The Moose Jaw Warriors have underwent some changes over the past week in the lead up to the WHL Trade Deadline on Tuesday.
The Warriors have added three new forwards in a pair of deals, acquiring Justin Almeida and Yan Khomenko from the Prince George Cougars in the Nikita Popugaev trade last week and then adding 20-year-old Thomas Foster on Sunday.
Almeida and Khomenko were able to make their Warrior debuts over the weekend, both contributing in the team’s two wins over East Division foes.
“It was kind of surreal to get traded, it was a pretty quick process, I found out at noon, was in Moose Jaw that night and played the next day,” said Almeida. “It was good that it was quick, it kept my mind off joining a new team and I felt I did well in my first game.”
The two former Cougars are expected to play key roles for the Warriors moving forward as Almeida slotted into the second line with Noah Gregor and Tanner Jeannot, while Khomenko looked to fit in well on the third line with Tristin Langan and Luka Burzan.
Both players are coming to Moose Jaw hoping for more of an opportunity after being buried on an older and deep Prince George team.
“I’m excited to be here, it’s a good chance for me, I can play more with some good guys on the third line,” said Khomenko after practice on Monday at Mosaic Place.
“In Prince George, sometimes I was playing and sometimes I wasn’t playing a lot, but I can play better and here is a really good chance for me.”
The St. Petersburg, Russia product has ten goals and 20 points in 38 games this season between Moose Jaw and Prince George. He feels like his style of play will fit in well here with the Warriors and the role that they’re asking him to play.
“Good line, we scored a goal last game against the Regina Pats, it was a really hard game, but we played really good and I want play the same game every game,” said Khomenko.
“I want to play hard, work hard, hard back-check, play in offensive zone and defensive zone, make some good passes and shoot more.”
Almeida, a former fifth overall pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, put together an incredible final bantam season, scoring 80 goals and 147 points in 70 games with the North Shore Winter Club. He also had big numbers at the midget AAA level in 2014-15 with 22 goals and 47 points in 35 games for the Cariboo Cougars.
Like Khomenko, Almeida couldn’t find his way up the lineup a ton in Prince George, but produced when put in a position to. For example, at the start of this season when the Cougars were missing a number of regulars at NHL camps, Almeida posted two goals and seven points in the first six games of the season.
He has four goals and 13 points in 39 games so far this season.
“This is a new opportunity for me to show my stuff and improve as a player and help the team win,” said Almeida. “As a player, you always want to play more and being given this opportunity, it’s a good thing for me and I just want to take advantage of it.”
The Warriors, while near the top of the league standings, are still a young team and Almeida, 17, feels like he fits in well.
“We’re younger, we’re skilled and we’re fast and we play at a high tempo and I think I fit in that perfectly,” he said.
“All the guys have been very welcoming... it’s hard playing with new players right off the bat and in a new system, but I thought we’ve done well as a line and we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Almeida and Khomenko will be joined by Thomas Foster in the lineup on Tuesday as he makes his Warrior debut when the Tribe hosts the Tri-City Americans at Mosaic Place.
Moose Jaw has won four straight games going in Tuesday’s contest, while Tri-City has opened their East Division road trip with a pair of wins, beating Prince Albert 7-1 on Friday and Saskatoon 2-0 on Saturday.
The two sides hit the ice at 7 p.m. Tuesday. You can catch all the action live on Country 100, starting with the Pre-Game Show at 6:40 p.m.