January 8, 2016 8:54 pm

Hitmen General Manager still working phones ahead of WHL trade deadline

Calgary Hitmen's Jake Virtanen, centre, celebrates his goal against the Swift Current Broncos with Connor Rankin, left, and Pavel Karnaukhov, from Belarus, during WHL hockey action in Calgary, Alberta on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal
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The Calgary Hitmen have been quiet, so far, with the Western Hockey League (WHL) trade deadline quickly approaching.

But that doesn’t mean General Manager Mike Moore is ignoring any calls.

“Any season, up to the trade deadline you’re always trying to improve your hockey team,” Moore said.

The final chance for teams to do that, is Sunday, Jan. 10 at noon Calgary time.

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But Moore feels they already did that earlier this season when he swung a five player swap with the Vancouver Giants in late October. They acquired forwards Jackson Houck, Jakub Stukel and goaltender Cody Porter for forward Chase Lang and defenceman Ben Thomas.

They also picked up forward Tyler Mrkonjic on Nov. 11 from Prince George in exchange for a draft pick.

Since that trade, the Hitmen have gone 16-5-1-0 and remain in a close chase for the central division title.

“We were pretty concerned early with the way we were playing and since we made the deal we’ve really turned the corner,” Moore said. “I think that comes not just with the deal, but the work the coaches are putting in and the players understanding how we have to play.”

Moore described the trade market as “very active” but with so many teams still in a playoff race it’s a little tougher to get something done.

“I don’t think you have a lot of teams selling off this year, you’ve seen the two with Kootenay and Swift Current. After that, it’s get on the phone and see if anyone is doing anything,” said Moore.

One team doing a lot, has been the Memorial Cup hosts, Red Deer Rebels. They added four players to their line-up in the last two weeks. That included 19 year old Jake DeBrusk, the first round draft pick of the Boston Bruins.

“They paid 12 pieces to get three players, so, there is a lot of movement from them,” said Moore.

Moore also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of forward Jake Virtanen returning from the Vancouver Canucks. The 19-year old is back in Vancouver after playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship in Finland.

“That book is open until Feb. 29, the NHL trade deadline. That’s when technically he could come back, up until then, Moore said. “We’re still in discussions with Vancouver until that deadline comes and goes.”

Virtanen has one goal and four points in 19 games this season with the Canucks.

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