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Buzzing The Net

Saskatoon Blades continue roster shakeup on the road to the Memorial Cup

Kelly Friesen
Buzzing The Net

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Broncos' Craig, Blades' Benson (WHL.ca)

Only 10 days after GM- head coach Lorne Molleken's Saskatoon Blades acquired Adam Kambeitz from the Red Deer Rebels, they made another roster shakeup. The Blades sent 19-year-old centre Brent Benson to the Swift Current Broncos for 19-year-old blueliner Graeme Craig.

This 19-year-old swap is a good trade for both teams. They both traded an expendable player for a veteran that fills a void in their roster.

The Blades' blueline desperately needed help. The Colorado Avalanche first-rounder Duncan Siemens and Montreal Canadiens second-rounder Dalton Thrower haven't lived up to their potential thus far this season. In addition, their back end recently lost a valuable depth player in Connor Cox, who the Everett Silvertips picked up off waivers, because of their overage surplus after acquiring Kambeitz.

Standing 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, Craig adds size and toughness to Saskatoon (5-7-0-0). They will be counting on the Red Deer, AB., native, who has one assists in 11 games this year, to revitalize their penalty kill, which sits dead last in the Dub in goals against with 18.

The Blades' back end looks quite intimidating, at least on paper. All of their defencemen stand at least 6-feet, with three of them standing 6-foot-4 or taller.

For the Broncos, Benson will give them strength down the middle. The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder has proven himself as a hard-working defensive forward. He will fit in nicely behind New Jersey Devils prospect Graham Black and rookie Colby Cave.

The change of scenery could really benefit Benson's junior career. He never reached the high expectations laid on him after being drafted sixth overall by the Blades in the 2008 bantam draft. The Weyburn, Sask., native struggled last year in his third season in Saskatoon, scoring 13 goals and 37 points, seven less points than his sophomore season. He was unable to get off to a good start this year, only netting three helpers in 11 games.

Benson and Craig will make their debuts for their new squads against their old teams this Friday in Swift Current. Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Star Phoenix spoke with both players on their feelings on the trade.

The Weyburn native admitted it was "a really tough day" to leave the only WHL club his ever known.

"All the guys on the team are top-notch guys and life-long friends," said the 19-year-old alternate captain, who sat out Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win against Tri-City with the flu.

"It was really hard to leave the dressing room and not see those guys every day. That's the hardest part for me."

Benson added he's feeling much better and will likely play Friday against his old teammates.

"It's definitely going to be weird playing against the guys I've gone to battle with over the last three years," he said.

The Blades' MasterCard Memorial Cup squad is starting to shapeup. They are strong in net with

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Andrey Makarov

Andrey Makarov, on the blue line, and on wing with New York Rangers prospect Shane McColgan, Dallas Stars prospect Matej Stransky, and overagers Brendan Walker and Josh Nicholls.

Nonetheless, they are still desperately lacking a superstar centre who could take this team on his back. This type of player might not become available before the WHL's trade deadline.

Blades fans would love to see Prince Albert Raiders centre Mark McNeill leading their offense. But with Prince Albert off to a great 7-2-0-0 start, it seems the Chicago Blackhawks prospect won't be going anywhere. He will rather be leading his Raiders in the second season.

Therefore, with it quite likely looking like Molleken will have his hands tied in bringing in a tier-1 forward, Saskatoon will have to play a defensive style to win their first Memorial Cup. It seems it will all come down to the play of Makarov in the blue paint. If the Buffalo Sabres prospect can stand on his head like he did for Russia at last year's world juniors, who knows, maybe the Blades will be able to break the curse. But if the 6-foot, 165-pounder is anything less than great, it seems The Bridge City Boys won't have a shot against the CHL's powerhouse clubs.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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