The Spruce Grove Saints announced via Twitter that Mackenzie Harden (99) had joined the organization from the Whitecourt Wolverines in exchange for a Player Development Fee and future considerations.
Harden, now on his third AJHL club after joining the Wolverines from the Drayton Valley Thunder back in October 2017, was having a fantastic year in Whitecourt before being moved. In 38 games this season, the Leduc native scored 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) which led the Wolverines offence and is also a career high for Harden.
The newest member of the Saints also brings a gritty attitude to his game. Over his 172 game AJHL career, he has accumulated 109 penalty minutes in the regular season with 50 of them coming this season. He is the type of player that will finish every check like it’s his last and isn’t afraid to get into the dirty areas. In December, Cole Basnett was brought in from the Calgary Mustangs to do a similar job.
According to the team website, Harden will wear #39 for the Saints and should be in the lineup for Friday’s contest versus the Grande Prairie Storm.
What does this do for the Saints?
The Saints defensively have been excellent this season. With only 97 goals conceded this year, they have the second best defensive record in the AJHL trailing just the Brooks Bandits (92). That number could have been be much lower if both Matthew Davis and TJ Lloyd did not receive call-ups to Team Canada West for the World Junior A Challenge.
Despite their stellar defensive record, Spruce Grove has not had the same strike going forward that they are used too. Their goals for average has dropped from 4.3 (2018) to 3.3 (2019).Aside from a 9-3 whopping over the Sherwood Park Crusaders, they’ve scored only a single goal in three of their last four games.
Of course replacing a 50 goal man like Chris Van Os Shaw isn’t an easy task by any means, but instead of replacing him one-for-one, they opted to go for scoring by committee. Parker Saretsky leads the way with 15 goals and is closely followed by Basnett with 13, while both Nick Leyer and Dylan Bourlai have 11 each. Adding Harden, who slides into third in team scoring, into the mix gives them another legitimate scoring threat up front.
Come playoff time it will be tough to win games if they’re only scoring one goal in each. Harden helps them in that area of the ice.
What does this do for the Wolverines?
Harden was the last one to go from the Wolverines “valued” group with Jaedon Leslie now in Fort McMurray, Charles Olivier Ouimet back in Quebec, Matthew Monk with Bonnyville and both Ben Evanish and Ryan Grant down south with the Okotoks Oilers.
The organization is now clearly in a full retool mode which is exactly what the Bonnyville Pontiacs did last season and they’ve had great success this season because of that.The move now allows General Manager/Head Coach Gord Thibodeau to see what he’s got in the likes of Brayden Labant and the Haygarth brothers (Easton and Chase) up front, with Spencer Augot and Hoon Kim on the back end.
Whitecourt have a lot of strong pieces already in the organization. The more game time they’re going to get now will only help them. On top of that, with the return they will likely get from all the moves that have been made, they should be ready to go again next season.