D-Jay Jerome should be elated. Big things are upcoming if recent form holds.
The previous two 20-year-old forwards the Victoria Royals traded away, Dante Hannoun and Noah Gregor, went to the 2019 Memorial Cup with Hannoun scoring the overtime winner for the Prince Alberta Raiders in Game 7 of the Western Hockey League final.
The Royals dealt Jerome, who had 23 goals and 42 points last season, to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Monday for conditional draft picks in the 2021 and 2022 WHL bantam drafts.
“He might be thanking me next May,” quipped Royals GMCameron Hope.
The move comes after the Royals traded a 2021 fifth-round bantam draft pick for 20-year-old defenceman Will Warm from the Edmonton Oil Kings; and a fourth-round bantam draft selection for a fifth-round pick and conditional compensation for 20-year-old goaltender Shane Farkas from the Portland Winterhawks. Farkas will replace graduating Griffen Outhouse in the Victoria crease.
Each WHL team is allowed three over-age players.
“This continues to clarify our 20-year-old situation,” said Hope.
“We feel we have a lot of good forwards returning but needed help on defence.”
If over-age defenceman Scott Walford returns, the Royals will be set at the 20-year-old slots. Walford was selected in the third round of the 2017 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens but was not signed by the Habs. Walford will re-enter the draft this week in Vancouver, so his situation remains uncertain.
Forward Tanner Sidaway and defencemen Jameson Murray and Jake Kustra are other 20-year-old players eligible to return to the Royals, so Hope still has decisions to make and options for other deals.
Last season’s 20-year-old moves turned out somewhat controversial for the Royals. Veteran Victoria crowd-favourite Hannoun performed heroics for the Raiders. Twenty-year-old forward Kody McDonald, among the players Victoria acquired in the mid-season deal, ended his junior career with a six-game suspension in the playoffs.
The Gregor deal also came under scrutiny. But Hope noted, when he dealt Gregor’s rights to the Raiders, there was almost nobody in the WHL predicting the San Jose Sharks would return him to junior hockey.
“In fact, it was difficult to get any interest in Noah Gregor because of that,” said Hope.
The Raiders, however, took the longshot chance and it paid off.
“You take the crunchy with the smooth,” said a philosophic Hope.