Pats trying to balance competitiveness with an eye to the future

The Regina Pats hope an early start to the 2024 WHL trading deadline will help the squad for years to come.

Scramble in front of Pats net Photo: Keith Hershmiller

Regina was quiet on Wednesday. Their only move was reassigning 17-year-old goaltender Madden Mulawka to the Edmonton Jr. Oilers U18 AAA. Mulawka saw action in two games with Regina, posting a 3.86G.A.A., .862 SV%, with a 0-1-1 record.

Most of the transactions for the Pats were completed shortly after Christmas, sending 20-year-old defenceman Parker Berge, 19-year-old forward Borya Valis to Prince George and 19-year-old forward Alexander Suzdalev to the Saskatoon Blades.

General Manager Al Millar said following the three trades, they weren’t much discussion about additional trades.

“From my end I felt we did enough, in terms of having an eye on the future, while at the same time balancing to remain competitive.”

Regina received some injection of youth with the trades, including 17-year-olds Zach Moore and Tyson Buczkowski. Millar believes the pair can be a big part of the Pats future.

“When I look at our team over the next three years, remain as competitive as we can this year, think we can take a big step next year with some good young players, and then the year after that we should be a good solid hockey club.”

Besides the pair of 17-year-olds, the Pats also acquired 18-year-old defenceman Samuel Barcik, 18-year-old Harper Lolacher and 20-year-old defenceman Ty Gibson. Millar feels the new wave of players inside the locker room has blended well with the rest of the team.

“All of the players come in with good character, good work ethic of fitting into our environment, I think they’ve fit in well.”

The latest additions to the Pats team have contributed points since they arrived in the Queen City. Millar believes that will help the players relax in their new surroundings.

“If you’re a new player, if you can get into the lineup and contribute right away, it settles you down, makes you feel good about your new environment and gives you confidence in what you’re doing.”

The blue line has been a point of renovation for Millar since he took over as the team’s General Manager this summer. Along with Barcik, Gibson, and Buczkowski, Regina has added 20-year-olds Keagan Slaney and Carson Haynes in a pair of separate deals. Millar said defenceman was an area of the team he focused on when he took over as General Manager.

“I think one thing that has helped us stay as competitive as we can is being the three 20-year-olds on the backend, we kind of stayed the course with that.”

In the Pats overtime win over Victoria on Saturday, Millar was impressed with the play of Barcik, who had an assist on Zackary Shantz’s winning goal.

“I think he’s a little bit of an underrated guy in that Suzdalev deal that people are going to really appreciate here.”

Millar also pointed out that Barcik also helps the team with their import situation, noting the Pats hold the rights to Norwegian forward Stian Solberg, who is projected to be a player selected within the first couple of rounds in the 2024 NHL Draft.

Now that the trades are out of the way, the Pats will focus on chasing a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Regina trails Prince Albert by five points for the 8th position.

The Regina Pats will host the Vancouver Giants on Friday at the Brandt Centre. On Saturday, they will have an opportunity to make up some ground against Prince Albert when the Raiders visit. Finishing off their three-game stretch, the Pats will head to Saskatoon to play against the Blades.

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