Josh Mahura wasn’t expecting the unexpected during the Western Hockey League’s trade deadline day.
Mahura was a fixture on the Red Deer Rebels’ blueline before the Regina Pats, one of the top-ranked teams in the Canadian Hockey League, acquired the St. Albert product Jan. 10 in a multi-player transaction.
“I just went into the rink and got told I was traded to Regina. I wasn’t expecting it at all. It kind of happened really fast,” said Mahura of joining the first-place Pats. “I was told around 11 in the morning and it was on a Tuesday. Regina didn’t play until Friday so I went home that night and the next day I turned around and flew out.
I was really excited to come to Regina and now that I’m here I love it here.”
The Rebels sent Mahura (1998), forward Jeff de Wit (1998) and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2019 to the Pats in exchange for forward Lane Zablocki (1998), defenceman Dawson Barteaux (2000), a first-round pick in 2017, a conditional first-round pick in 2018 or 2019 and conditional third-round pick in 2020.
Mahura, 18, posted nine goals, 24 assists and 35 penalty minutes in 39 games and was minus-one with the Rebels.
“I really came into this year looking to take a bigger role in Red Deer than last year,” said the former captain of the bantam AAA St. Albert Gregg Distributors Sabres. “I had some success in Red Deer, just working on my game with everybody there, and once I got traded to Regina I wanted to continue what I was doing and just improving in each area all year long.”
Mahura was a second round (36th overall) selection by the Rebels as the ninth overall defenceman taken in the 2013 WHL draft and his 2014/15 rookie debut consisted of 51 games and five more in the playoffs.
Last season, Mahura suffered a torn MCL and a partial meniscus tear in his left knee after two games and missed the rest of the regular season as well as the 2015 World U17 Hockey Challenge due to the injury.
The member of Team Canada’s summer U18 team that won gold at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup returned for the WHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup, hosted by the Rebels, and totaled two goals and two assists in 21 games combined.
In 92 games overall with the Rebels, Mahura recorded nine goals, 31 assists and 55 PIM in the regular season and in 22 playoff games had five points.
“I had a great time in Red Deer and it was hard to leave but once I got here to Regina I settled in good and the guys were really good welcoming me. The transition was really smooth,” said the third round (85th overall) selection by the Anaheim Dicks in the 2016 National Hockey League entry draft.
Mahura contributed eight goals and 12 assists to the cause in 34 games with the Pats and was plus-18. He was paired with Connor Hobbs, the team’s top scoring defenceman with 31 goals and 54 assists in 67 games and 2015 draft pick of the Washington Capitals, before skating alongside Sergey Zborovskiy, a 2015 New York Rangers’ draft pick, during the stretch drive into the playoffs.
The Pats are the WHL’s No. 1 playoff seed after compiling a league-best 52-12-7-1 mark under head coach and general manager John Paddock.
“We’ve had a strong team all year before I got here and since I’ve been here we’ve had a lot of success. It was a good year for the regular season for us and we’re just carrying it over into the playoffs and try and get the wins now,” Mahura said. “Our speed and skill and work ethic are the main things that get us through games and we all buy into a team game which you need especially this time of year.”
The Pats have not only loaded up for a run at the Memorial Cup, they also presented the winning bid to host the 100th edition of the national championship in 2018.
“We kind of put more pressure on ourselves than the outside does,” Mahura said. “From the moment I got here you got told what the mindset here was and there was just kind of one goal and that was everyone wanted to go as far as we can and the ultimate goal for us is to be playing until the end of May in the Memorial Cup.
“It’s definitely the same vibes as last year (with the Rebels), just knowing where we want to be at the end of the year,” he added. “Absolutely it would be a tough achievement and as long as we keep doing the right things we might get there but we’re just worrying about this series right now.”
The Pats swept the Calgary Hitmen in the best-of-seven opening round and in the Eastern Conference semifinal trailed the Swift Current Broncos 2-1 after Monday’s 2-1 overtime loss in Swift Current. The Broncos, third in the East Division behind the Pats at 39-23-4-6, opened the series with an OT win by the same score in Regina.
“There’s been pressure on this team all year long from the get-go,” said Mahura, who has one goal and three assists in the playoffs. “We kind of put more pressure on ourselves than from the outside does.”
With two years of junior eligibility remaining, Mahura is looking forward to turning pro, especially after attending Anaheim’s rookie camp in September.
“It was a really good experience. I didn’t really know what to fully expect going in and once I got there it was a lot of learning stuff and just how Anaheim works there.”
One of the many highlights for Mahura was the three-day Rookie Showcase tournament with the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks in Westminster, Colo.
“Throwing on the jersey and playing with some of the other rookies and just getting that first taste of that was a lot of fun.”