The Erie Otters needed a forward. They didn’t wait long to get their guy.
On Monday, the Otters acquired forward Kyen Sopa and a 13th round pick from the Niagara Icedogs in exchange for three picks, a 2022 second rounder (Erie), a 2023 third rounder (Sault Ste. Marie) and a 2022 eighth rounder (Erie).
On the surface, this seems like an overpay by the Otters. But a closer examination reveals this is the going rate for a player like Sopa.
Sopa is in his second season in North America after the Icedogs picked him in the first round of the 2018 CHL Import Draft. He recorded 19 goals and 31 points in 55 games in 2018-19. He’s improved on that this season by scoring 14 goals and 31 points in 30 games this season. He also competed for Team Switzerland at the World Junior Championships recording one assist.
Otters GM Dave Brown is very pleased with the deal and what Sopa brings to the team.
“Today we added a player that possesses a furtive ability to finish, plays with a gritty edge that agitates opponents, and who competes while doing the little things we need for the battle ahead,” Brown said of Sopa. “Kyen no doubt will add depth to our lineup and help us in our push for the Western Conference playoffs.”
So what does this deal mean for the Otters this season? Let’s dive in and we’ll address some other questions.
Otters Needed a Forward
It was no secret the Otters needed help up front. In Sopa, the Otters get a top-six forward who can play in all situations. His presence allows the Otters to balance their lines, something that’s been needed for some time. They can now send out three solid lines when the team is healthy.
Speaking of health, Brown said Monday that Mathew MacDougall has been medically cleared. He just needs to get into game shape. Once he returns and Austen Swankler returns from his upper-body injury, the Otters will send out their best lineup they’ve had all season. Due to the numerous injuries, they haven’t fielded a healthy roster once.
The Otters had to pay up to get Sopa. The price of a second, third and eighth is comparable to the Matthew Struthers deal. Owen Sound paid a second, third and sixth to get Struthers. But in Sopa, the Otters get a better defensive player and they get a draft pick back as well.
It does create a logjam of 2000-born forwards who are OA’s next season. But as Brown notes, that’s the norm around the league. Most teams have five or more players in that range on their roster.
But at the end of the day, this move gives a spark to the team when they needed it. They are coming off a 2-1 road trip and have two home games this coming weekend. New gold medalist Jamie Drysdale will be back. Sopa is expected to be in town and available, but they are working through immigration paperwork. MacDougall could be in the lineup. It will be a new look lineup that should produce decent results.
Are the Otters Done With Moves?
There will always be talking from now to the deadline and there may be some deals to be had, but from an Otters perspective, unless something unexpected comes up, this is likely their biggest deal. They certainly aren’t looking to give up that kind of package of picks again unless it’s a superior player.
So don’t expect another Sopa-like deal for the Otters but something minor could come along. There will certainly be some movement around the league with players like Akil Thomas likely having a new home by next week.
Sopa is expected to make his Otters’ debut against his former team the Icedogs. It’s the same thing that defenseman Drew Hunter got to experience after his trade to the Otters. He debuted against the Icedogs.
The Otters are fighting for their playoff lives. They enter the week eighth in the West but just one point ahead of Owen Sound. They are also just one point back from sixth.
They made their move. They got their guy. The race is on to the OHL playoffs. With Sopa, the Otters hope he brings a much needed spark to the team. Only time will tell on that one.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.