The 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup host Regina Pats made a huge upgrade to their blueline Monday afternoon, acquiring Tampa Bay Lightning defensive prospect Libor Hajek (1998) from the Saskatoon Blades in a blockbuster deal that aids both sides.
Heading the Blades’ way is a haul of players that will significantly assist the Blades in years to come with defenceman Dawson Davidson (1998), prospect forward Tristen Robins (2001) and a first-round pick in 2019 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft to the Blades.
Hajek is the big piece in this deal. Drafted by the Lightning in the second round, 37th overall, of the 2016 NHL Draft, Hajek has been a revelation for the Blades’ blueline since coming to the team in 2015. He was originally selected by the Blades in the first round, second overall, of the 2015 CHL Import Draft. Since then, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound product of Smrcek, Czech Republic has played in 167 WHL regular season games, recording 77 points (15G-62A). He has one power-play and one game-winning goal.
“We are really excited to add Libor to our club,” Pats head coach and general manager John Paddock said. “He is among the best defencemen in our league and will be a big part of our team going forward.”
Hajek had high value before heading to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he finished tied for the scoring lead among defenceman while helping the Czech Republic to a fourth-place finish at the tournament.
Heading the opposite way is Davidson, a 5-foot-11, 181-pound product of Moosomin, Sask. Originally drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in the third round, 58th overall, of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In 207 career WHL games split between Kamloops and Regina, Davidson has 100 points (21G-79A). He also has 10 power-play goals, one short-handed goal and four game-winning goals.
“We really felt the return (for Libor) was too substantial to turn down,” Blades general manager Colin Priestner said. “We wanted to make it clear to our team and our fans that we aren’t giving up on this season by acquiring a player of Dawson Davidson’s status as a guy who can play two years for us and has potential to be a 50-60 point guy from the backend.”
Also dealt to the Blades as part of the deal is Robbins, a 5-foot-9, 157-pound product of Brandon, Man. Robbins was selected by the Pats in the fourth round, 76th overall, of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. Playing this year with Rink Academy Hockey of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) this season, Robbins has 24 points (11G-13A) in 18 games.
The move adds to Regina’s short-term goal of capturing the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup, paying a strong price to acquire a defenceman of Hajek’s talents. For the Blades, who are contending this year, but slotted into a wild card position, they’re giving up one piece of their team, albeit a large one, in exchange for success in coming years.
The Pats are back in action Wednesday, January 10 (7:00 p.m. CST) when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Blades return to the ice Wednesday, January 10 (7:05 p.m. CST) as well, hosting the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The WHL’s Trade Deadline is Wednesday, January 10 at 3 p.m. MT.