Oh USHL Trade Deadline. We hardly knew ye. You could have accomplished so much.
So it isn’t exactly “An Athlete Dying Young” by Housman but nonetheless the trade deadline did generate much discussion. Some teams made moves for the short term while others for the long term. There were some teams which didn’t make any moves.
Either way, it’s time to look at the teams who were winners and losers at the trade deadline.
-Waterloo Black Hawks: Anyone wondering about how serious this team’s playoff ambitions were got their question answered during the deadline. Trading for goaltender Stephon Williams (Minnesota-Mankato) and defenseman Alex Barron (Quinnipiac) gave them two players with serious playoff experience. Williams last season won 20 games in Sioux Falls and was virtually lights out in net come the playoffs when he helped his team reach the Western Conference Finals. Adding Barron gives Waterloo a defenseman who was a captain with indiana and can potentially provide that down the stretch. Also, giving up Michael Zajac (Princeton) to grab Kevin Duane (Boston University) wasn’t a bad move either. GRADE: A
-Tri-City Storm: Tri-City probably had the best Deadline Day of any team in the league. They held onto Nick Lappin (Brown), a forward many teams were coveting. Lappin made it clear he wanted to lead the Storm, which are tied for the sixth and final playoff spot, into the postseason. Keeping him was big right there. But they did more. No one else might say it, but they fleeced Des Moines yesterday by sending goaltender Pheonix Copley (Michigan Tech), two prospects plus third and fourth-round Futures Picks in exchange for goaltender Christian Frey, two of the top prospects in midget hockey in Chase Rey and Joel L’Esperance (Michigan Tech) while snagging a first and second round pick for the Futures Draft. Tri-City now has four picks – No. 3, 15, 16 and 28 – in the Futures Draft. Copley, in truth, is a rent-a-player as he’ll be in college next season and it depletes Des Moines’ future while making Tri-City, which already is the youngest team in the league, stronger for next year and years to come. Yes, they traded promising defenseman Desmond Bergin (Harvard) to Dubuque but they got Garrett Cecere (Colorado College), which isn’t a bad deal by any means. Finally, they picked up Breck (MN-HS) star Grant Opperman (Dartmouth) to boot once the high school season ends. If Tri-City reaches the playoffs, without question, this will be the most memorable move on Deadline Day. GRADE: A+
-Indiana Ice: Losing Barron might hurt but there’s enough talent on the team to make up for it. Then again, when you get two defensemen (Peter Hand and Trevor Owens) it isn’t bad to have extra bodies this time of year. Though the biggest move could be getting Cristoval Nieves (Michigan) who could have a huge impact. Nieves is thought to be the top high school player in the nation and could be a second-round pick. Getting him and his 6-2 frame on an already highly-touted offense could go a long way for the Ice and improving Nieves’ draft status. GRADE: B+
-Omaha Lancers: Trading Jonathan Liau to Youngstown opened the door for them to get Grand Rapids (MN-HS) defenseman Jake Bischoff (Minnesota). Bischoff, in quite a few minds, might be the best defenseman in Minnesota. The 6-foot, 185 pound defenseman has 32 points (7 goals, 25 assists) in 25 games for the Thunderhawks this season. He’s set to join Omaha after the high school season ends. If he gets in the ten games and stays with the Lancers, it could certainly benefit them in the long run. Think about how Ben Marshall (current Gopher and Red Wings Draft Pick) helped Omaha and that’s what Bischoff could do here. GRADE: B+
-Muskegon Lumberjacks: You’d think Muskegon would have done a lot more dealing than they did in the hopes of building for the future. It didn’t happen. Trading Nick Seeler (Nebraska-Omaha/Minnesota) to Des Moines for the rights of Blaine (MN-HS) defenseman Michael Brodzinski (Minnesota) could help towards the long run assuming they’re able to keep Brodzinski. Brodzinski is a junior in high school and could stay for one more year before heading to join The Last Don and what’s said to be a really talented freshman class. Muskegon appears to be dead in the water when it comes to the playoffs, but there were enough chips there to build for the future. GRADE: C-
-Cedar Rapids RoughRiders: One would have though they’d have tried to gun for some experience considering they are right in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. It appears they can hold on to the last spot given how far back Chicago is. Even still, getting an experienced forward to come in could have paid off. Maybe this team will turn the corner with what it has. GRADE: D
-Des Moines Buccaneers: Getting Seeler and Copley might help them stay in the playoff race. Though trading off first and second round picks in the Futures Draft could really come back to bite them. The USHL is constructed for teams to be smart about the present but smarter about its future. Even if Des Moines did get Zajac, not having a first-round futures pick along with losing Brodzinski is a big, big loss. Even if this is a league where there’s players who are learning about maturity, seeing recently acquired forward Luke Voltin (North Dakota) tweet his feelings on life in Des Moines yesterday isn’t a good sign. Argh. Argh, indeed. GRADE: D-