Dante Hannoun may be going to the Memorial Cup this year. But it won’t be with the Victoria Royals.
The Royals traded the diminutive but quick forward to the Prince Albert Raiders, the top-ranked team in Canadian major-junior hockey at 34-3-1, in return for forwards Carson Miller, Kody McDonald and a third-round bantam draft pick in 2020.
The veteran Hannoun is tied for fourth place on the all-time Royals franchise career scoring list with Jack Walker, the latter currently in the pros with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. The undrafted Hannoun, a 20-year-old from Delta, finishes in Victoria with 248 points on 97 goals and 151 assists in 286 regular-season games over 4 1/2 seasons.
“It’s always difficult. Especially since Dante has been with our team a long time and was drafted by us [in the first round],” said Royals GM Cam Hope.
“Every year you are in a different position in terms of horizons you are looking at. This year, we are looking at a near horizon and another horizon a little further out. Prince Albert has a near horizon and was focused on getting a premier veteran player. We got back assets for down the road, in addition to now, and which don’t undermine our current chances.”
The latter statement refers to McDonald being a 20-year-old with with six goals and 18 points this season for the Raiders. Victoria fans will remember McDonald’s career with the Prince George Cougars in the B.C. Division. A rugged player, the six-foot-one McDonald has career WHL totals of 81 goals and 174 points in 295 games with 501 penalty minutes.
“He is a big, strong, talented player built for the playoffs,” said Hope, of the former second-round WHL bantam draft pick.
The five-foot-10 Miller is 18 years old and was selected in the first round of the 2015 WHL bantam draft, 21st overall, and has 10 goals and 18 points in 38 games this season for the Raiders.
“Miller will be a good player for us for a couple more seasons,” said Hope.
Meanwhile, if there is a hockey version of an out-of-body experience, the Royals must be feeling it. They have watched from afar on TV as their home rink played host to a portion of the 2019 IIHF world junior hockey championship.
But club play goes on, worlds or not, and the Royals conclude their nearly 4,000-kilometre, six-game road trip through the Central Division of the Eastern Conference with the first games without Hannoun tonight in Edmonton against the Oil Kings and Saturday in Red Deer against the Rebels.
“We’ve gotten our road rhythm and all four games we’ve played so far have been competitive,” said Royals head coach Dan Price, about being on the road to begin the post-Christmas part of the season.
Victoria (18-15-1) is 2-2 on the swing. But the conclusion to the trip won’t be easy against the top two teams in the Central Division with Edmonton at 21-12-7 and Red Deer 22-12-2.
The Royals venture into a Rogers Place tonight in which the Oil Kings, who feature defenceman Jacson Alexander from Victoria and former Royals goaltender Dylan Myskiw, have won seven consecutive home games.
“This weekend, we need to have good starts, which is harder to do on the road than it is at home,” said Price.
Meanwhile, the return of injured 20-year-old Victoria defenceman Ralph Jarratt appears imminent.
“We are hopeful that Ralph can play this weekend,” said Price.
The Royals return to the Memorial Centre Wednesday to play the Kamloops Blazers in a B.C. Division matchup.