Long-term state of mind for the Regina Pats

It is the beginning of a new year and the Regina Pats have already gone through some changes.

In the final days of 2023, the Pats were active in the trade market, shipping out 20-year-old defenceman Parker Berge to the Everett Silvertips and 19-year-old forward Borya Valis to the Prince George.
Regina also made a blockbuster move, sending forward Alexander Suzdalev to the Saskatoon Blades.

In return, the Pats were able to solidify themselves for the future with both players and draft picks.

Pats bench. Photography: Keith Hershmiller Photography

Regina received 20-year defenceman Ty Gibson and a 2nd-round pick in the 2025 Western Hockey League Prospects Draft from the Silvertips.

The Pats also acquired 17-year-old defenceman Tyson Buczkowski and a pair of draft picks (4th round in 2024 and 3rd round in 2026) from Prince George.

Even though Suzdalev has not played in the WHL this season, Regina still acquired 17-year-old forward Zach Moore, 18-year-old defenceman Samuel Barick, 16-year-old defenceman Dayton Deschamps and three draft picks (2026 1st round, 2026 3rd round and 2025 4th round) from the Blades.

Regina also picked up 18-year-old forward Harper Lolacher from the Moose Jaw Warriors for a conditional 7th-round pick in 2025.

With the January 10th deadline looming, General Manager Al Millar indicated the Pats made most of their transactions ahead of the deadline.

Rather than wait until next week to make the trades closer to the deadline, Millar believed now was the right time to make the moves.

“The day doesn’t really matter,” said Millar, “when you have the deal in place that you feel is the right thing for the organization, you get the deal done.”

He added that it’s a very competitive trade market within the WHL.

“When you have a dance partner and he said yes, you sign the paperwork.”

After picking up a point in their overtime loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors, the Pats record is now 13-18-4-2, and trail the Raiders by four points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Millar believed it was crucial to focus on building a team that could compete and perform well in the long term.

Millar noted the departures of Berge and Valis left a big void for the team.

“They were original Pats, they grew up here, we wish them nothing but the best.”

Suzdalev began the 2023-24 season playing for Hershey, which is the AHL affiliate team of the Washington Capitals. However, he was sent to Sweden. Throughout the season, the Pats have been staying in touch with Suzdalev’s agents and the Capitals to find the best situation for the 19-year-old forward, leading to the trade with Saskatoon.

When he took over the General Manager duties from John Paddock this summer, Millar wanted to restore the team’s draft capital to help the franchise in the future.

“With the fact that 15- and 16-year-olds signed players are ineligible to be traded, you need to have draft capital to make moves to improve your team.”

Down the road, Millar wants the Pats to be built through the draft and add necessary pieces at the deadline.

“We want to draft well, we want to develop our players, we want to compliment our draft and development model with the odd trade here and there. Not the other way around, if it’s the other way around, you’re not going to be successful.”

With the current squad now focusing on chasing down the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Head Coach Brad Herauf has faith in the leadership group, including players like Zane Rowan, Braxton Whitehead, Tye Spencer, Carson Haynes, Keagan Slaney and Tanner Howe to help with the quick transition the team now faces after the moves made this past week.

“None of those guys feel like they’re mailing right now, I now some people are saying that right now, just with the trades, for us we don’t feel that way, and the best message is the coaches can say it but it has to be the players that drive the culture.”

This weekend, the Pats will be home for a pair of games. On Friday, they will welcome in the Saskatoon Blades, and then on Saturday, the Victoria Royals will make a rare visit to the Brandt Centre.

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