By Ryan McCracken on January 11, 2019.
The Medicine Hat Tigers left their mark on Thursday’s Western Hockey League trade deadline with a last-minute whopper.
The Tigers shipped 17-year-old winger Josh Williams to division rival Edmonton Oil Kings in exchange for 18-year-old centre Brett Kemp in a buzzer-beating transaction that addresses Medicine Hat’s need for a right-handed shooter down the middle.
“To me it’s a real good hockey deal. It’s one good player for another good player,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston, adding Kemp becomes Medicine Hat’s sixth available centre, but only the second right-hander. “I think the strength of a lot of teams, most teams is down the middle, and he’s a right-handed centreman, which helps. Probably with (Ryan Chyzowski) going down, you just realize that if you don’t have depth there, things can change real quick.”
While the trade —one of 11 completed across the league Thursday —was announced 30 minutes after the league’s 3 p.m. deadline, the transaction itself had been completed, pending league approval, before the trade market closed.
“There’s lots of talk leading up to it, but really this one here was fairly late,” said Clouston. “We wanted to make a move, if we could, to bolster this group a little bit. I think they’ve earned that, they’ve dug in and we’ve had a real good stretch leading up to the deadline.”
The Tigers should get an immediate boost out of Kemp, as the 6-foot, 162-pound product of Yorkton, Sask. sits just shy of a point-per-game pace with 22 goals — one shy of Tigers leader James Hamblin — and 17 assists in 40 games with Edmonton this season.
Williams — selected fifth overall by the Tigers at the 2016 bantam draft — leaves the Gas City after compiling 21 goals and 21 assists in 92 career games with Medicine Hat, nine goals and 12 assists in 41 contests this year.
“Josh is a great kid, a really great person. I think this is a fresh opportunity for him as well,” said Clouston. “These are always tough days, and I feel for the young men— you’re leaving lots of familiar surroundings and moving to a brand new team with new billets, new teammates and new linemates. It’s a challenge.”
Kemp will make his debut with the Tigers in tonight’s matchup against the Regina Pats at the Canalta Centre, and Clouston says he plans on slotting the new recruit in between Elijah Brown and Bryan Lockner.
“With Lockner coming back in we can leave the Hopwo-Hamblin-Preziuso line the same,” said Clouston, adding Baxter Anderson will likely fill in for Hayden Ostir (knee, week-to-week) alongside Ryan Jevne and Logan Christensen.
While Kemp doesn’t know many of his new teammates yet —aside from competing alongside Chyzowski at Vegas Golden Knights camp — he does have a history of success against the Tigers. In just two games against Medicine Hat this season, Kemp has potted four goals and an assist, including a three-point performance in his most recent trip to the Canalta Centre on Nov 10.
“He’s a guy that is having a great season. He’s scored a lot of goals already,” said Clouston. “I think he can play wing if we need him to play wing, but he’s a centreman and I think that’s really important.”
Kemp and Williams won’t have to wait long to cross paths with their former teams, either, as the Oil Kings will be in town to take on the Tigers Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
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