With the OHL’s trade deadline of noon today, there have been some big names changing cities.
In a year that is far from normal, with the NHL lockout looming large, there have been a number of star OHL players, and in the CHL overall, that may not have been available otherwise.
With the lockout ending and some of those junior names in question in terms of where they will be playing for the remainder of the year, many GM’s have some tough decisions to make.
At first glance it looks like the Western Conference will have the edge on odds for the Memorial Cup, with few Eastern Conference teams adding many names of significance.
Perhaps the two biggest names rumoured to be available leading up to January 10th were defencemen Cody Ceci of the Ottawa 67’s and Peterborough’s Slater Koekkoek. Both were captains of their respective squads and are elite blue-liners in the league. In the end the rumours were true and both players were on the move.
Here’s a look at some of the moves of significance:
- Cody Ceci was dealt to the Owen Sound Attack a few days before the actual deadline along with Steven Janes and a 2015 3rd round pick for Joseph Blandisi and Jake Middleton.
- Slater Koekkoek is on his way to Windsor in exchange for Michael Clarke and 2nd round picks in 2014 and 2015. This was following the trade with Plymouth who brought the Spitfires Alex Aleardi for Zach Lorentz and the subsequent addition of forward Remy Giftopoulos from Ottawa. In the process they also dealt away their overage captain Savario Posa to Guelph for a 4th round draft pick.
- The Petes also dealt their top forward in Alan Quine to the Belleville Bulls for three second round picks
- The Kitchener Rangers also made a splash in a trade with the Sudbury Wolves in dealing for defenceman Frank Corrado, forward Josh Leivo and goaltender Joel Vienneau in return the Wolves get goaltender Frank Palazzese, forward Matt Schmalz and defenceman Cory Genovese.
Saginaw captain and US World Junior hero Vince Trocheck is also on the move, now a member of the Plymouth Whalers, after being dealt for Zach Bratina and 2nd and 3rd round 2015 picks.
- The London Knights made one trade adding defenceman Justin Sefton from the Wolves for defenceman Kevin Raine.
- Barrie nabbed winger Mitchell Theoret from Niagara for Brendan Perlini and also got 18 year old defenceman Jake Dotchin from Owen Sound for four draft picks.
Other significant moves made recently involve a couple of additions not via the trade route:
- The London Knights acquired the services of two NCAA players in goaltender Anthony Stolarz of Nebraska-Omaha and defenceman Dakota Mermis of Denver. Moves that have been met with some skepticism, but it is the perogative of those college players to play where they feel is best for their development.
- The Windsor Spitfires re-acquired the services of Russian forward Alexander Khokhlachev. The Boston Bruins product played two full seasons with the Spitfires before opting to sign withMoscowof the KHL prior to the season. A bronze medal winner at the WJC this year, he centered one of the top lines alongside Nail Yakupov. He returns to North America at the urging of the Bruins and will help Windsor take a shot at a long playoff run.
- Plymouth also got back overager Mitchell Heard from the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters.
HOW IT AFFECTS THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
BARRIE: Only one of two teams in the East to make a significant deal to upgrade their team, they look like the frontrunners to come out of their conference. They sit in first place currently in the conference and added some scoring depth in Theoret. Much of their success will depend on where Mark Scheifele ends up after the Winnipeg Jets camp closes.
BELLEVILLE: Added a top offensive centre in Quine on top of the earlier acquistion of Tyler Graovac to go with top forward Brendan Gaunce, all of a sudden the Bulls have a much deeper group with respect to offence.
Currently in 2nd place tied in points with Oshawa, the Bulls would like to establish a foothold at the top of the conference.
The third and fourth seeded Oshawa Generals and Niagara IceDogs have stayed pat for the most part. The two teams certainly already have the talent to do some damage and compete with anyone but will also be wary of NHL decisions surrounding some of their top players such as Boone Jenner, Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome.
Not a lot changed in the East following the deadline with the top group not changing much and the bottom teams, such as Peterborough and Ottawa, continuing to play for the future.
HOW IT AFFECTS THE WESTERN CONFERENCE
The West was just given a major shake-up, although almost every team in contention, save the Sarnia Sting, made a big time acquisition so it’s hard to say whether the balance of power has shifted much.
KITCHENER: Already stacked with talent at all positions with goaltender John Gibson, defenceman Ryan Murphy and star forwards Matt Puempel, Radek Faksa and Tobias Rieder they have added Sudbury’s top two players in Leivo and Corrado to fill out a very dangerous lineup.
The Rangers currently sit 4th in the Western Conference and will be looking to take a run at a higher seed.
LONDON: The rich get richer. Already handily in first place and leading the OHL with 71 points, the Hunter brothers added in two defencemen in Mermis and Sefton and a potential top goaltender in Stolarz.
The talent and skill up front is obvious with names like Seth Griffith, Max Domi, Bo Horvat and the Rupert brothers, but it is their group of defence that could be the key to a Memorial Cup run. The group includes captain Scott Harrington, Olli Maata, Nikita Zadorov, Tommy Hughes, Tyler Ferry and now Mermis and Sefton for arguably the best and deepest in the league.
OWEN SOUND: They can boast stellar goaltending in Jordan Binnington and lots of firepower up front with Daniel Catenacci, Cameron Brace and Gemel Smith, but what they lack is offence from the backend. Enter Cody Ceci, who will do just that, run their PP and log big time minutes. Steven Janes is also a nice add and could provide valuable secondary scoring for the 3rd place Attack.
PLYMOUTH: The trade for Trocheck might be the jumpstart the Whalers need. A team boasting three NHL first rounders up front with Richard Rakell, Stefan Noesen and Tom Wilson have had some trouble with consistency this season. Trocheck is a player that can make those around him better and comes in as one of the OHL’s leading scorers.
On top of added offence, Heard will bring leadership and maturity to the lineup.
SARNIA: Sarnia’s hopes could also be in the hands of the NHL and the Montreal Canadiens and what they decide to do with star forward Alex Galchenyuk. Should they send him back, the Sting will be a contender. If not, their chances get much slimmer.
WINDSOR: Despite sitting 9thand four games out of a playoff spot, GM Warren Rychel added to major pieces in Koekkoek, Khokhlachev and Aleardi. They have some scoring with Kerby Rychel and Brady Vail but are currently the lowest scoring team in the Western Conference. Khokhlachev and Aleardi will give it a much needed boost. Giftopoulos will provide some depth scoring and size and Koekkoek will join Nick Ebert as a formidable top pair on the blueline.
The Spitfires have the second half of the season to get in and improve their positioning have added two players that are elite players at their position to help do it.