The OHL trade deadline has come and gone. And what a busy one it was. Over the past week, big names like Tyler Graovac, Cody Ceci, Frankie Corrado, Josh Leivo, Alex Aleardi, Alan Quine, Justin Sefton, Mitchell Theoret, Vincent Trocheck, Slater Koekkoek, and many more changed addresses.
Let's take a look at how each team did:
The Colts were definitely active, adding Mitchell Theoret, Jake Dotchin and Devon Rymarchuk. I think they definitely addressed some needs here. Theoret gets ragged on a lot for "riding the coattails of Strome and Ritchie," but he's been great this year. There's no doubt that playing with those two has elevated his production slightly, but he's done his part on that line to help them too. He's a very difficult player to contain in puck protection down low, and he helps to tire out defenses and open up space for more skilled linemates. I'm interested to see where he slots into their lineup. At the price they gave up, I can't see them using Theo on the 3rd line. He might look good as a running mate for Andreas Athanasiou. But there are suggestions he's going to start on the top line with Scheifele and Camara. Dotchin gives Barrie some much needed experience and physicality on the blueline. He'll slot into the top four with O'Connor, Ekblad and Lepkowski. And Rymarchuk is a good buy-low candidate. Big kid with a high motor whose offensive game hasn't really grown in the league thus far. For all those three, the only player given up on the roster was recent first rounder Brendan Perlini. He's got lots of skill but hasn't been much of a factor this year because he's not strong enough yet. Barrie fans didn't seem to be too happy with giving up Perlini for Theoret, and I would agree it's a bit of an overpayment. But I also think Barrie fans are underrating Theoret and the types of things he can bring to their hockey club. He wore an "A" on Niagara and was a serious candidate for their captaincy. He also averaged a point per game (4 goals and 3 assists) while Strome and Ritchie were away at the WJC's. Now they just need to see the Jets send back Mark Scheifele and everything will be OK.
Belleville was able to significantly boost their offense with the acquisitions of Tyler Graovac and Alan Quine. Graovac has already fit in incredibly well, forming a dynamic first line with Brendan Gaunce and Austen Brassard. That will be a very tough line for defenses to contain because of how big they are. Quine should fit in well on the big ice and will give their second line a much needed boost (the Bulls have scored the least amount of goals in the Eastern Conference this year). Quine probably sees action with some combination of Zharkov, Curtis, Cramarossa, Sandlak, or Hooey. It certainly makes them a deeper team. It did cost them Sergey Kuptsov, who I do like and who I think was one of their more consistent forwards this year. But he's not as much of an impact player as Graovac is, so that trade was a no brainer for them to make. Much like Barrie, the Bulls have made themselves a better team. They also don't run the risk of losing their best player to the NHL.
The Battalion weren't expected to make a ton of moves, but I'm glad they pulled the trigger on a deal to improve their OA situation. They picked up Francis Menard from Peterborough (one of three deals I predicted correctly in my trade deadline preview), which is a very underrated move. Menard has been (arguably) Peterborough's best player this year. He put up 60 points in the league last year and is on pace for similar production this year. He deepens Brampton's forward group, giving them another skilled forward to generate offensive chances. Menard's work ethic and two-way abilities also fit well into Stan Butler's system. You take Menard's 15 goals this year and add them to the Battalion line up, and Brampton becomes the third highest scoring team in the East (hypothetically). Love the move, as subtle as it was.
Kingston made a few minor moves. They dealt Mitchell Fitzmorris to Niagara. Fitzmorris is a former 3rd rounder who was playing in his first OHL season. He gets a fresh start, although the return Kingston got for him is a bit underwhelming (has to hurt to trade a recent 3rd rounder for a 7th and a 12th). They also acquired goaltender Lucas Peressini from Saginaw for a 4th. He's a '95 who has played very well for Newmarket in Junior A this season. This is a move for next year, as I'm assuming the Fronts believe Peressini can contend for a roster spot and provide competition to Colin Furlong and Blake Richard. Could end up being one of those subtle moves that makes a big impact. The starter's job in Kingston, going into next season, is definitely up for grabs.
There seemed to be a lot of rumours surrounding the Steelheads being possible sellers (the likes of Brace, Percy, etc) going into the deadline, but I never really believed it. I'm certainly not surprised that they stood pat. With a new owner and new "product" on the ice (Steelheads name change), it's pretty clear that Mississauga intends to make the playoffs and try to generate fan interest and revenue. Next year, they'll be the only team in the GTA and hopefully will gain some fans from Brampton. If you put the season tickets holders together from both teams, you'll actually have a semi-respectable turnout to the Hershey Center! The only negative thing to affect the team recently was the announcement that 2nd rounder Jared Walsh has committed to the University of Michigan. He's one of the top 96's not playing in the league this year.
All things considered, I thought the Dogs did incredibly well for themselves this deadline. They got the screw job thanks to the new NHL CBA. There was no way anyone was going to give up anything significant for Strome and Hamilton, since there's a good chance they'll be in the NHL. And Brett Ritchie apparently gave Marty Williamson a pretty short list of teams he'd be willing to go to. Dealing Mitchell Theoret hurts a bit, since he was a great locker room presence and one of the team's most consistent players this year. But the return was too good to pass up. Getting back first rounder Brendan Perlini is a coup for the Dogs. He's a little over-matched in the league right now, but the skill set is there (which obviously brings about the Ryan Strome analogies). The Dogs also picked up Jordan Maletta and Mitchell Fitzmorris, two former high draft picks who haven't exactly worked out well for their former clubs (Windsor and Kingston). A change of scenery might bring out the best in them, and as '95's, they'll have a long time to develop (and get the ice time to do it). The Dogs also dealt Joel Wigle to Erie for a 2nd and a 4th. Wigle is a former high selection too, and someone I've always liked. But he's had a pretty dreadful year and hasn't been getting the ice-time he needs. It's a win-win for him and for the Dogs. Niagara recoups a few high draft picks for a player who hasn't working out. And Erie gets an underachieving potential goal scorer. Niagara should be commended for making the best out of a bad situation.
The Generals made a few moves right close to the passing of the deadline. They picked up pugilist Johnny McGuire from Erie, which was a good deal. They've got a very physical group of skilled forwards, and it'll be important to protect them should the need arise. The Generals also swapped imports with Plymouth, acquiring Simon Karlsson for Sebastian Uvira. Uvira never really found his offensive game in Oshawa, and the Generals badly needed to add defensive depth to their line-up. They've been ravaged by injuries this year. Finally, along the same lines of the McGuire pick-up, Oshawa added Justice Dundas from Sarnia (for Tyler Hore). Dundas is more than just a scrapper. He's a hard worker and a good forechecker. By the time he's finished his OHL career (he's only a '94), I think he'll be a 20 goal scorer in this league. The only other move Oshawa made was dealing the underachieving John Urbanic to Ottawa for a late round pick. Oshawa only really needed to address two areas, depth on defense and toughness at forward. They did both of those today and should be commended for it.
I absolutely love what the 67's were able to do in the past week. Ottawa isn't in a position to rebuild very often, but they did it right. Out are Cody Ceci, Tyler Graovac, Steven Janes, and Remy Giftopoulous. In are Jacob Middleton, Sergey Kuptsov, Joseph Blandisi, and three high draft picks (2nd, 3rd, 4th). Middleton is an absolutely terrific prospect IMO. He impressed the hell out of me at the recent Under 17's. Once he gets stronger, he could be a big factor at both ends of the ice. Kuptsov and Blandisi are two 94's who'll jump right into Ottawa's line up and help produce offense. They'll make the team deeper and better next year too. Right now, the 67's are skating them on a line with Sean Monahan. Speaking of Monahan, Ottawa ultimately decided to keep him around, hoping that he doesn't crack the NHL next year. Ottawa also picked up a couple of forwards, John Urbanic and Mark Petaccio, pretty cheaply. They will be given a look the rest of the year and do have the potential to be contributors down the line.
It'll be absolutely impossible to know how well Peterborough did, for quite a few years. Most of Peterborough's haul (from trading Koekkoek, Quine, Menard, and Schoenmakers) came in the form of draft picks. But you do have to love the amount of high end selections they acquired. 5 second rounders, 1 third, and 1 fourth. If the Petes draft well, that will certainly help to get this team back to respectability. Peterborough also acquired Michael Clarke in the Slater Koekkoek deal, who will jump right into their top 6. He hasn't had the best of years in Windsor, but when he's on his game, he's a potential impact two-way center who can mix things up physically. He's just been incredibly inconsistent thus far in his OHL career. I have to admit that I'm a tad underwhelmed by the return for Koekkoek, and that I think Peterborough would have been better served trying to pick up a top end 95 or 96 born player. But, all in all, hard to argue with the amount of draft selections picked up.
The Wolves made two trades, both pretty big ones. The first one was the blockbuster deal with Kitchener that saw Frankie Corrado, Josh Leivo, and Joel Vienneau head to the Rangers. In return, the Wolves got back first rounder Matt Schmalz, solid goaltender Franky Palazzese, and physical defender Cory Genovese. I have to admit, I like this deal a lot more for Kitchener than I do Sudbury. That's not to say that it's a terrible deal. I'm just not sure I think Sudbury got the value they could have gotten if they had split up Corrado and Leivo on the trade market. Schmalz is a talented first rounder and he'll get more of an opportunity in Sudbury than he did in Kitchener. And Palazzese will provide steady goaltending this year, and likely next year as an overager. And Genovese is a solid depth defender. It's too bad that Jacob Middletown refused to report to Sudbury, because I would have much preferred that deal for the Wolves. They could have then dealt Leivo for likely another quality young player, perhaps a younger goaltender. In the other deal, the Wolves picked up Kevin Raine and a 4th for Justin Sefton. Don't like this deal at all. Raine is an OK defender, but based on what a few other players brought back, the return is underwhelming. Raine and Sefton are the same age, but Raine is a guarantee return as an OA, while Sefton is a long shot. The only real explanation for these trades by the Wolves is that they believe they can contend for the Eastern Conference title next year. So they deal some big guns who won't be back for some players who can make their team better next year, and not in 2-3 years. We'll see if they're right.
Erie made a few minor moves, picking up Joel Wigle and Jack Kuzmyk, while dealing off Johnny McGuire. Kuzmyk has never really found his niche in the league, but he does give the Otters another experienced defenseman to help them with their late playoff push. He'll have a chance to battle it out with the likes of Spencer Abraham and Jimmy McDowell for an overage spot next year on the blueline. Wigle was impressive in a checking line role last year for Niagara, but hasn't been able to replicate that success this year. A change of scenery could do him well, as he does have some goal scoring potential. As a '94, he'll have a few years still to try to realize that. I'm not sure I like the amount the Otters gave up for him though. A 2nd and a 4th is a steep price to pay for a '94 with three goals this year. By comparison, the IceDogs gave up slightly less to get Jordan Maletta, a younger forward with more potential. I'd expect Erie to be more aggressive on the trade market this offseason and into next year as they gear up for a push to earn home ice advantage in round one.
The Storm were relatively quiet, as I think most people expected them to be. 2013/2014 is going to be their big year, so they were smart to play it safe. That said, they did make a few small moves which I think can be beneficial. Picking up Saverio Posa from Windsor for relatively cheap was a savvy move. He was Windsor's captain and brings great work ethic to Guelph. He'll be able to slide onto their 3rd pairing and help out a guy like Ben Harpur. He also gives them better defensive depth. With the addition of Posa, the Storm cut Keegan Wilson loose (OA limit), and brought in former OHL goaltender Michael Nishi to serve as Garret Sparks' back-up. I think Nishi is capable of doing a better job as the back-up than Wilson or DaSilva have been doing. That said, if the Storm intend to contend next year (which they should), they'll have to really look at their goaltending situation going into next year. Quite frankly, I think they'd be better served sticking with DaSilva as their back-up, or signing Matthew Mancina, to give either of them the development time and experience they'll need to lead next season's ship.
I absolutely loved what Kitchener did at the deadline. It was smart for them to realize that this is their year to really make a run, thanks to the goaltending of John Gibson. Let's examine the Corrado/Leivo deal first. HUGE win for the Rangers in this one. They trade Franky Palazzese, who wasn't going to help them in the playoffs this year (although who would have provided solid goaltending next year as an OA), Matt Schmalz (their first round pick from 2012, but a guy who has been their 2nd best '96 behind Darby Llewellyn this year), and Cory Genovese (a solid depth defenseman, but someone who wasn't going to play in their top 4 this year, or next year). In return, the Rangers add, IMO, one of the top five defenseman in the entire league, and one of the premier two-way forwards in the entire league. Corrado will help to stabilize the blueline and take some pressure of Ryan Murphy offensively. Leivo is an incredibly underrated player. His ability to disrupt on the forecheck and to create offensive chances off the rush will fit in well in Kitchener's line-up. It's no secret that some of Kitchener's best players (like Murphy, Radek Faksa, and Tobias Rieder) haven't had the best of seasons, so I'm also hopeful that this trade wakes them up a bit and lights a fire under their ass. Another thing that's not being talked about much from that deal was Kitchener being able to flip Plymouth's import selection for Sudbury's in 2013. This is a great move for the Rangers, as that pick could end up being a 30 or so spot improvement. The Rangers will need to fill at least one spot next year with Tobias Rieder leaving for the pro's, and possibly two if Radek Faksa doesn't return. In addition to the above trade, the Rangers also picked up overager Derek Schoenmakers from Peterborough for Nick Czinder and a 4th. Schoenmakers is a very valuable player, and he'll bring more energy and goal scoring ability to the line-up than Czinder did.
I honestly expected London to do a bit more, after so many of their competitors improved. Did London really need to do anything? Probably not. You don't go on an extended winning streak without having one of the league's most talented rosters. That said, I figured the Hunters would want to keep that competitive advantage over their rivals. Not filling that final OA spot is a huge mistake IMO. And I also think London should have tried to get a bit bigger at the forward position. Josh Anderson is really the only guy who can physically outmuscle opposing defenses on a consistent basis. Bo Horvat has the potential to do that, but he's not that dominant power forward yet. Once the playoffs hit, that lack of size up front could hurt. And yes, I know, that many of the Knights forwards are tenacious and hard working (see the Ruperts, see Chris Tierney, Broadhurst, Welcyhka, etc), but adding just one more bigger forward with skill (like Saginaw's Garret Ross, or Josh Leivo) could have really put this team over the edge. That's not to say London stood by and did nothing. Adding Justin Sefton for practically nothing was a great move. His physicality and size makes this London defense even more difficult to play against. A top 6 of Maatta, Harrington, Zadorov, Hughes, Mermis, and Sefton is the best in the league. That brings us to the additions of Mermis and Anthony Stolarz. Mermis is already paying dividends on the back-end since leaving Denver. He looks like the offensive defenseman that the Knights have needed this year. Where as Stolarz can push Jake Patterson in future years. He's an NHL 2nd rounder and a recruit from Nebraska-Omaha with a ton of potential. From the conversations I've had with people, we shouldn't expect a ton from him this year, but the potential is sky high. Overall the future remains bright in London, I just wonder if some of the other teams in the West were able to make moves to shorten the gap and really give London a run for their money this year.
Owen Sound Attack
Owen Sound made their big splash a few days prior to the deadline by adding Cody Ceci and Steven Janes. They also picked up a 3rd rounder in the deal. Going the other way were first rounder Jacob Middleton and Avalanche draft pick Joseph Blandisi. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this deal for the Attack. I'd rather have Blandisi in the line-up than Janes, but I do understand their desire to inject more size into their forward group. The obvious factor is how well Ceci plays in Owen Sound. He`s had a rough year in Ottawa (too much pressure on him to lead a lacklustre defensive unit). And Middleton is going to be one of the league`s top defenseman by the time he graduates from the league. If Ceci begins to round into form, this definitely addresses a need for Owen Sound, by injecting more offense into their blueline. This is particularly important for improving the Attack`s woeful powerplay. I just can`t help but ponder how much better the Attack would be if the deal for Corrado had gone through. He would have improved their offensive situation and the powerplay, but at the same time provided a more steady defensive approach than Ceci. On top of adding Ceci and Janes, the Attack improved their roster through the return of Artur Gavrus and the defection of Daniel Milne from the University of Michigan. Gavrus is a very skilled player and someone who already has chemistry with the team, having played last year. But he needs to stay healthy. Milne was a 3rd rounder of the Attack in 2010, who McKeen`s scout and TheScout.ca director Sean LaFortune calls ``a hard working, intelligent forward who can play multiple roles, who has a great snap shot, is willing to block shots, and can play both ways.`LaFortune also says he expects Milne to jump right into Owen Sound`s top 9. Can`t argue with improvements in depth. The other movement the Attack were involved in, was sending Jake Dotchin to Barrie. They were able to recoup some quality draft picks in exchange for him. He had fallen down a bit on the depth chart this year, so it`ll be a great opportunity for him to have a fresh start. The addition of Ceci made him a bit expendable. Overall, like what the Attack have done, but I'm not sure I love it.
The Whalers were faced with an interesting predicament when Mitchell Heard was sent back to the OHL, as it left them with four overagers. Heard's return is a blessing for the Whalers, as he's a terrific and very valuable player at both ends of the ice. His faceoff ability is also a key factor to their penalty killing and defensive efforts. But someone had to go, and that someone was Alex Aleardi. Aleardi has been a solid offensive contributor for Plymouth since being acquired from Belleville several years ago. It ultimately came down to Aleardi or Austin Levi, but the Whalers decided they needed the defensive depth over forward depth and I think they made the right decision. Coming back for Aleardi was forward Zach Lorentz, who moves to his 4th OHL team THIS season. He's proven before to be a capable secondary scoring option, but he never really fit in, in Windsor. Hopefully he's able to find more of a comfort zone with the Whalers. Next came the big one, with Plymouth acquiring Vincent Trocheck from Saginaw in exchange for draft picks and first rounder Zach Bratina. I think Bratina has a bright future in this league, but this was absolutely the right move to make. The one thing I've felt the Whalers have been missing this year is a true playmaker at the center position. Someone to help get pucks to, and create chances for Plymouth's bigger scoring forwards. Trocheck is absolutely that guy. He's also a very valuable two-way player, and a guy who fits well into Vellucci's aggressive system. With the return of Heard, and the acquisition of Trocheck, you could make a pretty good argument that Plymouth has the best group of forwards in the entire league (as long as Rakell returns from Anaheim). Being aggressive at the deadline was the right call too, because the Whalers' window for a Championship is closing after this year IMO. They should still be a solid team next year, but not a Championship contender IMO. Lastly, towards the passing of the deadline, the Whalers flipped imports with Oshawa, acquiring Sebastian Uvira for Simon Karlsson. Karlsson hadn't been great for the Whalers this year, and Uvira hasn't been great for Oshawa. Consider it a change of scenery for both players. Uvira is at least a big, physical guy who can fit in somewhere on Plymouth's 3rd or 4th line.
I'm torn on how I felt the Spirit did at the deadline. I do like the deal with Plymouth involving Vincent Trocheck. Trading him was the smart move. I think they did well, value wise for him. I like Zach Bratina and I've been impressed with his play in small sample sizes this year. I think he has a lot of offensive upside. It also gives Saginaw one of the strongest groups of 96's in the league, with Bratina, Brandon Prophet, Jeremiah Addison, and Brandon Lindberg. The reason I'm torn is that they decided to (or at least couldn't find the right deal) keep Garret Ross. I understand that he's setting a positive example for some of their younger forwards and that Saginaw still has a chance to make the playoffs this year. But by not dealing Ross for another player who can help them next year and beyond, they've done a disservice to their partial rebuild. This Spirit team could be VERY good next year. They'll have two very strong overagers in Eric Locke and Dalton Young. They'll have great goaltending from Jake Paterson. They've got a lot of young players on the upswing. Why not deal Ross and get another player who can contribute to that upswing next year? I think Spirit management dropped the ball on that one.
The trade deadline just wasn't very kind to the Sting IMO. First came the news that the NHL lockout was over. That means, potentially, no more Alex Galchenyuk. It seems that he has a pretty good shot of making the Canadiens and that has to be a scary thought to Sarnia fans. Then came the news that defenseman Connor Murphy would be lost for the season thanks to another knee injury. That means that the Sting could be playing out the rest of the season without their (arguably) two most important players. Very tough. The Sting did make a couple of minor trades, sending out Justice Dundas and Jack Kuzmyk, and bringing in Tyler Hore. The Hore acquisition, obviously made in response to the news about Murphy. But there was nothing major done to help offset these potential losses. Considering that I can't see the Sting being a very solid team next year (no more Charles Sarault or JP Anderson, likely no more Reid Boucher and Connor Murphy), I think this team is missing their window.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Don't look now, but the Hounds are surging (no thanks to the strong play of Ryan Sproul, who has only been held pointless during one game in the past 3 months!). They've got a legitimate chance at capturing the West Division if they can continue to play well down the stretch. A lot of people were talking about them as sellers, but I never bought it. Just didn't make sense considering how well they'd been playing lately. Ultimately the Hounds stood their ground, save for sending Mark Petaccio to Ottawa; a minor depth move. The other big news in Hound land lately was the signing of defenseman Kyle Jenkins, who many seem to believe is one of the top 96's not playing in the OHL this year. He'll finish the year off with Oakville in Junior A though. I think Kyle Dubas was right to play things conservative this year, after last year's Jack Campbell debacle.
I have to admit, I absolutely loved what Windsor was able to accomplish this deadline. A lot of people seemed to expect them to be sellers, but they went and did the opposite of that. Perhaps the main reason for that was the confirmed return (long rumoured) of Alex Khokhlachev. This makes Windsor better in so many ways. They've really been missing that dynamic, playmaking center this year. His presence will also help to take some of the pressure of Kerby Rychel. The blockbuster that they involved themselves in was the acquisition of Slater Koekkoek for Michael Clarke and draft picks. With the return of The Khok (if you read the blog regularly, I've always liked this nickname better than Koko), Clarke would have moved down the depth chart. And he hasn't had a terrific year either. A change of scenery will do him well. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Koekkoek helps to take the pressure of Nick Ebert (and to some extent Trevor Murphy) offensively. He has the potential to be one of the OHL's top defenseman, a feat he could still achieve next season, when he returns to a Windsor defense that will be returning all of its members. The Spits also acquired Remy Giftopoulous from Ottawa. He's had a good year for Ottawa and will provide some depth and grit to Windsor's forward unit. Also acquired was Alex Aleardi, who IMO, is a much better fit offensively than Zach Lorentz was. Lastly, the Spits sent out captain (and overager) Saverio Posa to Guelph for a 4th rounder. The Spitfires managed to make themselves significantly better this season, without sacrificing much in the way of Rychel's push for a Memorial Cup bid in 2014. It's a pretty hard feat to make yourself better this year and next, in this league. So Bravo Windsor.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
1. Kitchener Rangers - I think they've really pushed themselves to the top of the West by adding the players they did. You just can't waste having a goaltender like John Gibson.
2. Windsor Spitfires - As I mentioned, it's a pretty impressive feat to make yourself better this year and next. I certainly wouldn't want to play Windsor in the first round.
3. Ottawa 67's - I really like what they were able to do with their trades, both in the players they acquired for next year, and in the draft picks.
1. Niagara IceDogs - I feel a bit guilty putting the Dogs on here. On one hand, Marty Williamson did a great job with the hand he was dealt. But on the other, the hand they were dealt (the NHL lockout ending) killed their opportunity to add pieces for a push towards being competitive when the new arena opens.
2. Sarnia Sting - Potentially losing their top two players for the rest of the year, without really adding much. I can't see them hanging on to the division lead.
3.Sudbury Wolves - I think the Wolves blew an opportunity to really help their rebuild by combining Corrado and Leivo in one deal. With Middleton refusing to report, that hurts.
What are your thoughts on how things shook down?