The Calgary Hitmen and Tri-City Americans pulled the trigger on a massive deal Saturday night, altering the future of both clubs for the better.
On the way to Kennewick, Wash. is 19-year-old Carolina Hurricanes defensive prospect Jake Bean, who was one of eight WHL players to win gold with Canada’s Junior National Team Friday at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Friday.
Heading back the Hitmen’s way is five assets that will help them in the short and long term. The deal involves forward Carson Focht (2000) and defenceman Dakota Krebs (1999). Also headed to the Hitmen are the Americans’ second-round pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, a first-round selection in the 2019 draft and second-round selection in the 2020 draft.
“We would first like to commend Jake for his terrific career in Calgary. His contributions to our organization both on the ice and in the minor hockey community have been exceptional,” Hitmen general manager Jeff Chynoweth said. “This transaction provides us with another skilled 2000-born forward in Carson (Focht) and a three-year veteran in Dakota (Krebs) who will bring depth and experience to our defensive core.
“We look forward to welcoming both players to our lineup on Sunday against Kelowna.”
The move adds more credibility to the Americans taking another run at their first Ed Chynoweth Cup in franchise history as they improve their contender status in the tough U.S. Division and Western Conference.
Bean, who was selected in the first round, 13th overall, by the Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Draft, is a 6-foot-1, 170-pound product of Calgary, Alta. In 187 games with the Hitmen, Bean has been a steady offensive force for the club, recording 175 points (42G-133A), including 22 power play goals and eight game-winners.
The blueliner’s best offensive season came during the 2015-16 WHL season, when he tallied 64 points (24G-40A) in 68 games, featuring 12 power play goals and six game-winners.
“With the team we have this year, I felt it was necessary to acquire another top defenseman,” Americans general manager Bob Tory said. “Jake Bean is an elite offensive defenseman and was the best player available. To acquire such a player, you must pay a steep price.
“Calgary is getting two character players in Dakota and Carson. We wish them nothing but the best in Calgary.”
Carson Focht, a 6-foot-0, 180-pound product of Regina, Sask. is one of five pieces in the deal the Hitmen can build around. Drafted by the Americans with the seventh overall selection in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, Focht is a forward with offensive upside and room to grow in the large role given to him in the Stampede City.
In 37 games this season, Focht has 16 points (6G-10A), with 24 points (9G-15A) in 101 career WHL games. Focht has also attracted interest from NHL Central Scouting, listed as a ‘Player to Watch’ with a ‘C’ rating back in November.
Also headed to the Hitmen is the defenceman Krebs, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound product of Okotoks, Alta. Krebs joined the Americans ahead of the 2015-16 season. In 151 games with the WHL club, Krebs has tallied 12 points (2G-10A) and 89 penalty minutes.
For a player like Bean with enormous value, the deal makes sense to the Hitmen, who sit seven points out of third place in the Central Division and 13 points out of the second wild card spot in the East Division. What the Hitmen have now is the means and assets to develop themselves over their remaining 33 games and become a serious contender in coming seasons.
On the Americans’ side, they instantly improve their odds in a tough division, further complicating the race their four other divisional opponents will have to go through in order to pursue a WHL Championship this season.
Bean will join a blue line that already features draft NHL talent including Juuso Valimaki (Calgary Flames) and Dylan Coghlan (Vegas Golden Knights).
The Americans are in action Sunday, January 7 (5:00 p.m. PST), taking on the Kamloops Blazers. The Hitmen are in action Sunday, January 7 (4:00 p.m. MST) as they welcome the Kelowna Rockets to town.