Ottawa 67’s Make Difficult Choice by Trading Moldenhauer

On Wednesday evening, the Ottawa 67’s pulled the trigger on a move that they have been thinking about since it was confirmed that Nicholas Moldenhauer would not be reporting to the team ahead of the 2021-22 season. The 67’s drafted Moldenhauer with the 20th overall selection in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection, and had him penciled in to be an impact player this season, but he has chosen to stay in the United States to play with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League (USHL).

This was something that always had the potential to happen, and was even mentioned by general manager James Boyd ahead of training camp.

“Our first-round pick from two years ago, Nicholas Moldenhauer has decided that he’s going to stay in the States to guarantee having a season in his draft year, so he’s going to play in Chicago in the USHL,” said James Boyd in an interview on TSN 1200, Ottawa’s sports radio network. “We’re going to have a tough decision to make here, and we’re going to have to wait to see how our team shapes up. We have to make a decision that’s best for the 67’s, and our option there would be trading Moldenhauer to get our first-round pick back as a compensatory pick in next year’s draft, or weigh the odds of him reporting next year.”

Finally, after weeks of wondering if the 67’s would move Moldenhauer ahead of the deadline for the compensatory pick, we finally have the answer. His playing rights were sent to the Sarnia Sting in exchange for a 15th-round selection in 2022, hardly a big return for a player the 67’s thought would make a real impact on their team right away.

The Downside

The downside of this trade is obvious. The 67’s have lost a player that could have been a difference-maker for them this season for nothing more than a compensation pick and a 15th-round pick from the Sting. In reality, this was a bad situation for the 67’s to be in. On one hand, you want to keep Moldenhauer because of the player he is, but on the other, you need to do what you feel is best for the organization.

Nick Moldenhauer, Chicago Steel
Nick Moldenhauer, Chicago Steel (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The thing that hurts the most about Moldenhauer’s playing rights being traded to the Sting is the gaping hole it leaves down the middle of the ice for the 67’s that they will now have to find in-house solutions to fix. While they do have options, including 2021 first-round selection Chris Barlas, Moldenhauer fits a mold that they don’t have too much of. He is a player that is capable of scoring in bunches and that was on full display in 2019-20 with the U16 Toronto Titans. He scored 68 goals with 93 assists (161 points total) across 96 games.

Related: Ottawa 67’s 2021 OHL Priority Selection Recap

Even more on the downside, Moldenhauer is yet to commit to an NCAA program, leaving the door open for an OHL appearance down the line. There is still a chance that he might decide to take the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) route still, and that would now be with the Sting rather than the 67’s of course. One way or another, the 67’s need to fill that void this season, but they could have held out and hoped he came to the team in the following season.

The Upside of the Moldenhauer Trade

Much like the downside of the trade, the upside will be determined by what could have been, or what could be, as the return is far from guaranteed at this point. The most important thing to note, and the whole reason the 67’s felt comfortable with making this trade, was the compensatory pick they got in return. It cost the Sting nothing, but makes a world of difference for the 67’s.

Since Boyd became the general manager, and Jan Egert became the assistant general manager, the 67’s have done very well with both drafting and developing their prospects. They have had some talent with their first-round selections, but potentially more impressive is the list of players drafted after the third round that have shown to be quality OHL players. In this instance, however, it’s a first-round selection that moves the needle (from ‘Former top 67’s pick Moldenhauer heads south, prompting the organization to trade him away for picks,’ Ottawa Sun, 9/16/21). In the 2022 OHL Priority Selection, the 67’s will have a chance to atone for their defected player and make an additional selection in the first round, giving them one more chance to add a player that they like early in the draft.

James Boyd Mississauga Steelheads
James Boyd, Mississauga Steelheads, 2013-14 (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

Outside of the compensatory pick, the 67’s could have what can only be described as a metric boatload of draft capital coming their way if Mondenhauer does see OHL action at any point. In the event that he does play a game in the OHL, the 67’s would get two second-round picks, three third-round picks, a fourth-round pick, and a fifth-round pick with all of them coming in the 2025 OHL Priority Selection of before.

Related: Ottawa 67’s Training Camp: Standouts From Days 1 & 2

While there is no guarantee that he will ever take the ice in the black and gold of the Sting, the compensatory pick means its no skin off the 67’s back. If he does play in the OHL at some point, the assets the 67’s will gain from it will set them up to be more competitive in the future no matter if they use them to draft young players or use them to trade for already established talent. As much as you would love to keep a player like Moldenhauer, the assets in return are no joke for Boyd and the 67’s.

One of the final things that might be good to come out of this is another player will have the opportunity to prove themselves and potentially blossom into a star with the 67’s playing a role they may not have been expected to play otherwise. Brenden Sirizzotti is one of the players that come to mind. While he is no longer young by OHL standards, he comes into the season with little experience in the league. He’s a player that the 67’s are hoping can be a source of production offensively for them, but he might have to take that to another level without Moldenhauer.

Other players including Brady Stonehouse, Cam Tolnai, Chris Barlas, Vsevolod Gaidamak, and Vinzenz Rohrer will also have to step things up a little bit to fill those boots. There are plenty of positives to come from this trade, and while for other franchises losing a player with the capabilities of Moldenhauer could potentially be crippling, the 67’s have the depth and wealth of prospects to make amends.

Was Trading Moldenhauer the Right Move?

The toughest part about this trade is deciding if it was the right thing to do or not. All that can really be said about it right now is that it was really the 67’s only option. Sure, they could have run the risk of not making the move and hoping Moldenhauer reports at a later date, but for a team starting a rebuild, this was probably the best option for them.

“This trade is the best thing for the Ottawa 67’s and we wish Nicholas the best in his future endeavours,” said Boyd. “The Ottawa 67’s will now be in a position to select two players in the first round of the 2022 OHL Priority Selection.”

Maybe if down the road Moldenhauer comes to the OHL and lights it up, I might change my mind on this one, but for the time being, this was the right move for the 67’s to make. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, and it will be easy to say they should or shouldn’t have done this when it plays out down the line, but Boyd had a deadline to meet, and he met it the best way he could.

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