It’s over. The roster that the Hamilton Bulldogs have now is the one they’re stuck with. The good news is that it’s a pretty good roster.
The Bulldogs were in the running to host the 100th Memorial Cup but were unsuccessful. It seems they are doing their best to get there regardless. They hold first place in the Eastern Conference and were one of the three teams that really loaded up at the trade deadline. The others were the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who are the favorites to win the OHL Championship, and the Kingston Frontenacs, who are chasing the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs have made improvements to their forward corps and defense. The team that they have now is almost unrecognizable from the one that started the season. Lets take a look at the moves the team has made leading up to the OHL Trade Deadline.
Nicholas Caamano & Ryan Moore
This might have been over a month before the deadline, but this is the trade that really started everything. It was the first sign of a team gearing up for a playoff run.
It was smart of the Bulldogs to get ahead of everyone, strengthening a team that was first place in the Eastern Conference. Moore has four goals and 19 points since being acquired while Caamano has seven goals and 18 points. These two players enabled the Bulldogs to have three offensively balanced lines.
Moore commonly finds himself as the first-line center between Matthew Strome and Will Bitten. Caamano is the left wing on the second line beside Brandon Saigeon and Marian Studenic. The third can change a bit but usually sees Mackenzie Etwistle as the center with Arthur Kaliyev on his left and Isaac Nurse on his right.
The Bulldogs had to give up second-year forward Connor Roberts as well as draft picks in order to get the deal done. Roberts was a player that was expected to take a big step forward this season. However, that didn’t really happen and that’s what made him expendable.
This was the first trade that the Bulldogs made that sent only draft picks the other way. Stillman had one goal and 13 points as a member of the Oshawa Generals. He has one goal and four points in six games since being acquired. He has been playing on a defense pairing alongside captain Justin Lemcke. No other Bulldog defenseman has shown the jump that Stillman has shown in his short time with the team.
His acquisition gave the Bulldogs even more depth on the blue line. They already had seven defenseman, so this move enabled some of the future trades they made.
Well, this trade took a few days to materialize. As the Gold Medal Game at the World Juniors was starting, rumors started to swirl that the Bulldogs were about to acquire Thomas from the London Knights. It took a few days, but the deal finally went down as the Bulldogs sent Connor McMichael and a bunch of second-rounders to the Kinghts in exchange for Thomas.
The former captain of the Knights, Thomas will bring both leadership and offense to the Bulldogs. He has 20 goals and 46 points this season. That puts him one point up on Bitten for the being the top scorer on the team. He could very well take Moore’s spot on the first line, but will more than likely replace Saigeon on the second line.
Thomas is eligible to return to the OHL next season, but it is seen as likely that he has a strong chance that he will make the St. Louis Blues’ roster. That is why a lot of the second-rounders have a lot of conditions attached. It would be a boon for the Bulldogs if he returned as he would be prime captain material after Lemcke is done with the OHL this season.
While the Bulldogs had depth on the blue line before, but lacked size. The tallest d-man on the roster was Lemcke, who stands at 6-foot-2. Well, that changed with the acquisition of Mattinen. Eclipsing Lemcke by a full three inches, Mattinen stands at 6-foot-5.
Not only does he bring that size, he is also having his best season of his young career. With 22 points, he now ranks second in points from a Bulldogs’ defenseman. Ben Gleason is the only blueliner with more, at 27 points. You can see why the Bulldogs coveted him.
In return, the Bulldogs sent second-year defenseman Riley McCourt and picks to the Flint Firebirds. McCourt never really got a good shot with the Bulldogs as the Bulldogs acquired Kade Landry a bit earlier in the season. He should have more ice-time in Flint, which will be much better for his development.
On Deadline Day, the Bulldogs had finished making their big moves but that did not mean that they were done. They made two smaller deals that were meant to help them long term rather than the playoff push they are currently on.
First, the Bulldogs sent defenseman Rielly Webb to the Saginaw Spirit. The Bulldogs got three draft picks in return, partly recouping a few of the picks they had sent away in the previous deals. Interestingly enough, the Spirit are partly owned by Jimmy Devellano, who is also the senior vice-president and alternate governor of the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings selected Webb in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL Draft. You have to think that might have played a part in the deal.
GM Steve Staios had this to say about Webb’s departure,
“During his time in Hamilton, Reilly showed the ability to handle adversity that will serve him well moving forward… He was an important part of our team both on and off the ice and in the community. The Bulldogs wish Reilly all the best as his career gets a fresh start in Saginaw.”
The Bulldogs got the wheeling dealing started. It was only right the Bulldogs closed it. In the last deal recorded by the OHL, the Bulldogs sent a 12th round pick to the Mississauga Steelheads in exchange for defenseman Jake Gravelle. The rookie blue-liner was selected by the Steelheads in the 12th round of the 2016 OHL Draft.
He has only played eight games with the Steelheads with no points to show for it. He has played 19 games with the OJHL’s Mississauga Chargers, scoring twice and adding seven assists for nine points. He will continue to play for the Chargers for now. He will probably move up to the Bulldogs next season as they will be losing a couple blue-liners.
Toronto Maple Leafs Writer At The Hockey Writers.