Sitting second place in their respective divisions behind championship contenders, the Portland Winterhawks and Saskatoon Blades shook things up Thursday in a swap of 19-year-old forwards.
Heading to the Blades is forward Ryan Hughes while the Winterhawks have acquired forward Josh Paterson, a second-round selection in the 2020 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft and a fourth-round selection in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft.
In Hughes, the Blades have acquired a top-six forward that will be ranked in a tie for third in team scoring when he joins the Blades. Enjoying a third-straight strong season with Portland, Hughes has 40 points (17G-23A) in 36 games, including eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals.
Producing at a 1.11 point-per-game clip this season, Hughes is well on his way to surpassing his career-high totals of 57 points set during the 2016-17 WHL Regular Season. The Edmonton, Alta. product was listed by the Winterhawks after enjoying offensive success with the CAC Minor Midget AAA Canadians in the Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League, posting 65 points (34G-31A) in 35 games during the 2014-15 season.
“Ryan has been a quality player for us over the last four years and we know he will continue his strong play in Saskatoon,” Vice President, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston said. “Josh adds size, experience and leadership to our group and is a versatile forward who can produce offensively.”
The 5-foot-8, 153-pound forward currently has points in seven of his last eight games and recently surpassed the 150-point plateau for his WHL career. In 223 WHL regular season games, Hughes has 151 points (64G-87A), including 17 power-play goals, one short-handed goal, and 15 game-winning goals.
In return the Blades have sent a fellow Edmontonian in Paterson to the Winterhawks along with the two draft choices. The second-round selection in 2020 was originally property of the Swift Current Broncos.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Paterson adds size and scoring to a Winterhawks team that is looking to dethrone the Everett Silvertips for the top seed in the U.S. Division and Western Conference. Paterson was selected in the second round, 25th overall, by the Blades at the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.
He made his WHL debut on September 25, 2015, scored the first goal of his WHL career the next day against the Prince Albert Raiders. This season, Paterson has recorded 32 points (14G-28A) in 41 games, placing him on pace to set career-highs in points, a feat he’s accomplished in each of the past two years culminating with a 53-point campaign during the 2017-18 WHL Regular Season. He has seven power-play goals and one game-winning goal this season.
The first player ever drafted by Blades General Manager Colin Priestner, he had appreciation for Paterson’s contributions throughout the years.
“First and foremost, we want to thank Josh for everything he has done for us and his parents Sheryl and Brad, they’re at a lot of games and have become a big part of the Blades family over the past four years,” said Priestner. “Him signing with us when we were an unproven young team was a big deal for us, and I’ll always be grateful to Josh for that.”
In regards to adding Hughes, Priestner was excited about the offensively-skilled forward joining the club going forward.
“It’s difficult to find players who can produce like he can, and at the speed he can, and he’s coming from a great program that he’s spent the past four years in,” Priestner added. “These deals are never easy to make but we’re very excited to add Ryan to our group and we’re looking forward to seeing him on the ice this weekend.”
Overall, Paterson has appeared in 246 WHL regular season games, posting 138 points (74G-64A), including 26 power-play goals, two short-handed goals, and eight game-winning goals.
Currently on a six-game winning streak, including a 4-0 record on their East Division road trip, the Winterhawks will look for another win at the Art Hauser Centre Friday, January 11 (7:00 p.m. CT) against the Prince Albert Raiders. The Blades are in action Friday, January 11 (7:00 p.m. CT), hosting the Calgary Hitmen.