As the Central Division race heats up into the second half of the season, the Lethbridge Hurricanes made a play Tuesday to make another deep playoff run, strengthening their crease with the acquisition of Liam Hughes from the Seattle Thunderbirds.
In return, the Hurricanes have dealt 17-year-old forward Keltie Jeri-Leon and 17-year-old forward Michael Horon to the Thunderbirds. Also exchanged in the deal is a fourth-round selection in the 2019 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft heading to the Thunderbirds while the Hurricanes acquired an eighth-round selection in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Hughes is the big piece in the deal as the Thunderbirds look to build for the future. The 19-year-old goaltender was originally drafted by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the seventh round, 152nd overall, in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. Hughes made his debut with the Oil Kings on October 1, 2016, earning the first win of his WHL career later that month on October 9, 2016 against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“Having to trade Liam was a tough decision,” said Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge. “We know he will do well in Lethbridge and we wish him the best of luck.”
The start of the 2017-18 WHL Regular Season brought Hughes to Seattle, where he’s spent the past two seasons. In 72 WHL regular season games, the Kelowna, B.C. product has a record of 27-32-10-1, 3.37 goals-against-average, and a 0.903 save percentage. The 6-foo-t-3, 197-pound goaltender has also appeared in five WHL playoff games, sporting a 1-4 record, 3.77 GAA, and a 0.910 SV%.
As part of the Tuesday moves, the Thunderbirds also announced they have signed Meadow Lake, Sask. product Roddy Ross to a WHL Standard Player Agreement. The goaltender had appeared in 22 games with the Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season, posting a 2.94 GAA, 0.920 SV%, as well as one shutout.
In return, the Thunderbirds get a strong young forward in the soon-to-be 18-year-old Jeri-Leon, who’ll head back to the U.S. Division as well as Lethbridge, Alta. product Horon.
The 6-foot-0, 200-pound Jeri-Leon was originally selected by the Tri-City Americans in the fifth round, 93rd overall, at the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. Jeri-Leon made his WHL debut on September 24, 2016 with the Americans and later scored the first goal of his WHL career on October 18, 2016. In 30 games this season, Jeri-Leon has 14 points (5G-9A), including three power-play goals.
Overall, Jeri-Leon has appeared in 130 WHL regular season games with the Americans, Kamloops Blazers, and Hurricanes, totalling 32 points (15G-17A), including four power-play goals. The Kelowna, B.C. product has also contributed a pair of assists in 16 WHL playoff games, all spent with the Hurricanes.
Also included in the deal is the 17-year-old Horon, a piece the Thunderbirds are hoping could be part of a successful future. The Lethbridge, Alta. product was originally selected by the Everett Silvertips in the ninth round, 190th overall, at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward has been an offensive leader for the Lethbridge AAA Hurricanes, winning an Alberta Bantam AAA Hockey League championship in the 2015-16 season, an Alberta Minor Midget AAA Hockey League Championship in the 2016-17 season and an Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League championship in the 2017-18 season.
This season with the Lethbridge Midget AAA Hurricanes, Horon has 50 points (25G-25A) in 21 games and has also made his AJHL debut with the Drumheller Dragons, playing a single game.
Up next for the Hurricanes is a game Wednesday, January 2 (7:00 p.m. MT) against the Red Deer Rebels. The Thunderbirds hit the ice next on Friday, January 4 (7:30 p.m. CT) against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
TRADE: The #WHLCanes have acquired 1999-born goaltender Liam Hughes from the Seattle Thunderbirds along with an 8th round draft pick in exchange for Keltie Jeri-Leon, Michael Horon and a fourth round pick! #CaneTrain#FueledByPassion#YQL