Heading into the league’s trading deadline, Jeff LeBlanc had several goals he wished to accomplish.
He thinks he has met, if not exceeded those goals.
The general manager of the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers said his plan going into the Jan. 10 deadline was to add a goalie, a defensive defenceman and some depth up front, while at the same time picking up some draft picks.
“I thought it was one of our better trade deadlines,” LeBlanc told the Amherst News on Jan. 14. “I felt we got better and we got younger. When you do those two things and stay in the competitive and in the mix is always a good thing.”
Unlike last year, when the Rambler boss was not very active on deadline day, LeBlanc pulled seven trades on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 – the biggest of which sent defenceman Spencer Smith to the Pictou County Weeks Crushers for goalie Matthew Normore and defenceman Malcolm Genge.
“I wanted to add a stay at home defenceman who could fit in right now and goaltending was another priority with the injury to Joel (Goguen) and the loss of Tyler Caseley for the rest of the season,” LeBlanc said. “Being able to add a guy like Matthew Normore, with his experience, is a real plus and if his first game was any indication were going to be very happy to have him.”
The timeline for Goguen’s return from his injury is still undetermined and besides 18-year-old goalie Josh Ward, the team has been forced to use affiliates from junior B or midget.
LeBlanc also sees Normore as being a mentor a very young and very good Ward, who picked up a shutout against the Crushers just after the break and put in another strong performance against the Valley Wildcats on Jan. 10.
It also helps that coach Doug Doull is very familiar with both players from when he coached the Crushers.
“Doug said to me to look out when he gets hot,” LeBlanc said. “He’s a quality goalie. The Crushers were one of the hottest teams in the league after Christmas last season and Matt was a big part of that.
“When you look at Genge we get a great stay at home defenceman who keeps it simple. We also gain two years in that he’s only 18 with one year of experience versus a player who we would lose at the end of the season. We needed that defenceman who looks after his own end and moves the puck. We lost a big asset in Spencer in the offensive category but we gained a big asset on the defensive side.”
Through the trades, LeBlanc picked up several picks in the June draft going from nine picks to 14 – addressing something he admitted was difficult last June when the club had to wait deep into the draft before making its first selection.
“There was nothing worse than last year’s draft sitting there for a long time without a pick. This year we’ll be in much better shape to pick up some young players,” LeBlanc said. “We managed to do this without surrendering any key parts of our lineup.”
Another key move saw the Ramblers add former Saint John Seadogs’ forward Aiden MacIntosh from the Fredericton Red Wings for a second-round pick in 2021, Brandon Casey and future considerations.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Aiden’s since I first saw him play in bantam. He’s a heart and soul kid, a leader. He’s the type of kid you win with. He brings grit and he can score goals,” LeBlanc said. “He’s played with a lot of guys on our team so it will be an easy transition into our lineup.”
In another trade with Fredericton, Amherst re-acquired Alex Hayes, who saw duty as an affiliate player last year and is playing junior B in New Brunswick this season. He will affiliate with the Ramblers for the rest of this season.
Amherst also picked up defenceman Jack DesRoches from Miramichi. He is playing junior B hockey on Prince Edward Island this winter while attending trade school, but could see action as an affiliate.
The key could be 20-year-old forward Dylan Seitz, who the Ramblers acquired from Buffalo. Seitz, who has seen action with the Moncton Wildcats, has been practising with UNB and there’s a possibility he could join the club in late January.
Amherst also sent forward Ryan Penney to Miramichi for a fifth-round pick in June and sent goalie prospect Oliver Arnfast and a sixth-round pick in 2021 to Campbellton for defenceman prospect Michael Sack as well as sixth, seventh and eighth-round picks in 2020.