The Barrie Colts are very quietly becoming a very scary club to play against if you’re one of the OHL’s other 19 teams.
With a record of 25-16-0-1, they’ve had no troubles rising to the top spot in the OHL’s Central Division and impressing those who watch the OHL closely.
But it’s the moves that Barrie made at the OHL’s trade deadline last week that reaffirmed the Colts are looking to go all the way in the 2016 playoffs, and they’re doing so quietly.
Quietly, because when you compare the deals that Barrie has made this season, prior to the trade deadline, to those of their Eastern Conference rivals, they don’t quite stack up to the likes of the blockbuster transactions of teams such as the Kingston Frontenacs acquiring Stephen Desrocher and Michael Dal Colle.
— Matt Cullen (@MattCullenLive) January 11, 2016
London, Kingston, Erie and Windsor are the obvious favourites to challenge for a spot in the Memorial Cup, but Barrie might be that wildcard team that makes the playoff race rather interesting.
Barrie’s Holding Their Own In The Eastern Conference
Barrie began trade deadline day trading defenseman Rocky Kaura, along with nine picks (potentially 11) to the Saginaw Spirit, in return for Dylan Sadowy. The 19 year-old San Jose Sharks prospect, selected 81st overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, has tallied 152 points in his 233 career games prior to being traded to Barrie.
It’ll be interesting to see if Sadowy cracks the top line, replacing Justin Scott. The former Saginaw Spirit already has two goals in three games for the Colts.
In that same deal, the Colts also acquired Greg DiTomaso, who’s racked-up 44 points in 162 games with the Mississauga Steelheads, Saginaw Spirit, and now the Barrie Colts. DiTomaso’s a solid puck mover, and plays very aggressive.
But the first-ranked Central Division team took it one step further on trade deadline day, acquiring the rights to Keigan Gotez from Sault Ste. Marie. Goetz has played 111 career games, earning 34 points and 134 penalty minutes in the process. Gotez’s stats haven’t been stellar this season, but he’s a hard worker, and elevates Barrie’s third or fourth line.
Barrie is going all-out, simply because they won’t have their elite stars returning next year.
Andrew Mangiapane probably won’t be back next season as he’s born in 1996. The Calgary Flames prospect has had a pretty good season, scoring 23 goals, and has been stellar taking faceoffs.
Highly-touted Flames prospect Rasmus Andersson, also a 1996-born player, will most likely not be returning to the Colts next season either. He’s been solid on the blue line this year, contributing 38 points, and is one of the best puck carriers in the league.
And then there’s the OHL’s second-leading scorer Kevin Labanc. He’s already on the final stretch his 20 year-old season and unfortunately for the Barrie Colts, won’t be eligible to return next year. Labanc has 27 goals and 50 assists on the season, good enough for 77 points. The San Jose Sharks prospect has been instrumental in Barrie’s rise to top spot in the Central Division.
But Those Aren’t Pressing Concerns
For now, the Colts still have all those stars for the remainder this season, along with probably the best goaltender playing junior hockey in Mackenzie Blackwood (provided he can stay off of the suspension list). With the depth they have up front, and the huge potential Blackwood has when he’s on his game, they have a real shot to do something special.
While Stan Butler’s North Bay Battalion squad usually acts as the ‘upset team’ in the OHL, don’t be surprised if Barrie plays that role this season.
They’ll be an interesting team to watch for the remainder of the regular season and into playoffs. Don’t count them out just yet.
Ben Smith covers the CHL for The Hockey Writers. He also writes for HockeyNow Magazine, FlamesNation and SB Nation.