Bulldogs Strengthening Their Playoff Push

The OHL’s Trade Deadline is nine days away and it looks like it’s going to be a busy time. The Hamilton Bulldogs enter 2018 as the top team in the Eastern Division and are definitely in a position to make a run in the playoffs. They have won 16 out of their last 22 games and only sit behind the dominant Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the entire OHL.

The Bulldogs have already gotten in on making moves ahead of the deadline. On Nov. 25, the Bulldogs acquired forwards Nicholas Caamano and Ryan Moore in exchange for Connor Roberts and a package of draft picks. That move has already paid dividends as the two have a combined 30 points since they were acquired.

That move improved the Bulldogs’ offense, their next move improved their defense. On Dec. 28, they sent another package of picks to the Oshawa Generals in return for defenseman Riley Stillman. While he has only played three games with the team, he has already made an impact.

Riley Stillman Oshawa Generals
Riley Stillman (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Changes are Coming

General manager Steve Staios has made it clear that the Bulldogs are going for it this season. After being eliminated in the first round last season, they can’t afford to have the same result again. Lots of changes are going to happen in the offseason and the Bulldogs are going to be a much younger team in the 2018-19 season.

This means that the 2017-18 season is all or nothing for the Bulldogs. Caamano and Will Bitten will more than likely be playing in the AHL next season. Moore, Justin Lemcke and Connor Walters are over-agers this season and are ineligible to play next season.

The biggest change that will come is the fact that the Bulldogs have nine players that will be over-agers next season. Those players are Kaden Fulcher, Stillman, Jack Hanley, Benjamin Gleason, Caamano, Bitten, Owen Burnell, Brandon Saigeon and Marian Studenic. Since an OHL team is allowed only three over-agers, they will be forced to make some moves in the offseason. Since that list of players contains a good portion of the Bulldogs core, these moves will weaken the team.

Hamilton Bulldogs
The Hamilton Bulldogs. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

So, can we expect the Bulldogs to make more moves leading up to the trade deadline? Don’t be surprised to see at least one more move. They still have one import slot open to use since their pick from this past draft, Joni Ikonen, elected to play in Finland this season. If the Bulldogs are doing everything they can to give themselves the best chance at success, why not fill that spot? Even if it doesn’t fill that spot, more depth is never a bad thing in a playoff run.

Staying Ahead of the Pack

Another reason to continue making moves is, of course, other teams. The Kingston Frontenacs, for example, just made a big move to acquire Gabe Vilardi and Sean Day from the Windsor Spitfires. The Frontenacs are 10 points behind the Bulldogs in the East Division and have been and will continue to be a thorn in the Bulldogs’ side for the rest of the season. This move will only make them stronger. Who knows what kind of moves could be made by other teams in the coming week?

The Bulldogs have played themselves into a position that they are the team being chased in the Eastern Conference. They are not safe in that spot, though. The Barrie Colts are just three points behind them. The Niagara IceDogs and the previously mentioned Frontenacs are just a bit further behind.

With two and a half months to go in the season, there’s still a lot of time for the standings to change. The Bulldogs are going to have to continue their strong play to keep their spot in the standings and succeed in the playoffs. The next nine days are sure to be interesting for OHL fans to watch unfold. Whether or not the Bulldogs will continue to be involved is the question.