Thursday marked the ECHL trade deadline and, arguably, no one on the 23-team circuit benefited more than Evan Trupp of Anchorage.
The second-year winger moved from the worst hockey team in the league, the Bakersfield Condors, to the best team in the league, his hometown Alaska Aces, who gave up defenseman Chris Haltigin and winger Shawn Skelly in the deal.
Not only that, Trupp will be immediately be slotted into left wing on the Aces' top line with center Nick Mazzolini and right wing Garry Nunn when Alaska continues its three-game series at San Francisco on Friday night. Trupp will also be plugged into a power-play unit.
"It's working out pretty good for me,'' Trupp said by cellphone Thursday afternoon from Bakersfield, where he was packing up for an evening flight to San Francisco. "Obviously, I get to come back home, so I'm pretty happy about that. I have lots of friends and family there, and that's exciting. It is tough leaving a team you've been with all year, of course.''
While Trupp's 5-22--27 totals in 60 games with the Condors aren't jaw-dropping, Aces coach Rob Murray thinks he brings tantalizing possibilities. Trupp, 25, last season earned 12-22--34 totals in 45 games as a rookie. As a senior at powerhouse North Dakota two seasons ago, he racked 41 points in 44 games.
"It's an opportunity, hopefully, to make the team better, and an opportunity for a guy to produce who hasn't produced probably as much as expected,'' Murray said. "Maybe it'll jump-start his career, and hopefully it helps us out.
"That's our expectation, for sure. With his numbers, our opinion is they don't reflect his abilities. He can be a game-changer if you get him in the right spot.''
Trupp's transition to a new club should be eased by his familiarity with members of the Alaska organization. He skates in the summer with many of the Aces, including Mazzolini, and works out in the offseason under the guidance of Aces assistant coach Louis Mass, who runs a training facility. Trupp said he is excited to play with Mazzolini, the Aces' leading scorer, and Nunn.
"It's huge,'' Trupp said. "I'm the kind of player who feeds off players who know the game well and are hard workers, and those two guys bring that to the table.''
Mazzolini said Trupp's skills and hockey sense give him an opportunity to bolster the Aces.
"He's a really good hockey player,'' Mazzolini said. "He's very skilled, whether at North Dakota or in the pros, and he's very crafty. I think he's going to be a big-time addition.''
Skelly, signed out of the Southern Professional Hockey League when the Aces were short players upon the end of the NHL lockout in early January, earned 7-7--14 and plus-10 totals in 19 games with Alaska. Haltigin went 3-8--11 and plus-1 in 46 games.
"Shawn Skelly has played very well and Chris Haltigin has been a solid guy,'' Murray said.
Mazzolini said it is always tough to lose teammates, especially late in the season.
"Halts and Skells have been just unreal for us, and we'll miss them,'' Mazzolini said. "At the end of the day, it is a business and we're trying to win a championship, and (Murray) obviously thought this gives us the best chance.''
Haltigin's departure left the Aces with just five defensemen. But Murray said blueliner Mike Baran, who has missed the team's last five games with an upper-body injury, has been cleared, was flying to San Francisco on Thursday and is expected to be in the lineup Friday to give the Aces a full complement of six defensemen.
Shuffling the deck
Trupp's move to the Aces gives the family two players on the two prominent local teams -- his younger brother, Hayden, is a freshman forward for UAA.
Mazzolini took an elbow to the face from San Francisco captain Scott Langdon early in Wednesday's 2-1 Aces win, and bled from the nose periodically throughout the game, but said Thursday he doesn't think his nose is broken.
"I think it's going to be fine,'' Mazzolini said. "My nose usually doesn't bleed (much), but it was leaking pretty good.''
Former Aces goaltender James Reid, traded to Orlando for winger Spencer Bennett in late January, on Thursday was traded to Evansville for future considerations.
The Aces' deal and Orlando's deal were among at least 14 trades completed Thursday. Bakersfield was involved in four of those deals.
The Aces continue to have two of their top defensemen working in the American Hockey League. Rookie William Wrenn is with the Texas Stars and Corey Syvret is with the Toronto Marlies. Murray said he does not have any indication that either will be back soon.
The Aces didn't practice Thursday, opting for rest as they head into the last 10 games of the regular season. Some of the Aces visited Alcatraz Island and its infamous federal penitentiary.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
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By DOYLE WOODY