OHL teams tweak their lineups
Petes stand pat, but other teams make interesting moves
KITCHENER — Trade time is over.
Every Ontario Hockey League team made a swap from the time the holiday trade freeze was lifted on Dec. 28 until the cut-off Thursday at noon.
In all, 43 trades were made involving 61 players and 95 draft picks.
Here are some highlights:
1. Barrie's big move was trading over-ager Lucas Chiodo to Ottawa. So he goes from a current non-playoff team to the league's top club. I believe that's called a “winner-winner chicken dinner.” Or, in the nation's capital, “a winner-winner St-Hubert dinner.” The dipping sauce is killer.
2. We've been waiting all season to see where Erie captain Kyle Maksimovich would end up. It turns out it was Ottawa. The Otters needed the picks they got in return (a prospect was also tossed in) but losing their leading scorer could cost them a playoff spot.
3. I think Cody Morgan going from Windsor to Flint might have been the most shocking move, mostly because the transaction wire usually works the other way with the Firebirds. Years of dealing dandies has Flint flush in draft picks. Now, let's see what the team can do with them.
4. Guelph was busy. Defensive depth, check. Energy and scoring, check. Goalie upgrade, um, well, maybe they ran out of draft picks. The Storm dropped 19 selections and three prospects to get F MacKenzie Entwistle, F Nick Suzuki, F Zachary Roberts, D Fedor Gordeev, D Markus Phillips and D Sean Durzi. Just deadly. Look out London.
5. Steve Staios is getting a reputation as a shrewd GM in the Hammer. The Bulldogs boss dealt his big guns for picks but also acquired some intriguing talent, most notably forward Jan Jenik, who is a third-round pick by the Arizona Coyotes. He came cheap too — just a fourth and fifth round selection to Flint. That deserves a big bow-wow.
6. It was curious to see Kingston hang on to F Gabe Vilardi. The L.A. Kings draft pick was returned to junior and is nursing a bad back but when healthy is one of the premier players in the OHL. The Fronts did do well though in getting Nick Wong and picks from Oshawa for Brett Neumann. Wong has two years left in the league at the minimum.
7. It was quiet on East Avenue. The Kitchener Rangers got ahead of their potential overage problem by moving Nick McHugh to Mississauga for picks while adding some size in D Joseph Rupoli from Oshawa. In the end, there was more value in keeping veterans instead of trading them for what was being offered.
8. London is like the villain in a horror movie at the trade deadline. You know he's in the house waiting to pounce but the unsuspecting coed still ventures inside. The OHL’s third leading scorer (Kevin Hancock from Owen Sound) for a prospect and a third-round pick? Checkmate for the Knights.
9. Mississauga moved its two biggest Fish — forwards Owen Tippett and Ryan McLeod — to Saginaw for a pair of minnows (also known as prospects) and 11 draft picks. That's a pretty hefty return for rental players that are gone after this season. Plus they got McHugh, who will be back for an OA year. A fin slap to GM James Richmond.
10. Niagara was the Guelph of the east. The IceDogs traded 19 draft picks and three players to upgrade to F Jack Studnicka, F Jason Robertson, D Jacob Paquette, D Matt Brassard and G Jake McGrath. Funny enough Niagara and Guelph clashed Thursday night. The game was called the All-In Cup.
11. Not trading Justin Brazeau took some Braz balls. The overage goal machine was in demand but North Bay is eyeing home ice in the playoffs and needs JB on the front lines to get there. As an aside, aren't all JBs coveted?
12. Reuniting Neumann with ex-Otters teammate Allan McShane works for me in Oshawa. He should be an impact overager next season when the Gens look scary good. But trading high picks for rental D Nicolas Mattinen is a head-scratcher. Said picks might have been better served next season in a deal for a stud.
13. O-town has turned into Go-town since Ottawa is going for it all. The roster revamp started pre-Christmas with the addition of G Michael DiPietro and continued with Chiodo and Maksimovich. And the 67's did it without losing a single roster player. That's impressive.
14. The boat left Owen Sound island and all the good players sailed off to new teams. The list of castoffs includes Suzuki, Durzi, Roberts, Phillips, Kevin Hancock and Mitch Russell. It's too bad most of that group never realized an OHL championship. It always felt like they were a star goalie away from getting there.
15. Peterborough did its heavy lifting in mid-December by acquiring D Ryan Merkley from Guelph. Instead of getting into an arms race with Ottawa and Niagara, the Petes held back. Expect more noise next season in the Kawarthas when it should be the year of the Pete at the deadline.
16. Saginaw should be the team to beat next season. Wait, what? Oh, this is the go-for-it year. There are still some questions in the back end but adding McLeod and Tippett up front is kind of like a Mike Tyson one-two punch. I just wonder if the safer play was to wait till next year when the west won't be so crowded at the top.
17. I thought Sarnia might do more, especially since the club is low on draft picks. They did get some back by sending Slovak Adam Ruzicka to Sudbury. But there were other pieces there — D Mitch Eliot, F Ryan McGregor and F Sean Josling — that were also valuable.
18. I think I'm a Raftisfarian. That'd be those who are impressed at how Soo GM Kyle Raftis keeps the Greyhounds competitive annually. With resources tight, Raftis lured Czech Jaromir Pytlik to Sault Ste. Marie from Europe. There are also rumblings that Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rasmus Sandin could return. That could be two big adds without giving up squat.
19. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has the ability to steal a playoff series all on his own, is a phrase heard around the league. Now, he might have to. Sudbury did get some scoring punch in Ruzicka and stable rearguard Tony DeMeo from the Soo but more was expected since the Finnish Fence could be one and done in the OHL.
20. It wouldn't be a deadline without some sort of Windsor-Kitchener canoodle. The Spits were pretty quiet but did add overage forward Chase Campbell to their broth for free after the Rangers released him. See what I did there? Noodle, broth, Campbell. Very soupy.
21. So the rumours, reports and anonymous sources can all take a break for a bit, right? Of course not. Here are a few names to keep in mind for next year's OHL trade deadline — Akil Thomas (Niagara), Cam Hillis (Guelph), Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie), Ty Dellandrea (Flint) and Cedric Ralph (Guelph).
The Peterborough Petes' Brady Hinz, (27) celebrates his goal with teammates Zach Gallant (11) Nick Isaacson, Austin Osmanski (6) and Ryan Merkley (25) Jan. 3 against Mississauga. The Petes made a big trade before the deadline, bringing in Merkley from Guelph.