Newest Raiders prep for home debut

Andrew Schopp
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Calder Brooks, Collin Valcourt and Ryan Coghlan joined the Prince Albert Raiders last week after a pair of trades brought the trio to P.A. Herald photo by Perry Bergson

Since the Prince Albert Raiders acquired them on Saturday, the team’s newest additions of left wings Calder Brooks, Collin Valcourt and defencemen Ryan Coghlan have immediately made an impact.  

The trio of players acquired in two separate deals between the Raiders, the Saskatoon Blades and the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday, combined for a total of five points in eight games in their new uniforms.

The new-look Raiders will look to bounce back from a 4-3 loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday as the team’s newest members prepare to make their debut at the Art Hauser Centre, where the Raiders will take on the Lethbridge Hurricanes for the third time this season on Friday. 

As an overage player, Valcourt, who before joining the Raiders had suited up for the Blades and the Spokane Chiefs, had a feeling he would be dealt. 

“It was a little bit of a shock at first but I knew coming down to the deadline I was probably going to get traded,” said Valcourt who since the trade, netted the game-winner against the Regina Pats on Monday and tallied an assist in the Raiders loss to the Warriors on Tuesday.

Both Valcourt and Coghlan were acquired by the Raiders in the same deal that sent defenceman Dylan Busenius and a pair of draft picks to the Blades.

The rookie Coghlan was caught off guard when Blades GM Lorne Molleken pulled him from warm-up on Friday to tell him he was on the trading block.

“We were coming back from the Christmas break and I was looking forward to the second half of the season with Saskatoon, then he told me I was getting traded and that’s all he could tell me,” Coghlan explained. “It was shocking not knowing where I was going, but later that night he told me I was going to Prince Albert and I was nothing but excited.”

It’s business as usual for Brooks who was acquired from the Eastern Conference leading Hitmen, but for former Blades Coghlan and Valcourt, being dealt to the Raiders thrusts them right back into the playoff picture. 

“The coaches in Saskatoon told me that I was a getting a great opportunity, that they (Raiders) are in a playoff spot and that the team has wanted me for a long time,” Coghlan said.

Valcourt agreed that as a 20-year-old in his final WHL season, potentially finishing off his junior career with a playoff run is an exciting prospect that would have likely not come to fruition as a member of the Blades who post a record of 11-27-3.

“It was exciting for me to know I was going to a playoff contending team whereas in Saskatoon, we were falling further and further behind everyday,” Valcourt said.

Valcourt enters Friday’s tilt with the Hurricanes riding a five-game point streak and has 41 points in 38 games so far this season. 

After drubbing the Hurricanes 8-2 in their first meeting on Nov. 23 at the Art Hauser Centre, the Raiders learned a lesson in humility, losing to the ‘Canes 3-1 on the road in their last meeting on Dec. 6 at the Enmax Centre.

Brooks and the rest of the Raiders now know not to underestimate the Hurricanes who on Thursday sat dead last in the league with a record of 8-28-5. 

“We gotta go in there with the mindset of playing a top team in the league,” Brooks said. “We can’t take them lightly, no matter where they are in the standings. We need the points right now and these two points are big for us coming off a loss.” 

Since losing centre Leon Draisaitl and defenceman Josh Morrissey to the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, the Raiders have posted a modest record of 3-3-0. 

As the trio of new Raiders adjust to Raiders coach Cory Clouston’s system, they join the team in eagerly awaiting the return of the top forward and defenceman.

“They are two very skilled players that are going to help our team tremendously when they come back,” Brooks said. “Playing against them was difficult just in the way they skate and move the puck. They move the puck and push the pace of the game, I’m looking forward to having them back.”

Valcourt, who will likely see some time on the Raiders top line with Draisaitl, is eager to receive some passes from the play-making centre and puck-moving defenceman, elevating his game.

“They got tons of skill,” Valcourt said of Morrissey and Draisaitl. “They make unbelievable passes so I’m extremely excited to get out there with them.”

Three games into their new digs, Valcourt, Coghlan and Brooks all admit to a bit of a learning curve in adjusting to the Raiders defense-oriented system. 

“It’s a little more structured in the defensive zone,” Coghlan said of the Raiders system compared to that of the Blades. “It’s kind of a chip and chase, get it in, get it out in Saskatoon, here it’s more about being in the right spot.”

While Brooks pointed out the Raiders sharp focus on the neutral zone forecheck, Valcourt said for him, it’s simply a matter of sticking to his game.

“That one game I sat out in Saskatoon was a big help for me,” Valcourt said. “I saw Prince Albert’s structure and I knew who I was going to play with, I just adapted to them. At the end of the day, it’s hockey.”

The puck drops at 7 p.m. when the Raiders take on the Hurricanes on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre.

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