The defence corps has been the Vancouver Giants’ strength all season and general manager Barclay Parneta continued tweaking it right up until Thursday afternoon’s WHL trade deadline.
Parneta acquired blue-line prospect Nic Draffin, 17, from the Red Deer Rebels just ahead of the cut-off in exchange for a 2021 seventh-round draft pick.
Draffin played bantam for current Giants head coach Michael Dyck and alongside Vancouver star blue-liner Bowen Byram in Lethbridge. He was a 2016 third-round pick of the Rebels and had been playing this season with the Calgary Mustangs of the Alberta Junior A league.
Draffin becomes the third rearguard added by Parneta in the past 10 days, along with Seth Bafaro, 18, who had been with the Saskatoon Blades, and Dallas Hines, 20, who was with the Kootenay Ice.
In corresponding moves, Parneta said that Vancouver has re-assigned Ty Ettinger, 18, to Junior A and Parker Hendren, 17, to midget. They have also placed Matt Barberis, 20, on waivers, according to the GM. The Kelowna Rockets announced later in the day that they had picked him up.
“I’m happy with the fact that we were able to add without subtracting too much from what seemed to be working before the deadline,” said Parneta, who also brought in forward Jadon Joseph in a deal last week with the Regina Pats. “I think they’re all good fits for the tempo and style that we want to play.
“It’s no secret that our goaltending and our defence have been keys to our team, and I think we really shored that up even more.”
Vancouver (24-12-2-0) is seven points up on the Victoria Royals (21-15-1-0) atop the B.C. Division and look like a team capable of winning at least a couple of rounds of playoffs. The Giants made the postseason last year for the first time in four springs, but they have not won a series since 2010.
As tempting as going all in as a buyer and putting together a blockbuster for this season might have been, Parneta remained steadfast that the Giants weren’t ready to mortgage their future for the present.
Other teams didn’t seem to have the same strategy. The Portland Winterhawks (25-11-3-2), who are one of teams that Vancouver could end up fighting it out with at the WHL’s Western Conference playoffs, turned some heads around the league on Wednesday when they landed goalie Joel Hofer, 18, from the Swift Current Broncos for six bantam draft picks, including two first rounders.
“It’s hard to not chase some of those deals,” Parneta said. “We were involved in talks with some teams. We stuck with our plan. We didn’t get distracted. We didn’t do something that would take away from what we want to do next year or the year after.
“I don’t know how teams recover from trading away multiple first-round picks. We’re trying to build a sustainable program here that focuses on the draft and development.”
The Everett Silvertips (32-8-1-1), who lead the Western Conference, made their big trade splash when they added 27-goal man Zack Andrusiak from the Seattle Thunderbirds on New Year’s Day for two players and three draft picks.
Draffin is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds and has one goal, four points, an even plus-minus and 44 penalty minutes in 35 games with the Mustangs so far this season. Parneta says that he may not join the Giants for a few days due to school commitments.
The Giants return to action on Saturday, when they play host to the Kamloops Blazers at the Langley Events Centre (7 p.m., AM 650).
Ettinger had no goals, three points, a plus-one rating and 34 penalty minutes in 31 games with Vancouver. He was frequently used as a third defensive pairing with Hendren, who had one goal, two points, a plus-two rating and two penalty minutes in 26 games.
Barberis, who had been with the Giants since they picked him 20th overall in the 2013 bantam draft, had gotten into just nine games this season due to injuries. He had one goal, three points, a plus-three rating and 10 penalty minutes.
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