Mike Hawes expects to have a phone glued to his ear this week looking to improve the Prince George Spruce Kings roster before the Canadian Junior Hockey League's trade deadline Thursday.
"The phone has been very, very busy [Monday] and, over the weekend actually, and, I expect it to get more and more busy as the week goes on," said Hawes, general manager of the Spruce Kings. "We're going to do our best to improve the club if we get an opportunity."
The CJHL deadline is Thursday, 6 p.m. PST for inter-league trades while trades between B.C. Hockey League clubs need to be into the league office by 8 p.m. to be official.
An area where the Spruce Kings (18-12-1-5) could use an upgrade is in the offensive zone. The Kings are coming off a weekend where they dropped two of three games and were shut out in two of the losses. Prince George has scored 104 goals this season, putting them near the bottom in offence among BCHL clubs.
Tyson Witala took over the Spruce Kings lead in goals on the weekend, having scored 14, but sits fourth in points with 20 behind Coltyn Hansen (10 goals, 26 points) and Cameron Lawson (12 goals, 21 points). The Spruce Kings are led in scoring by defenceman Mitch Eden (26 assists, 28 points).
"The guys that we rely on to create offence need to start doing a better job," said Hawes. "If there was one area that I'm kind of concerned with heading into the deadline it would be that. We'll see if we're able to tweak things or improve the offensive side to the game on our roster, but the offensive guys we've got now have to start doing a better job."
Kings forward Lyndon Martell, who the Spruce Kings had counted on to produce offensively when he joined them this season, has been limited to 19 games (five goals, 15 points) after suffering two concussions.
"He's at the tail end of a concussion right now but will be practicing this week and he's hoping to get into the lineup [on the] weekend," said Hawes. "His second one was a little more severe than the first and it took a little longer for the recovery time."
With 15 of the 16 BCHL teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot finding trade partners willing to part with a high scorer doesn't appear to be an easy task. Only the Cowichan Valley Capitals, 14 points out of a post-season spot in the coastal division, appear guaranteed to miss the playoffs.
Hawes said he expects a few teams to loosen their stance on some players before Thursday's deadline.
"Thursday, believe it or not, is still a long ways away and a lot of things can happen between now and then," said Hawes. "I think we'll see some things open up before Thursday and some players become available, whether we can get into the mix in obtaining those guys is yet to be seen.
The Vernon Vipers may be willing to part with 19 or 20-year-old players who aren't in the team's plans for next season when the Vipers host the 2014 RBC Cup. But the Kings made their splash in the trade market late last year, swinging a pair of deals to acquire defencemen Mark Begert and Kevin Guiltinan and forward Jace Hennig.
Hawes said he's confident in the Spruce Kings goaltenders, despite 16-year-old rookie Liam McLeod's struggles.
"I'm not looking to upgrade that position," said Hawes. "Liam hasn't played in games the way I'm sure even he would've liked. I've got to trust my gut and I have a really good feeling on Liam. He possess all the tools to be a really good goaltender in our league."
McLeod has a 1-5 record in nine appearances in the Spruce Kings net this season, posting a 4.88 goals against average and a .838 save percentage.
The main man between the pipes for the Spruce Kings this season has been 20-year-old Kirk Thompson, who is having a career year in this third season in the BCHL, posting a 17-12-1 record with a 2.64 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. During the Spruce Kings three-game road trip last weekend, Thompson allowed a total of five goals while facing more than 35 shots each night.
Cariboo Cougars captain Ryan Forbes has committed to play for the BCHL Naniamo Clippers starting with the 2013-14 season. The 17-year-old has 10 goals and 15 points in 26 games with the Cougars this season.