The Regina Pats announced a massive deal Thursday, trading away their two leading point scorers, captain Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry, to the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The deal was finalized by the Pats and the Hurricanes late Wednesday night and Leschyshyn and Henry were seen leaving the Brandt Centre with their large hockey bags Thursday morning.
It was a tough pill to swallow for their teammates, many of whom don’t know a Pats team without Leschyshyn and Henry in the line-up.
“I mean, there was some tears shed and it’s not fun,” said defenceman Liam Schioler who has played his entire junior career with the Pats. “You don’t really know what to say. I’m still in shock, I’m sure they’re in shock, especially but being with people for that long, you get to know them and they’re gone. That’s tough.”
But it was a necessary step for the Pats to take. After several strong years culminating in last season’s Memorial Cup, the team needed to start building for the future.
The Pats gave up many of their draft picks to have competitive years the last two, and the cupboards were bare.
It meant the trades were not unexpected, according to general manager John Paddock, though it didn’t make letting go of Leschyshyn and Henry any easier.
“I think there was lots of emotion for the rest of the morning and there was for them and for me,” Paddock said. “But they were able to go to the same place and that for sure helps.”
The trade brings in forwards Jadon Joseph and Ty Kolle from Lethbridge, but also gives them a plethora a draft picks to help build for the future.
In total the Pats received five bantam draft picks spread out over the next two seasons – including a first round pick in 2019 and 2020 – along with the potential for two additional draft picks if Leschyshyn, 19, or Henry, 18, return to play for their overage seasons, when they turn 20.
“You have to look at the big picture and this is the result of being the best team two years in a row,” Paddock said.
Head coach Dave Struch was emotional today when talking about the trade, adding that he knows the Leschyshyn family well and has watched both young men grow up.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to good people,” the coach said as he choked up.
“I learned a lot from both kids and young men … I think if you look at our record at 8-17 and our captain and assistant captain, the way they carried themselves everyday has been a real phenomenal experience for us as a coaching staff and an organization. I know we talk about the process and the daily attitude and character that our players execute, and Nick and Jake were a real big reason for that so it’s really sad to see them leave.”
But with that in mind, Struch is looking to the future and also at what his two newest players may be able to bring.
Joseph is in his third year in the WHL and has already passed his career high with 10 goals this season. He’s on pace to break his record of 32 points last year. In 36 playoff games, including two years in the conference finals, he scored 15 points, including five goals.
Kolle started his first two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks before being traded to Lethbridge this year. He has seven goals and four assists in 17 games so far.
Leschyshyn and Henry have both spent their entire WHL careers with the Pats up until Thursday. They both led the team in points and are prospects of NHL clubs; Leschyshyn is a draftee of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Henry is a draftee of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Pats face the Wheat Kings in Brandon Friday night on their seventh-straight road game before returning home Saturday evening to face the Prince Albert Raiders.