The Vancouver Giants wound up buyers out of the eighth-place slot at the WHL trade deadline.
The Giants landed 19-year-old winger Connor Levis from the Kamloops Blazers in exchange for a 2025 WHL Draft first-round pick, a 2024 second-rounder and a 2026 fourth-rounder on Wednesday, which marked the cutoff for swaps in the league.
It’s the second major addition over the past few days for Vancouver, which brought in 19-year-old centre Tyson Zimmer from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Monday for a package that included 19-year-old winger Colton Langkow, a 2024 second-rounder and a 2025 third-rounder.
The Giants went into Wednesday holding down that eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, carrying a 16-21-2-0 record into a game that night against the Saskatoon Blades. Vancouver was two points up on the ninth-place Spokane Chiefs (14-18-4-0), who had three games in hand, to start the day. They were one point in back of the seventh-place Tri-City Americans (16-18-2-1), who had two games in hand on Vancouver.
So why buy? The Giants are keen on their young talent. That includes their four 16-year-old regulars — teams routinely carry only one or two players that age. Giants general manager Barclay Parneta has talked about how getting into the playoffs would provide invaluable experience for the group going forward.
The Giants felt buying was possible, too, because they didn’t have to completely empty the cupboard to do it. Even with the Levis and Zimmer trades, Vancouver still has two first-rounders in 2025, along with a first-rounder this year, and that gives them something to complement the current roster in coming years.
The Giants have had that excess of draft choices because they had been sellers the past couple of years, including trading away their captain at the deadline in blockbusters both times. Justin Sourdif went to the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2022 for a package that included two first-rounders, and Zack Ostapchuk headed to the Winnipeg Ice last year in a swap that brought back three first-rounders.
Parneta was leery about the messaging going that same route would bring to fans and players alike. He says he received trade offers for current team captain Samuel Honzek, but wouldn’t say how many. Honzek, 19, was the Calgary Flames’ first-round pick, No. 16 overall, in last summer’s NHL Draft and the forward has already signed his entry-level contract, so he’s unlikely to be back next year as a 20-year-old.
“I think it’s time that people who are coming to our games get to feel that we feel we’re on our way up,” Parneta said. “We’ve been building towards things the past couple of years. That’s true. But we feel that it was important for those people coming to our games and the players on the team to know that there’s a belief in the group and we’re going to do whatever we can to be as a good a team as possible.”
Honzek, as it happens, is like a trade deadline acquisition as well. The forward played just his sixth game of the season in Giants colours in Tuesday’s 6-5 shootout win over the host Prince Albert Raiders.
Honzek missed the first 25 games of Vancouver’s campaign with an abdomen injury he suffered while playing a pre-season game with the Flames. He returned for five games with the Giants and then was off to play for the Slovaks in the World Juniors in Sweden.
He’s back with Vancouver this week, and Honzek, Levis and Zimmer could well team-up and offer another high-scoring trio to go with the current No. 1 line featuring Jaden Lipinski, Ty Halaburda and Tyler Thorpe.
Honzek (23), Levis (27) and Zimmer (19) combined for 69 goals last season.
Levis and Zimmer also strengthen Vancouver’s potential 20-year-old class next year. Vancouver has six 2004-born players on its roster and that includes Honzek.
Levis was a seventh-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets last summer. He hasn’t signed. Zimmer is yet to be drafted by the NHL.
Levis had 10 goals and 28 points through 37 games with Kamloops this season. Zimmer had 12 goal and 23 points in 37 games with Lethbridge. He had the shootout winner for Vancouver against Prince Albert.
Seventh-place Vancouver lost in the first round of the playoffs last year to Levis and the Blazers. The eighth-place Giants upset the Everett Silvertips in the first round two years ago before losing to the Blazers in the second round.
Little separates the teams in the bottom half of the West standings currently. The sixth-place Kelowna Rockets (18-17-2-0) were four points up on Vancouver with two games in hand to start Wednesday, while the 10th-place Seattle Thunderbirds (12-20-2-0) were eight points back with five in hand. The last-place Blazers (9-24-3-2), who have been unloading veterans to recoup trade picks after spending heavy in trade in last year’s Memorial Cup-hosting campaign, were 11 points back with one game in hand.
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