As soon as I found out I got traded to Brandon, that’s what came to mind. It’s an opportunity I have to make the most of because I’m hoping this is one of my last (WHL) seasons. - Morgan Klimchuk on a Memorial Cup run
CALGARY, AB -- Morgan Klimchuk hit the lottery as far as getting traded is concerned.
On Jan. 2, Klimchuk was dealt by the WHL’s Regina Pats to the Brandon Wheat Kings for 17-year-old winger Jesse Gabrielle, thrusting the Calgary Flames' 2013 first round pick (28th overall) into the Memorial Cup conversation.
“As soon as I found out I got traded to Brandon, that’s what came to mind,” Klimchuk said of being dealt to one of the CHL’s elite teams. “It’s an opportunity I have to make the most of because I’m hoping this is one of my last (WHL) seasons.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound forward kicked off his 2014-2015 WHL campaign late after suffering a wrist injury in a Flames pre-season tilt on Sept. 26.
Since returning to action Klimchuk hasn’t skipped a beat, scoring 14 goals and 16 assists in 27 games with the Pats before immediately making an impact with the No. 1 in the Eastern Conference Wheat Kings.
In his first four games with the 30-9-4 Wheaties, the 19-year-old Calgary product has tallied a goal and a pair of assists.
Klimchuk continues to acclimate well to his new lineup, which packs a little more offensive punch than what he was used to in Regina.
Lighting the lamp more than any other team in the league, the Wheat Kings possess a quartet of forwards with at least 40 points followed by five more who have hit the 30 point mark.
“Different colours, different team,” he said. “In Regina, we were a team that scraped and clawed to get wins. We have a lot of depth on this team and I’m not saying we didn’t have that in Regina, but we got four solid lines that can put the puck in the net.”
As the Wheat Kings visited the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday to take on his hometown Calgary Hitmen, Klimchuck found himself skating on the top line with team leading scorer Tim McGauley and Latvian import Rihards Bukarts.
Klimchuk`s former Pats are no slouches, however.
Sitting second behind the Wheat Kings in the East Division, the Pats post a record of 25-14-3 and are in position to earn a high playoff seed.
They weren’t prepared to go for it this year, however, and opted to deal their best player in Klimchuk for the 17-year-old Gabrielle, a solid building block for the future.
About 362 KM East of Regina in The Wheat City, the outlook is different.
By swinging a deal for the Pats top forward, Wheat Kings coach/GM Kelly McCrimmon made a statement to the league that he has the WHL title and a berth to the 2015 Memorial Cup in Quebec City firmly in his sights.
A key figure in the arms race that ensued in the days leading up to the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline, Klimchuk is poised to become a big part of that push.
“Right now I’m on a real offensive team and it’s something I am really looking forward to.”
THE KLIMCHUK-ROY CONNECTION
Upon being dealt to the Wheat Kings, Klimchuk has developed instant chemistry with another Flames prospect in the lineup.
The winger said he’s clicking well with defenceman Eric Roy, Calgary's fifth round selection in 2013, as the pair prepare to see a lot of each other with the Wheat Kings and at upcoming Flames training camps.
“Whenever you can play with someone that you’ve been to camp with, it definitely helps with immediate chemistry,” Klimchuk said of joining forces with Roy. “It’s great to have the opportunity to play with him.”
An over-age player, Roy has tallied three goals and 16 assists with the Wheat Kings in 37 games as he looks to wrap up his WHL career.
The 20-year-old product of Beauval, SK said he’s making great strides in his development, which will surely be aided by a potential lengthy Wheat Kings playoff and Memorial Cup run.
“It’s a goal of ours to make the finals this year,” Roy said. “Everyone thinks we’re a “next year” team but this year we are going to be pushing in the playoffs and looking to go far.”
Roy added that his main goal is to work on his play in the backend, where he admits there are some adjustments to be made.
“[The] defensive end I need to work on, but it’s coming along,” he said. “I just have to keep working at it every day, keep trying to get better in practice and in games, just keep working hard.”