The quiet summer and the ... quiet fallby Sean Gallagher | September 12, 2017, 2:47 AM ET
As he sat in the cordoned-off upper level of an Edmonton bar-and-grill, Spartans GM Sean Gallagher found himself equally interested in trying to figure out the Canadian Football League game that was on TV as he was in watching his fellow SICHL Summit GMs walk around and sidebar each other about potential draft day trades.
"I don't know," said Gallagher when replying to SICHL Commish Mark MacRae about his dealings, "I guess people know that I don't NEED to make a lot of moves."
In fact, the Spartans are probably as competition-averse as they've ever been heading into a training camp in their 10 years in the city. Most of the pro spots seem to be locked up, which is probably why literally no one approached him about his picks or his players that night.
The next morning, draft day, was a little different.
"We got some offers; we had some interest," said Gallagher, "I think a lot of the motion ahead of us, tradewise, had a lot to do with the fact that everyone knew we were willing to move back to get our guy. Guys ahead of us were afraid that they couldn't trade past us for a later prospect and guys behind us were afraid we were going to take their guy.
"In the end, the offers we got were good, they just weren't enough to move the needle for us and we took our guy. I don't know if people were relieved or bummed out, but we got the guy we wanted all along."
That guy, it turned out, was Kristian Vesalainen, a big, strong, fast, playmaker with scoring sklills.
"Our scouts called him Nash-like, Puljujarvi-like," said Gallagher, "We see him eventually becoming a top line winger who can't be knocked off the puck. He can shoot, can pass; someone who makes everyone around him better. If he's too young and too raw right now, that's fine. We can wait for him."
In the second round, the Spartans had four to five guys targeted that they thought might be there. Surprisingly, a player they assumed would be off the board way earlier was available.
"This league is weird. Sometimes a guy falls for no discernable reason. This year, I think it was Morgan Frost, said Gallagher.
Frost, who the Spartans figured would be gone by the mid 30's, was available at 42 overall and was quickly snapped up.
":I was afraid I was about to pull a Morrison and announce the name of a guy who had been long since gone,": said Gallagher, "But hey, he was there. We're very happy to have him, especially since SICHL GMs seem to doubt him."
The Spartans third rounder was another faller, as Josh Brook was a guy most experts thought would be long gone.
"Playmaking mobile defensemen?" asked Gallagher, "Uh, yeah, we'll load up and take our chances, thanks."
The fourth round of the draft became a little bit of a track meet for Gallagher as he walked to the podium four times in 14 picks in the middle of the round. Adding Reilly Walsh at 92 and Jack Rathbone at 98 (two small puckmoving defensemen who will both play at Harvard next year), as well as Lukas Elvenes and Kyle Olson at 94 and 105, respectively (two high-upside forwards who may take a few years to develop) showed the Spartans' willingness to add prospects who can take their time to develop.
"Look at those guys and our later picks," said Gallagher, "We have a team built for a long haul. Our window opened a little early last year. London faltered and we snuck in. But I expect us to be in the playoffs this year. And next year. And every year after for a long time. Taking long-term incubator prospects in late rounds was part of the plan.
"Look at Kirill Maksimov, Olle Eriksson Ek, Ivan Chekhovich, D'Artagnan Joly, Jacob Paquette, Brady Gilmour and Philip Kemp," said Gallagher, "There's at least one or two SICHL stars in that group. A lot of teams passed on them, but we chose them specifically because we don't need them right now. We'll let them percolate in juniors and the minors. If they develop like we hope, they'll walk into an opportunity. It's a win-win for both of us."
The same holds true in the rest of the off-season: the Spartans just don't need to make waves. The team has 12 forwards and six defensemen and two goalies ready to go into game one. Will they throw some money at some free agents? Most experts think they won't, as the team looks to amass cash reserves to try to keep pace with future World Conference powers Denver and Kansas City.
"We have to be smart," said Gallagher, "Those guys can out-purchase us and out-prospect us. We have to make sure we don't become also-rans for the next 10 years."