RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City Rush made some noise during the 2019 ECHL Trade Deadline last March. Those deadline deals could lead to the Rush’s success during the 2019-20 campaign.
Last March, the Rush were one of the most active teams at the deadline with four deals. Those four trades brought in six players, five of which will suit up for the Rush in 2019-20. All five returning payers from those deals will look to have an impact on this season.
Here is a look at the deals made at last season’s deadline, and what the Rush have to look forward to from these five players this season.
RUSH RECEIVE LIAM BILTON AND JACK RILEY IN EXCHANGE FOR RILEY WESELOWSKI
The first trade made at the deadline was a deal with the Florida Everblades and Reading Royals. The Rush traded defenseman Riley Weselowski to Florida in exchange for forwards Liam Bilton and Jack Riley (from Reading).
Riley is the only player the Rush acquired at the trade deadline to not be coming back to Rapid City for the 2019-20 season. In 11 games, Riley had no goals, two assists, and a minus-two rating.
Bilton, on the other hand, will be back with the red and black this season. Bilton made three stops in the ECHL last season after finishing his time at University of Manitoba. He has yet to score his first professional goal, but he is still young at the age of 24. The rookie forward will look to find a more permanent home with the Rush this season, as stability has been a problem early on in his career. Playing 14 games across three different organizations right after his college season did not do him any favors. Look for him to settle into his new home in the Black Hills this season.
RUSH RECEIVE MYLES MCGURDY AND TAYLOR CRUNK IN EXCHANGE FOR SHAQUILLE MERASTY
After parting with longtime defenseman Weselowski, the Rush traded forward Shaquille Merasty to the Orlando Solar Bears. In exchange, the Rush received defenseman Myles McGurdy and forward Taylor Crunk (from Fort Wayne).
Merasty was an enforcer for the Rush who compiled 153 penalty minutes and got into 14 fights during his time in Rapid City in 2018-19. He would rack up 31 more minutes in the sin bin while getting into three more scraps in Orlando. That style of play is quite popular in Rapid City, but the Rush were looking for younger players, in which McGurdy and Crunk fit the bill.
The 24-year-old McGurdy was a fresh face in the league, playing his first professional season after four years at Dalhousie University. McGurdy would go on to tally one assist in his 11 games with the Rush after the deadline. With some more experience at the ECHL level, McGurdy could be a force.
The 24-year-old Crunk is four years younger than Merasty, but has the same style. He is an enforcer who is not afraid to stir it up for his squad. Before coming to Rapid City, Crunk racked up 126 penalty minutes while taking part in seven tilts. He doesn’t light up the score sheet like Merasty, but he is more of a youthful presence. He is a talented hockey player, however, as he played his junior hockey in the top level Western Hockey League. Look for Crunk to do more bruising than scoring, being quite popular in the locker room and with the Rapid City Rush faithful.
RUSH RECEIVE DEXTER DANCS IN EXCHANGE FOR PIERRE-LUC MERCIER
Forward Pierre-Luc Mercier could score for the Rush (11 goals to go along with 26 assists), but his team worst minus-32 rating was a problem. While Mercier was only 25 at the time, they traded him for an even younger forward in 23-year-old Dexter Dancs.
Dancs, a University of Michigan product, has the potential to score goals in bunches. The Rush’s goal was to bring in youth during the trade deadline, and Dancs fits right in with the philosophy. While he only scored one goal in 12 games, he did manage to dish out seven assists and put up a plus-five rating. He also was able to score at the NCAA Division I level, netting 12 goals in 39 games during his senior year with the Wolverines. With the promise he showed at the end of last season and the potential to score goals, look for Dancs to make contributions up front for the Rush in 2019-20.
RUSH RECEIVE ALEX RAUTER IN EXCHANGE FOR JOSH ELMES
This deal could be considered the best trade the Rush made at the deadline last season. They traded defenseman Josh Elmes to the Fort Wayne Komets for forward Alex Rauter (from Manchester).
The Rush traded Elmes, who was a productive defenseman for them before the deadline. In 59 games, he put home five goals and distributed 14 assists. His production was top-notch, but they were able to snag a young forward that fit in with their plans to get younger.
Rauter ended up being a productive piece for the Rush after the trade. He managed to net four goals and tally three assists in his 12 games in Rapid City, after recording 11 goals and 25 assists in 50 games between the Wheeling Nailers and Manchester Monarchs. He should continue his offensive production with the Rush this season.
There are two parts about this trade that make this the best deadline deal for the Rush: The first part is the offensive weapon that Rauter is. He is still young, only 25 years of age, and has shown he can score at this level. A full season in Rapid City will show his true potential.
The second part of this trade makes it even sweeter. After 14 games with Fort Wayne (in which he tallied one goal and four assists), Elmes will also be headed back to Rapid City for the 2019-20 season. The one-time Blaine Jarvis Heart and Soul Award winner signed back with the Rush on September 14, so the Rush got back the asset they traded back in March. Elmes is a competitor who brings productivity to the Rapid City blue line, and having him back after dealing him at the deadline is a big acquisition.
CONCLUSION: THE CEILING IS HIGH
The Rush made four deadline moves that made them younger and raised their ceiling. They have a healthy mix of young forwards and defensemen that can impact their season as they gain experience. The potential of Bilton, McGurdy, and Dancs is something to watch for in 2019-20 in regards to the Rush’s success.
Crunk has shown his ability as an enforcer with the Rush, and will look to continue his ways this season. If there is anything Rush fans like to see, it is winning games and bruising enforcers. Crunk can have a hand in giving fans both.
As for Rauter, look for him to impact the offense as greatly as he did in Wheeling. He is still young and has a knack for goals, which will give the Rush the scoring boost they need. The more he scores, the better that trade looks, especially if Elmes continues his high level of play in his return to Rapid City.
Follow Jackson Bruce on Twitter (@SinBinRush) as our new writing correspondent for Rapid City in 2019-20. Plus, continue to follow along with all the ECHL offseason movement on our Transactions Page!