The Hamilton Bulldogs continue to make moves to improve their push for an OHL Championship. A day after acquiring Robert Thomas from the London Knights, the Bulldogs have dealt defenseman Riley McCourt, a second-rounder in 2023, a fifth-rounder in 2023 and a conditional second-rounder in 2024 to the Flint Firebirds in exchange for defenseman Nicolas Mattinen. The condition on that 2024 second-rounder is that the Firebirds will only get it if Mattinen plays his overage season with the Bulldogs.
General manager Steve Staios had this to say about Mattinen,
“Nicolas is a player we have coveted and has the skill set that fits perfectly with our defense core… He has shown some offensive upside with the Firebirds while also taking on more responsibility in all situations.”
More Championship Experience
Mattinen was drafted by the London Knights in the sixth round (110th overall) in the 2014 OHL Draft. He was a member of the team when they won the Memorial Cup in 2016, along with fellow new Bulldog Thomas. He was then selected in the sixth round (179th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has yet to be signed to a contract and could go back into the draft in the 2018 edition.
He was dealt to the Firebirds just before the season started for a collection of draft picks. He has been enjoying his best individual season so far, posting career-highs in all offensive categories. He is a minus-18 but we can blame that on him playing for the OHL’s worst team. He hopefully will be bringing more offense to the Bulldogs’ blueline. He has scored five goals, while adding 17 assists for 22 points. That places him second in points by a Bulldogs defenseman, behind only Ben Gleason. At 6-foot-5, he also becomes the tallest Bulldog.
Mattinen is yet another player born in 1998 on the Bulldogs roster. While making all these moves will certainly help the Bulldogs for the rest of the season, it will certainly make for an interesting off-season as they have to bring the number of 1998-born players down to three before the season starts. With the acquisition of Mattinen, they have 10.
Moving To Greener Pastures
McCourt was drafted by the Bulldogs in the third round (45th overall) in 2016. He has never been able to get going as a member of the Bulldogs, dressing mostly as a seventh defenseman. He only played eight games in the 2016-17 season, scoring once. This season, he has played 26 games. He had one goal and eight assists for nine points.
Staios had this to say about McCourt,
“Riley has been a model citizen and a great teammate here in Hamilton. He has committed himself both on and off the ice over the course of the last two years… Riley has a bright future and we wish him nothing but the best in Flint.”
For a team that is trying to get better after being in turmoil the past couple seasons, McCourt can stick around longer than Mattinen could. McCourt still has two more seasons of junior eligibility after this season. While he is moving to the worst team in the league, he should definitely get more playing time with Flint. He is draft-eligible, after all. While he likely won’t get selected, more playing time will definitely help his case. McCourt had this to say that moving to the Firebirds,
“Just excitement. With all the young talent on the Firebirds’ roster, it’s an exciting time to be moving to Flint… From the fans, to their facilities, to their billets, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Firebirds and how professional everything is conducted. I’m happy to play a part in the future of this hockey club.”
The OHL Trade Deadline is almost here. Will there be any more movement in the hours leading up to it? It would be surprising if the Bulldogs are involved – it finally looks like they’re done.
Toronto Maple Leafs Writer At The Hockey Writers.