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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Portland swaps 19-year-old forwards with Saskatoon and gains two draft picks in deadline day deal

The Portland Winterhawks added some size and helped restock draft picks with a deadline-day trade that sent veteran forward Ryan Hughes to the Saskatoon Blades.

Coming to Portland is forward Josh Paterson.

Both players are 19-year-old players from Edmonton, Alberta. Each was in his fourth season with his original Western Hockey League team.

Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston said Paterson and Hughes are similar players, both versatile forwards.

The opportunity to acquire a a second-round bantam draft pick in 2020 and a fourth-rounder in 2021 was key to the swap, according to Johnston, after Portland on Wednesday traded six future draft picks to acquire goalie Joel Hofer.

Paterson (6-2 1/2, 205) was an alternate captain for the Blades and is 6 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Hughes. Johnston said he wasn't looking specifically to add size when he made the deal.

Paterson has played in 246 WHL games, all in the regular season, and has 74 goals and 64 assists (138 points). This season, he has 14 goals and 18 assists in 41 games. Saskatoon, second in the East Division (26-12-5-0, 57), is pushing for its first playoff berth since 2012-13.

Portland is second in the U.S. Division with a record 25-11-3-2 (55). The Hawks take a six-game win streak into a Friday visit to league-leading Prince Albert.

In four seasons with the Winterhawks, Hughes played in 223 regular-season games, posting 64 goals and 57 assists. In 36 games this season, he had 17 goals and 23 assists.

In 27 career playoff games with Portland, Hughes had four goals and eight assists.

After putting up 57 points in 70 games as a 17-year-old, Hughes' 18-year-old season was shortened by injury, but his points-per-game pace improved. This season, he is averaging more than a point per game.

Johnston said Saskatoon expressed interest in Hughes several weeks ago. When the Blades added draft picks to their offer, "it was something I thought was the right choice for our organization to make," Johnston said.

Bantam draft picks became a bigger part of trades this season as a result of a new WHL rule that prohibits teams from trading players in their age 15 or age 16 season. As part of that rule change, 17-year-old players have the right to decline a trade.

Johnston said it is always difficult to trade a player who has been with the team as long as Hughes.

Reflecting on Hughes' development in Portland, Johnston listed his leadership and his versatility.

"Ryan became a penalty-killer. He's a good power-play guy. He can play with different types of players. Paterson is very similar. He can play a lot of positions, is very versatile," Johnston said.

In Saskatoon, Paterson, like Hughes in Portland, played key roles on the power-play and penalty-kill units and was a team leader.

The WHL trade deadline was Thursday.

Johnston said it was nice for both GMs and players to put the deadline behind them.

"As a GM and coach, you're moving players that you've worked with and are close to, and it's never easy," he said.

Paterson was expected to join the Winterhawks on Friday morning ahead of their showdown Friday night with league-leading Prince Albert.

Hughes will see his former team immediately as Portland wraps up its six-game swing through the East Division on Saturday at Saskatoon.

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