Normally, the big news coming out of draft day revolves around what happens in the first round. For the Brandon Wheat Kings, the stunner came after they made their first-round pick in Thursday’s Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. The Wheat Kings traded away veteran forward Brenden Walker to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for a second-round pick in yesterday’s draft, another second-rounder next year and a third-round choice in 2014. The Wheat Kings also get the right to swap first-round picks with the Blades in 2014. No one was more surprised by the trade than Walker. “I didn’t really expect it. I just got a call this morning from (Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon) saying that I was going to Saskatoon,” said Walker, who will turn 20 in June and count against the Blades’ overage limit next season. “I didn’t really understand at the time and (it was) very shocking, but I guess this happened for a reason and everything happens for a reason. I think it’s going to be the best for everyone.” Walker centred Brandon’s top line this season, tying for 19th in WHL scoring with 81 points, including 26 goals, in 68 games. With the expected graduation of Mark Stone and Mike Ferland, he likely would have been the Wheat Kings’ top returning scorer. The Blades, who also traded for Kelowna Rockets’ scoring leader Shane McColgan yesterday, get a major influx of offence as they prepare to host the Memorial Cup next season.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me, but I really enjoy it in Brandon,” Walker said. “It’s a great city, great people there, good organization, but now I guess I’m with another organization. It’s going to be a different situation, but hopefully everything works out well for me.” If the terms of the deal sound familiar, perhaps it’s because the three picks are the same price the Wheat Kings paid last fall to pry overager Darian Dziurzynski away from the Blades. The difference is Brandon’s option of trading places in the first round in two years, which could be significant if Saskatoon struggles in 2013-14 after loading up for next year’s Cup.
“(Walker) has enjoyed a real solid career with our organization,” McCrimmon said. “He’s been a player that’s improved from 17 to 18, 18 to 19, and I think he’ll be a strong player in the league this year. “At the same time, we thought that it was an attractive package of draft picks that was something we didn’t want to turn down and we felt was really important to the future of our organization.”