Addition of veteran defensemen indicates Vancouver Giants are ready to play in the playoffs this season

Alex Cotton, 20, is from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for four draft picks and a prospect. The Langley native is thrilled with the opportunity to end his career in front of friends and family

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Vancouver Giants captain Justin Sourdif considers it a compliment to the current squad that general manager Barclay Parneta acquired two veteran defensemen on Friday without losing a player from their roster in the process.

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“They really like the group we have right now,” said Sourdif after the Giants brain trust brought in Alex Cotton, 20, and Evan Toth, 19. The Giants sent four draft picks and unsigned prospect Hunter McInnes to Lethbridge for Cotton, and one draft pick to Calgary for Toth.

“They didn’t want to subtract. They just wanted to add. It’s a great confidence booster for our team, getting these two guys. Hopefully we can integrate them as soon as possible.

The deals are proof that Parneta, coach Michael Dyck and the Vancouver owner group have a firm intention of making the playoffs this spring. Of course, the Giants have a talented Kamloops Blazers team in their own division to deal with along the way.

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Vancouver already exhibited glowing offensive talent with Sourdif, who is a 2020 NHL third-round pick by the Florida Panthers, as well as fellow forwards Fabian Lysell (2021 Boston Bruins first round) and Zack Ostapchuk (second round). Ottawa Senators 2021). And they have Jesper Vikman (fifth round of the 2020 Vegas Golden Knights) in goal.

The Vancouver Giants acquired defenseman Evan Toth from the Calgary Hitmen on Friday, November 5, 2021 for a sixth round draft pick.
The Vancouver Giants acquired defenseman Evan Toth from the Calgary Hitmen on Friday, November 5, 2021 for a sixth-round draft pick. Photo by Candice Ward /PNG

Cotton and Toth, a Langley native of Winnipeg, is not expected to make his Giants debut before a road game Tuesday against the Prince George Cougars. They were both heading to the Lower Mainland on weekends from Alberta.

The six defensemen scheduled to play for Vancouver on Saturday night against the Portland Winterhawks at the Langley Events Center have totaled 388 games in the Western Hockey League. Cotton (154 career regular season games) and Toth (80) will dramatically increase that number.

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Cotton was a fifth-round pick for the Detroit Red Wings in 2020 after leading all Western Hockey League defensemen in 2019-2020 scoring with 67 points, including 20 goals, in 63 regular season games. with Lethbridge.

Prior to the trade, Vancouver was racing with two veterans on the blue line, Connor Horning, 20 (207 games), and Tanner Brown, 19 (101), as well as Mazden Leslie (25), 16. , Damian Palmieri (seven), 17 and Brenden Pentecost (19) and Nicco Camazzola (29).

“We’re thrilled with our young guys,” Giants coach Michael Dyck said. “They’re just younger guys. Realistically, we’re playing with four rookies right now.

“We needed to add a veteran presence, and especially when you have the forwards that we have. We have an older group of attackers. It was important that we add extra presence at the rear.

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WHL teams are only allowed three 20-year-olds, and Cotton is taking one of those spots back from Cade McNelly, who left the team for personal reasons last week. The Giants announced on Friday they were removing him from their active roster, but declined to comment further on him.

The Giants had recovered McNelly and 19-year-old winger Payton Mount from the Seattle Thunderbirds over the summer in exchange for a second-round pick in 2023 and a fifth-round pick in 2024.

McNelly only played one game for the Giants. He had missed Vancouver’s first four games of the season, ending a five-game suspension he received last spring while with the Thunderbirds. McNelly made his Vancouver debut in a 2-0 victory over the Kelowna Rockets on October 23.

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Parneta said McNelly left the team ahead of an Oct. 29 clash against Kelowna.

Cotton, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound straight shooter, is known for his power-play prowess. Seven of his 20 goals and 24 of his 47 assists in 2019-20 came on the power play.

“He’s an offensive catalyst,” said Dyck, “but I think he’s good on both sides of the puck.”

Sourdif added, “He’s unreal on the power play. He has a very good stopwatch.

Dyck called Toth a “big, strong guy.” Toth, a 6-2, 205-pound left shooter, has two goals and 16 points in his WHL career.

Along with McInnes, a defenseman Vancouver picked in the ninth round of the 2020 draft, the Giants also sent Lethbridge a third round 2022, fourth round 2023, fifth round 2022 and sixth round 2022.

Calgary receives a sixth round from Vancouver in 2021 in the Toth case.

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