the Wild to the Canadian national junior team and there is speculation he will be returned to the WHL at the end of the world junior tournament. Red Deer didn’t want to take a chance on that not happening as they failed to move Brandon Sutter or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in past years and as it turned out both remained with their NHL teams. In Dumba’s case, however, the possibility is very real he could play junior hockey again so Red Deer wanted to get some assets for the future. Should Dumba return to Minnesota, Red Deer will be required to send a 2014 bantam pick to Portland to complete the deal for Kopeck, who has been sidelined after a hernia operation, but is expected to be ready to return to action in January.

School mustn’t have been that big of a deal for netminder Teagan Sacher as the former Regina Pats’ goaltender left the team earlier this year to attend the University of Winnipeg. Sacher is now playing with Lethbridge in the WHL…Portland scoring star Brendan Leipsic is going to have a tough time defending the scoring title he co-won with teammate Nicolas Petan last year as Leipsic has been handed the league’s longest suspension – seven games – for a match penalty he picked up in a game against the Seattle Thunderbirds last week. Leipsic has 43 points in 29 games this year…While the main world junior tournament is being played in Malmo, Sweden, over the holidays other world junior tournaments are also being held as the world Division 1 event is in Poland right now and there is also a world under-20 tournament being played in Scotland.

Regina Pats forward Morgan Klimchuk recently signed his first professional contract and unlike most young players who come into huge sums of money he isn’t running out and buying a vehicle. Klimchuk says he is going to get a new laptop if one doesn’t show up under the Christmas tree…Prince Albert Raider forward Leon Draisaitl is one of 13 players from the WHL to be invited to compete at the Top Prospects Game in Calgary in January. Other WHL players are: goaltender Ty Edmonds from Prince George, defencemen Haydn Fleury from Red Deer, Aaron Irving from Edmonton, Nelson Nogier from Saskatoon, Julius Honka and Bryce Martin from Swift Current and Ben Thomas from Calgary. Joining Draisaitl up front from the WHL are Jake Virtanen from Calgary, Conner Bleackley from Red Deer, Chase De Leo from Portland, Sam Reinhart from Kootenay and Nikita Scherbak from Saskatoon. The Top Prospects Game will be played on Jan. 15, 2014.

Information for the WHL Notebook is gathered from submissions by the WHL Writer’s Group.


Organizations: Red Deer College, Medicine Hat Tigers, NHL Minnesota Wild University of Winnipeg Seattle Thunderbirds

Geographic location: Lethbridge, Red Deer, Southern Alberta Portland Moose Jaw Calgary Leipsic Minnesota Saskatoon Malmo Sweden Poland Scotland Prince George Edmonton Swift Current WHL Writer

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