First-round NHL draft pick Brayden Tracey became the leading goals and points scorer for the Victoria Royals on Thursday without ever having shot a puck for the Western Hockey League club.
The 18-year-old forward, selected 29th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2019 NHL draft, was acquired by the Royals from the Moose Jaw Warriors in a blockbuster deal ahead of today’s WHL trade deadline. His 15 goals and 38 points this season automatically lead the Royals.
Tracey had 36 goals and 81 points last season to be named WHL rookie of the year. The six-foot, 176-pound native of Calgary is also an international who represented Canada at the 2017 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge and 2019 IIHF Under-18 world championship. Tracey played for Team WHL in the CIBC Canada-Russia Series in the fall, recording an assist over two games, and will almost certainly be a contender for the Canadian team roster for the 2021 IIHF world junior championship tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Also headed to Victoria from the Warriors is 19-year-old goaltender Adam Evanoff and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 WHL bantam draft and a fifth-round selection in 2023.
Headed from the Royals to Moose Jaw are forward Logan Doust, defenceman Nolan Jones, goaltender Brock Gould, a third-round-selection in the 2020 WHL bantam draft and Victoria’s first-round pick in 2021 and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022.
The price was steep but worth it, said Royals GM Cam Hope. Especially since Tracey should return next season unless in the unlikely event he makes the Ducks (19-year-old WHLers can only be assigned to junior and cannot be assigned to the pro AHL) and possibly again the season after with Victoria as an over-age 20-year-old.
“This is new territory for us,” said Hope.
“We’ve never had an NHL first-round pick playing in Royals blue. Brayden Tracey’s status as a first-rounder shows how good he is. He is an elite player and the complete package with a terrific set of tools. Brayden is known for offence, but makes an impact in all three zones, with a high hockey IQ and his willingness. He adds a whole new dimension to our team as the grind of the WHL season wears on, especially since we’ve had top-six forwards out of the lineup for long stretches this season. This is an added element and more depth.”
The loss of first-, second- and third-round selections will have be factored into Victoria’s planning for the next three WHL bantam drafts. But Hope said his over-achieving Royals have earned the opportunity for the club to be all-in this season.
“It’s tough to give up those three players [Gould, Jones and Doust],” he added.
“But this team (22-13-2) has proven to be a special group and has produced above people’s expectations. This group has earned the opportunity for this additional element [Tracey] to enhance their chances down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
The six-foot Evanoff (5-14-1-0 this season in Moose Jaw with a 3.85 goals-against average and .901 save percentage with one shutout) will replace Gould as the back-up to 20-year-old Shane Farkas, the latter who has allowed just two goals in his last four starts in goal for Victoria with two shutouts. Both Farkas and Evanoff are from Penticton.
“Evanoff has come through a lot adversity but we’ve had our eye on him since bantam,” said Hope.
Gould has been invited to play in the CHL top-prospects game upcoming this month. The six-foot-four Colorado native has shown some flashes during his two seasons in Victoria but obviously not enough to make the Royals believe he was their future answer in the crease.”
“It was a tough decision but Brock will have more opportunity to play in Moose Jaw [struggling at 11-23-2],” said Hope.
Hope said Tracey and Evanoff are expected in the lineup tonight when the Royals open a two-game set against the talent-laden Portland Winterhawks, the third-ranked team in the CHL top-10 poll. Joel Hofer, the Canadian team 2020 world junior gold-medallist goaltender, is expected to rejoin the Winterhawks (28-6-4) this weekend at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.