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SUNDHER DEALT TO BRANDON & JONES SUSPENDED

Well, no one is surprised what the Victoria Royals did Monday. The only question in the BC capital leading up to Tuesday’s 2:00pm WHL trade deadline was where the club was going to trade Kevin Sundher and when. The answer came close to 6:00pm Pacific Time. The first tweet came from the Brandon Wheat Kings, announcing they had acquired Sundher for 18-year-old defenceman Jordan Fransoo, 17-year-old forward Dakota Conroy and a the Wheat Kings first round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft.

Kevin told Paul Haysem from CHEK Sports in Victoria he is “sad to be leaving, but excited for the new experience. Very bittersweet day.” He added, “I have a little piece of the Island that will stay with me forever. It was a lot of fun.” Kevin leaves Victoria as the all-time Chilliwack Bruins/Victoria Royals’ leader in assists (151) and points (241). Sundher also finished just two games shy of Jeff Einhorn’s club record for games played, which is 257. If not for an injury in mid-November, Sundher would have tied Einhorn’s mark.

It’s hard to believe that the Wheat Kings go into Tuesday as the number-8 seed in the Eastern Conference with the amount of offence they possess. Sundher, who is seventh in league scoring with 64 points, joins the WHL’s third highest scorer and Team Canada World Junior standout Mark Stone, who has 68 points. The Wheat Kings have four 20-goal scorers already (Sundher, Stone, Michael Ferland and Darian Dziurzynski), Allesio Bertaggia’s at 18 tallies on the year and Brenden Walker has 15. So there’s no questions about their top two lines. Makes you wonder if Kelly McCrimmon will be looking for some added depth on the blue line before the deadline arrives. The Wheat Kings may be sitting eighth, but they’re only six points out of third in the Eastern Conference.

For the Royals, they got younger while adding a pair of players that can step in right now. I got a chance to see Jordan Fransoo play in November for a game in Brandon for the WHL on Shaw and I thought he played pretty well. Fransoo comes to Victoria after being selected by the Ottawa Senators in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The North Battleford, SK, product has two goals and 11 points in 41 games and is a +2 on the season with 33 penalty minutes. Fransoo also brings size to the Royals’ back end, measuring 6’3”, 190 pounds. With Jesse Pauls announcing his retirement last week, an added body on the blue line will be a welcome sight.

In Conroy, the Royals’ pick up a third round pick from the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft. Conroy is 6’1”, 190 pounds and has four goals and eight points in 37 games in his rookie season. The native of Edmonton played with Royals’ forward Brandon Magee when the two grew up in the Alberta capital. Conroy becomes the ninth player on the Royals’ current roster born in 1994, a core group of Royals’ for a couple years.
The part that gets everyone excited is a first round pick. The Wheat Kings had two to work with thanks to the Brayden Schenn deal with the Saskatoon Blades at last season’s trade deadline. That trade included the Blades 2012 first round bantam selection.

It won’t be long until the Royals face Sundher for the first and likely only time when the Royals clash with the Wheat Kings Saturday in Brandon.
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The Royals set out on a six game East division road trip that opens Friday in Regina. They will see former Assistant General Manager and Head Coach Pat Conacher, who has done a stellar job with the Pats this season. Regina is 6-2-2-0 in their past 10 games and they picked up defenceman Luke Fenske from the Vancouver Giants Friday in exchange for a third round bantam pick in 2013.

The Royals will be without 17-year-old forward Zane Jones, who will sit out this weekend’s games because of a two game suspension that was handed down today. Jones was called for a boarding major in Saturday’s 4-3 shoot-out loss to the Kelowna Rockets. Jones, who has 11 goals and 20 points in 42 games this season, will get back into action on January 17 in Swift Current.
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With Sundher now out of the fold, that means fellow ’92 born forward Jamie Crooks takes over the team lead in points. Crooks has been on a roll of late, with four goals and six assists for 10 points during his five game point streak. On the season, Crooks has 21 goals and 43 points in 42 games. Hayden Rintoul will carry a three game point streak on the road, with two goals and four points in that span.
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The Sundher deal came on the heels of another eyebrow raising trade. Cam Braes, the heart and soul of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, was dealt to the Moose Jaw Warriors in exchange for a first round pick in 2012 and a second-rounder in ’13. Braes has been very strong in his fifth and final year in the league, with 24 goals and 45 points in 44 games. The Hurricanes had announced a 1:00pm Mountain Time media conference and I had a feeling Braes would be at the centre of it. Braes was the Hurricanes Captain and led by example and he will bring an added touch of offence to a Warriors line-up that could use another quality threat up front. It is a win-win for the Hurricanes, who give Braes a true shot at contending in his final season in the WHL, while getting some meat in the next two bantam drafts with high picks.

The Vancouver Giants added some offence to their blue line with the pick-up of Tyler Vanscourt from the Warriors. Vancourt, who had been acquired by Prince Albert from Spokane before the season began, has 21 points in 40 games this season, with 12 of those points on the power play. The Giants surrendered a fifth round bantam pick in 2012.
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Lots of talk about Edmonton Oilers prospect Martin Marincin being dealt by the Prince George Cougars. The Pipeline show in Edmonton reports five teams hope to get the big Slovak defenceman: Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Vancouver, Portland and Saskatoon. Marincin is a power play threat and with his long reach, is effective in the defensive zone. The Cougars and Giants square off in the only game Tuesday.

There are also rumours swirling in Medicine Hat that Emerson Etem could be on the move. Seems hard to believe, especially with the Tigers tied with Kootenay for third in the Eastern Conference and have a chance to make a run at it all again this season.
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Giants’ forward Brendan Gallagher is the WHL’s Player of the Week with seven points. All of those came in one game. Gallagher, who was tremendous for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta, had three goals and four assists in the Giants 8-4 victory over Portland Saturday. Ty Rimmer of the ridiculously hot Tri-City Americans is the WHL nominee for CHL Goalie of the Week. Rimmer posted back-to-back shut-outs in wins over Moose Jaw and Everett. The Americans have won 13 in a row and are the number-1 team in the CHL Top 10.
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Two games this week on the WHL on Shaw. Wednesday will see our first look at the reigning WHL Champions, the Kootenay Ice, when they face the Rebels in Red Deer. It is the Rebels’ first game on Shaw this season. Then on Friday, I’ll be at Pacific Coliseum for what should be a great clash between the Americans and Giants. A potential Western Conference playoff preview. The Americans sit first overall and the Giants are fourth in the Western Conference.

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