Thursday, December 29, 2022

OHL Trade Deadline Preview 2022/23

Some traditions are worth keeping up. An OHL Trade Deadline preview is a piece that I have been writing here for many years. And, quite often, my predictions have been fairly accurate. 

The difference this year is that the vast majority of the deals have already happened. It's been a very busy year in the OHL for blockbuster trades, with most OHL teams getting things done prior to the deadline. We've seen the Kitchener Rangers load up in recent weeks. Sarnia and Peterborough have made their big moves previously. Few teams have room for an OA without drastically shaking up their locker rooms (by swapping out a player wearing a letter...for example). So who's left to move?

I'm going with a slightly different format this year. I'm going to break things down by the big players remaining that I expect to move...with some different scenarios that I could see happening. Of course, I will also make a final prediction as to what actually DOES happen.

Let's begin...

Pavel Mintyukov - Saginaw

I do think that there is a chance Saginaw does not move Mintyukov, who IMO has been the best player in the OHL this year. The Spirit are well positioned in the Western Conference and could make a nice run in the playoffs. That said...this is also a team that moved on from Josh Bloom in order to get assets to acquire Hunter Haight; a move that made them better next year. The Spirit are, IMO, the top contender to host the Memorial Cup next year. They are going to want to have the best team possible for that run. Mintyukov will not be a part of that run as he will turn pro. So if you can move Mintyukov for a player who can still contribute this year, but also make the Spirit better next year, it's going to be a move that Saginaw management explores. Zayne Parekh and Mitchell Smith can handle the puck moving and powerplay duties this year. 

Ideally, I could see Saginaw targeting a high end '04 or '05 defender for Mintyukov because they would be closer to contributing now and in the future. Problem is, what team that is trying to compete would be willing to make that swap, or has a player who fits that bill? Additionally, what team has Import room and/or would be willing to swap out Imports? The restrictions on moving imports complicates things. Peterborough for example has Tommy Purdeller contributing decently for them and he would need to be waived if they brought in Mintyukov (assuming Brian Zanetti is not swapped instead).

I see five teams as true contenders for Mintyukov's services, should Saginaw decide to move him. Barrie, Ottawa, London, Windsor, and Peterborough.

Here are the scenarios:
#1A - Pavel Mintyukov to Peterborough for Jack Van Volsen & Brian Zanetti (straight up)
#1B - Pavel Mintyukov to Peterborough for Donovan McCoy & Draft Picks (also waive Tommy Purdeller)

Here we have two different scenarios involving Peterborough who really could use Mintyukov to beef up their middling powerplay and improve their transition game. Both of these options would make a lot of sense for Saginaw. #1 gives them another quality defender who can contribute now and a really, really good young player in Van Volsen. #2 gives them a quality young defender who can contribute now and who should be even better next year when they hope to host the Memorial Cup. Both of these scenarios also make the Petes better.

#2 - Pavel Mintyukov to Ottawa for Frankie Marrelli & Draft Picks

I really do think Ottawa is the perfect place for Mintyukov. This team has been so good this year and Mintyukov would make them that much better. Because of their depth on defense, Marrelli hasn't played a ton this year. Additionally, because of their young depth on defense, his loss wouldn't be massive for the future. For Saginaw, they get a really good young defender (I've been very impressed with Marrelli) who can be a large part of their future, but who also should be able to handle a larger role this year. 

#3 - Pavel Mintyukov to Windsor for Anthony Cristoforo

I just can't see Windsor doing this. Cristoforo has been so good this year as an '06. Yes, Mintyukov would be an upgrade, but at this cost? There's also no way that Saginaw trades Mintyukov to a division rival without getting Cristoforo or say...Ethan Miedema in return. I see this as very unlikely.

#4 - Pavel Mintyukov to London or Barrie

I can't see this happening either. London already has some very talented puck moving defenders and I don't see them moving someone like Isaiah George or Jackson Edward to appease the Spirit. They are more likely to bring in a strong defensive presence IMO. Where as Barrie, I see them making moves to correlate with Brandt Clarke's likely return. But, they don't need Mintyukov if Clarke is coming back. They'd already have a nice collection of puck movers. Mintyukov and Clarke on the same team would be outrageously entertaining to watch, but also extremely volatile defensively.

#2 - Pavel Mintyukov to Ottawa for Frankie Marrelli & Draft Picks

Brett Harrison - Oshawa

While there's no guarantee that Mintyukov moves, I think it's nearly certain that Brett Harrison does. The Generals already moved Lleyton Moore and they're committed to re-tooling. Harrison is one of the top veteran forwards available. He has flexibility from a positional perspective as he can play center or the wing. He can play all situations. He is a goal scorer. Pretty much every team who wishes to compete in the playoffs could use him and will likely be competing for his services.

No question, Oshawa will be looking for a quality young player in return, especially based on the market value set by other trades this year. I don't think a collection of draft picks gets this done. They're going to be looking for a quality '05 or '06 (first rounder).

I see five teams who truly make sense for Harrison; London, Ottawa, Windsor, Barrie, and Peterborough.

Here are the scenarios:
#1 - Brett Harrison to London for Luca Testa 

This just makes too much sense right? The Knights pick up a home town kid in Harrison who also happens to fill a need of another veteran goal scorer in their lineup. Harrison maybe isn't the kind of hard nosed player that Dale Hunter normally likes, but he can coax that out of young players. In Testa, the Generals would be getting a high upside offensive forward. London probably doesn't want to move him, but they've seen positive development from their '05's this year and could afford to move Testa. There's a chance that the Knights hold firm and actually don't make moves; we did speak of them as sellers when they started the season so poorly. But, I think the Hunters realize the wide open nature of the Western Conference currently and will seek to make themselves better.

#2 - Brett Harrison to Ottawa for Frankie Marrelli 

It just seems inevitable that Marrelli moves doesn't it? The 67's will want to make themselves better and he's their top trade chip. This one for one would work for both teams. Ottawa gets a bigger bodied goal scorer to support their smaller, high IQ playmakers. The Generals get another quality young defender to build around with Danford and Luca Marrelli (not brothers).

#3 - Brett Harrison to Windsor for Chris O’Flaherty & Draft Picks

Windsor gets another quality top six forward to help them with their run. He can also help improve their penalty kill. Oshawa gets O'Flaherty, a power forward type with goal scoring potential whose high energy game would fit in well with what the Generals usually like in their players. 

#4 - Brett Harrison to Barrie for Cole Beaudoin 

This scenario sees the Generals acquiring another high end '06 in Beaudoin who could be a big part of their future down the middle. He has struggled with pace a bit this year, but the upside is high. Barrie could be getting another forward with positional flexibility (like they already have). He'd probably play the wing for the Colts and help anchor their second line to improve their scoring depth.

#5 - Brett Harrison to Peterborough for Justin DeZoete & Draft Picks

I see this scenario as the least likely. If the Generals are going to trade Harrison to a heated rival like Peterborough, they would probably want a bigger fish in return than DeZoete. And I just don't see the Petes moving Van Volsen for Harrison. I think they'd want a bigger fish. DeZoete is a high energy goal scorer who could likely be a General for another few years, but does he really fit their timeline? I think they'd prefer an '05 or '06.

#1 - Brett Harrison to London for Luca Testa 

Danny Zhilkin - Guelph

Does Zhilkin move? The Storm have shown some signs of life lately. The swap of Namestnikov for Pastujov has really worked well. The preseason favourite Storm have been massively disappointing this season but if they can get themselves into the playoffs, there's a chance that they could still make noise. On the other hand, I think that the Storm have realized that this team isn't built for a run this year and instead will trade a veteran like Zhilkin in hopes of trying again next year. That means, they'd want a player back who can contribute now and in the future...similar to the Pastujov deal.

Zhilkin's speed and tenacity down the middle will be highly coveted. He wasn't good in last year's playoffs, but someone will take the chance that he can be better the second time around. 

So who needs a pace pushing center who can do a little bit of everything?

Here are the scenarios:
#1 - Danny Zhilkin to Sarnia for Easton Wainwright & Draft Picks

I really like this scenario for both teams. Zhilkin would fit in really nicely in Sarnia. I think they'd really like to add another high end center to pair with Nolan Burke. Zhilkin would increase their team speed quotient too. Wainwright has been forced down the depth chart in Sarnia this year but I think he's got great potential in this league and could find a lot of success with the Storm. However, as much as I like the concept of this trade, I see it as far fetched. The Storm and Sting have already made a big trade. The odds of them making another is slim. The Storm have disappointed greatly this year. Would the Sting really want to bring in TWO of their veteran players when they have had trouble with consistency themselves?

#2 - Danny Zhilkin to Peterborough for Justin DeZoete, James Guo, & Draft Picks

A kind of mish mash offer from Peterborough for Zhilkin. Of course, it could involve Van Volsen, but again I'm not sure they offer him up for Zhilkin given that he's been only average this year and was not strong in last year's playoffs. DeZoete and Guo give the Storm two pieces who could play prominent roles down the line. But would Guelph want more?

#3 - Danny Zhilkin to London for Luka Testa (straight up)

We talked about the Knights and a possible desire to add a quality forward. Zhilkin fits the London Knight model. He plays with pace. He's tenacious. He can be utilized in a variety of roles. I also love the return for Guelph of Testa. Or even if it's an '05 like Mathieu Paris. This could be a good fit. 

#4 - Danny Zhilkin to Windsor for Chris O’Flaherty & Bronson Ride

On one hand, I think Windsor could be better off looking for a high end winger. They're fairly deep down the middle already. On the other hand, players like Oliver Peer have positional flexibility. And they could consider moving Maillet or Abraham to the wing. Or even using Zhilkin there. This Windsor team could use another difference maker up front and Zhilkin could definitely be that. I like the fit in Sarnia the best, but I think this is the most likely landing spot. As for the return, Guelph is getting two quality young players back who could help them re-tool for next year.

#4 - Danny Zhilkin to Windsor for Chris O’Flaherty & Bronson Ride

The Hamilton Bulldogs OAs - Logan Morrison, Avery Hayes, & Gavin White

The Bulldogs are suffering from a post championship hangover this year and simply don't have the depth to compete in the Eastern Conference. As such, look for at least two of their excellent overage players to move. They are all among the best players at their position in the OHL and they would hold great value, even if they are overagers with a limited market. Best of all, these are proven playoff performers with championship experience. All three could be huge difference makers for any team in the league.

But who actually has room for an OA? There's Ottawa. There's Peterborough. That might be it unless a team is really willing to shake up their OA situation. One example of this would be Windsor, if they choose to move on from goaltender Mathias Onuska. But that would require them to go out and make another deal to acquire a non OA goaltender (maybe Patrick Leaver? Josh Rosenzweig? Another netminder?). 

Here are some scenarios:
#1 - Logan Morrison & Gavin White to Peterborough for Jack Van Volsen, Sahil Panwar, & Draft Picks
#2 - Logan Morrison & Avery Hayes for Jack Van Volsen, Sahil Panwar, & Draft Picks

A package deal involving two of these OA's makes the most sense for maximizing return value. I've actually heard that Hamilton has explored packaging them for such a reason. In this scenario the Petes are going absolutely all in. They have one open OA spot and move Panwar (who they acquired earlier this year) for an upgrade too. I've mentioned a few times about the Petes only moving Van Volsen for a true difference maker and Morrison and White/Hayes are just that. If you're going to go all in, this is the type of move you make. That's why I see Peterborough as the top contender for at least one of these OA's services. For Hamilton, acquiring a young difference maker like Van Volsen would be huge and a no brainer. For Peterborough, I like the Morrison and White package best. White gives them another high end puck mover who can help their powerplay and Morrison gives them an incredible one/two punch down the middle with he and Tucker Robertson. They can then shift Avon and Lockhart to the wing. 

#3 - Avery Hayes to Ottawa for Jack Dever & Draft Picks

Ottawa has an open OA spot and Hayes would be absolutely perfect for them. He plays the game similar to the way the rest of their forwards do. He would be a Dave Cameron player for sure. Jack Dever is a depth player for the 67's this year but he does have solid middle six potential in the future. Likely some higher end picks would need to be included here.

#4 - Avery Hayes to Windsor for Chris O'Flaherty & Draft Picks

This seems the most far fetched, even if Hayes is someone that Windsor could really use. But would Windsor be willing to make this move and then have to make another by moving Onuska out for another goaltender? 

#1 - Logan Morrison & Gavin White to Peterborough for Jack Van Volsen, Sahil Panwar, & Draft Picks
#3 - Avery Hayes to Ottawa for Jack Dever & Draft Picks

Artyom Grushnikov - Hamilton

If Hamilton is going to go full rebuild, why would they hang on to Grushnikov? The defensive stalwart would be one of the top defensive options on the market and could really help a contending team with an import spot available. For that reason, I do see him moving.

So who are the contenders?

Ottawa, London, Windsor, and Barrie seem like the most likely candidates who also have available import spots (or who have imports who are underperforming). 

Here are the scenarios:
#1 - Artyom Grushnikov to London for Mathieu Paris & Draft Picks

I could see London being the top contender for Grushnikov. We know how much the Hunters value defenders like Grushnikov who have length, mobility, and physicality. They have an open import spot currently, although they've been holding out hope that Kasper Halttunen comes. Grushnikov could be a veteran that the team could pair with one of their puck movers, such as Logan Mailloux (given his roving tendencies). In Paris, the Bulldogs would be getting a young center with potential who has been pushed down the depth chart in London as a rookie.

#2 - Artyom Grushnikov to Windsor for Bronson Ride & Draft Picks

This scenario sees the Spitfires waive Tomas Hebek in order to bring in Grushnikov. They saw him first hand in last year's playoffs and know that he could bring a ton of value to their back-end. Wouldn't he be a terrific partner for young offensive blueliner Cristoforo?

#3 - Artyom Grushnikov to Barrie for Grayson Tiller & Draft Picks

Grushnikov would be a great add for Barrie if they end up getting Brandt Clarke back. They could immediately pair the two together to form a terrific top four pairing. In Tiller, the Bulldogs get a quality young defender who can play an immediate top four role for them as they rebuild.

#4 - Artyom Grushnikov to Ottawa for Jack Dever & Draft Picks

The 67's are bound to have their hands in every cookie jar. He'd be a great add for them. I could even see him being a part of a package with someone like Avery Hayes, which would increase the deal to likely involving someone like Frankie Marrelli. 

#1 - Artyom Grushnikov to London for Mathieu Paris & Draft Picks

Nolan Dann - Niagara

Nolan Dann is a better player than he has shown in Niagara this year. The IceDogs gave up a couple of second rounders for him in the offseason, but we know that they've already moved out other players that they've recently acquired. Why not Dann too? For his sake, I hope he moves and I think that interest in him would be high as a middle six depth option. This is especially true considering that teams likely wouldn't have to give up as much to acquire him, yet his impact could be quite high with a change of scenery.

Two teams that I think could be really interested in Dann are Barrie and Mississauga. The Steelheads need more scoring depth and these two teams have been consistent trade partners in the last 24 months. It also allows Mississauga (under performing recently) to make a low key move to improve without giving up the farm. Barrie could use Dann as a second line winger to improve their scoring depth. Of course, lots of teams could use Dann in a similar role. Would North Bay be interested? What about Windsor? Bill Bowler has spoken out about the team's desire to improve, but not sacrifice the farm or next year's success. Adding Dann at a lesser cost could make a ton of sense. What about one of those bubble seller/buyer teams like Owen Sound or Flint?

Here are some scenarios:
#1 - Nolan Dann to Barrie for Draft Picks
#2 - Nolan Dann to Mississauga for Draft Picks
#3 - Nolan Dann to North Bay for Draft Picks
#4 - Nolan Dann to Windsor for Draft Picks
#5 - Nolan Dann to Flint for Draft Picks
#6 - Nolan Dann to Owen Sound for Draft Picks
#7 - Nolan Dann to London for Draft Picks
#8 - Nolan Dann to Ottawa for Draft Picks

Let's discuss this all together. IMO the most likely scenario sees him going to Mississauga. They need to do something to capitalize on their final year with James Hardie, LDBB, Kasper Larsen, etc. This is a great low key move that could really pay dividends. Dann would fill out their secondary scoring. Barrie would be the second most likely destination IMO. They have a need for another scoring line winger. I'd put Windsor as third most likely and they'd be familiar with him from his time in Sarnia.

#2 - Nolan Dann to Mississauga for Draft Picks

Other Potential Moves

Here are some other players that I anticipate could draw trade interest between now and the deadline: Andre Anania, Ethan Larmand, Ryan Gagnier, Kalvyn Watson, Patrick Leaver, Alec Belanger, Ben Roger, Josh Rosenzweig, David Jesus, Liam Gilmartin, Kaleb Lawrence, and Tristan Lennox.

There's also obviously the chance that a team like Flint becomes a surprising seller by moving someone like Amadeus Lombardi for a King's ransom, but I don't see it. Ditto for Mississauga or Owen Sound going full rebuild. Mississauga could easily blow up this piece if they decide to push their chips into a full rebuild. Move Del Bel Belluz. Move Del Mastro. Look for spots for their OA’s. Maybe even move Owen Beck for a massive package. It’s definitely possible and I have heard rumblings. We shall see.

Kaleb Lawrence could make sense for Owen Sound to move. He's been OK this year in his first truly healthy year, but they'll be in a serious numbers crunch next year with a bunch of quality 03's and only so many OA spots. I feel like he could be the odd man out (assuming he's not signed and placed in the AHL). If they can get good value for him now, they could move him and give more ice time to players like Brennan and first round pick Ben Cormier. 

Andre Anania and Ethan Larmand could move in Sudbury. They too will have a numbers crunch next year as they figure out their OA's. Both players could have some decent value right now and would help alleviate that numbers crunch next year. Anania, in particular, could be a great #5 for playoff bound teams. 

Ryan Gagnier would be a great OA acquisition as a high energy guy who can play a variety of different roles. He's had a really good year. But would Ottawa or Peterborough look at him for their final OA spot(s) or go to a slightly bigger fish?

What about the goaltenders? Would any of them move? As mentioned, if Windsor decides to "upgrade" their OA spot, Onuska could be the odd man out causing them to have to bring in another netminder. It does seem pretty unlikely IMO.

#1 - Andre Anania to North Bay for Draft Picks
#2 - Kaleb Lawrence to Barrie for Draft Picks

Here we have the Battalion bringing in Anania to give them better defensive depth thanks to the injuries to Mathurin and Avery Winslow. Winslow should be back relatively soon, but Mathurin won't be back until the playoffs, if at all. We would also see Barrie bringing in a big body to support their somewhat smaller forward group, plus there's a strong chance that they'll be able to fit him into their lineup next year as an OA. 

Shane Wright - Seattle (NHL)/Kingston

One last player to mention and that's Shane Wright. As the deadline draws near, the debate as to whether Wright is returning to the OHL is heating up. Either way, I would expect his rights to be dealt. In that situation, the return will be entirely draft pick based and contingent on his arrival (a massive haul of conditional picks). 

Firstly, I'm still not convinced Wright returns. Seattle has been pretty steadfast in the media saying that they feel comfortable with him playing limited minutes in the NHL to get his feet wet and that they heavily value the practice and development time he is getting at the pro level. I feel much better about Brandt Clarke's return than Wright's. I'd honestly put it at 50/50 and others I've spoken to feel the same way.

Secondly, as mentioned, his rights WILL move. So who is going to be aggressive in his pursuit? I would expect every competitive team in the OHL. But, it will get complicated. The Wright camp (himself and agency) and the Kraken management group will have great influence on this decision, especially if they are truly entertaining the idea of sending him back. If Kingston wants to cash in on those conditional picks, they'd be wise to listen. If the Kraken don't like his destination, they definitely won't be sending him back.

With that in mind, here are the three teams that I expect to be the front runners. The first two are obvious in Ottawa and London. Ottawa is at the top of the standings and they've been a great program for development during the last few decades. London is at the top of the standings and they've been a great program for development during the last few decades. See the pattern? But what about the third team?...and this one could surprise you; the North Bay Battalion. Now, I already see your faces...Wright's not going to agree to go to North Bay. Hold your horses. One; the Battalion may just be the best team in the OHL right now. Two; there is a lot of faith in Stan Butler, Ryan Oulahen, and Adam Dennis' ability to prepare young centers for pro hockey by becoming better and more aggressive two-way players. Three; The Kraken already have two prospects playing for North Bay in Ty Nelson and Kyle Jackson. Four; Both Ron Francis and Dave Lowry in Seattle are Northern Ontario boys at heart and would definitely pitch North Bay as an attractive location to finish the year. That's a lot of checkmarks.

So where does Shane Wright's rights (tongue twister) end up? I'm not making a prediction on this one outside of the three teams that I mentioned.


Anonymous said...

Like to see Sag get in a couple trades and upgrade enough to get some playoff experience in for next year. Trade Lennox and Minty. Upgrade on Hill for OA C.

Anonymous said...

Great read... of note though on potential Wright > North Bay. The draft pick cupboard is empty up there.

Anonymous said...

Brock, you’ve had my respect for years but this is hands down your worst piece in quite some time. Straight up trades for a 16 year old will not happen.

Anonymous said...

Stan Butler has nothing to do with the Battalion

Anonymous said...

Boy, this ended up being quite the dud in hindsight eh? Stick to your day job Nostradamus.