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Wednesday, 08 May 2013 16:45

Sometimes, the best trades are the ones that aren’t made

Written by  Brad Brown
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Let’s make a deal. Oh wait, let’s not.

The Swift Current Broncos were locked and loaded to trade down May 2 at the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft when something unexpected happened.
“A coach’s dream,” according to Red Deer Rebels White bantam hockey coach Stan Krawiec. “Awesome shot … Speed to burn.”
In other words, the kind of player you don’t pass on.
Pleasantly surprised to find Tyler Steenbergen still available, the Broncos called off the trade and used their 12th overall pick on the Sylvan Lake product who played last season for Krawiec in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League.
“We had identified to move down and to go lower in the first round if two players weren’t there and we had obviously Steenbergen was one of them,” said Broncos general manager Mark Lamb.
Steenbergen was the league’s 10th leading scorer with 39 goals in 32 games and finished 15th with 67 points.
“What we liked was his hockey IQ,” said Broncos scouting director Jamie Porter. “He can skate. We felt we needed some more offence coming up so he fits that mould. And for his upside he's going to be a point-producer. He has the potential to be a captain.
“We had a group of three or four guys we liked and Tyler was at the top of that group.”
Steenbergen’s bantam exploits were one thing.
What he did after the bantam Rebels’ season ended was quite another.
Still months away from his first season of midget eligibility, the 14-year-old was called up to the AAA midget Red Deer Optimist Chiefs – a team with no 15-year-olds on its full-time roster – as they battled injuries during their provincial and pacific regional playoff runs.
“He’s got amazing speed, and his puck handling skills almost immediately when I first saw him I was like ‘Whoa, you’re probably as good or better than just about anything I have right now,’” said Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn, who converted Steenbergen from centre to the wing.
Quinn’s faith was both evident and rewarded almost immediately.
Steenbergen registered a power play assist in the Chiefs’ first playoff game and scored his first midget AAA goal in their next.
In the first game of the south division final against the Calgary Buffaloes, Steenbergen assisted on his team’s overtime winner.
It was an opportunity he almost assuredly wouldn’t have had if he were nothing more than a pure goal scorer.
“He was an outstanding penalty killer for us too,” said Krawiec, in complimenting pretty much every imaginable aspect of Steenbergen’s game. “His play in the defensive zone, from where he was in September or October to where he was at the end of the year, from my perspective, that’s where he showed a lot of improvement.
“I had no doubt that he could play for Doug.”
Steenbergen finished with three points in eight Alberta Midget Hockey League games with the Chiefs and also played all three games of their pacific regional final against the Vancouver Northwest Giants.
The Chiefs won that series as well and went on to win the Telus Cup national title, though they did that without Steenbergen as their regular lineup returned to full health.
“Kids coming up from the 15-year-old level to play with us have an adjustment with the speed and now you’re talking about someone who came from two levels below who was able not only to adjust to the speed but to have a lot of success and I thought he did really well,” said Quinn.
“And it was not just against the weaker teams in our league. Vancouver might have been just about the best team in the whole country. We’re talking about high, high level teams.”

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