The OHL trade deadline officially hit at noon on Tuesday and three teams hit their target.
Both the Eastern and Western Conferences have tremendous battles taking place to determine who will join Windsor in the 2017 Memorial Cup. In the West, Sault Ste. Marie, Erie, London and Windsor are the top four teams with little separation between them. The East has a similar story as Oshawa, Mississauga, Peterborough and Hamilton lead the way.
The two weeks leading up to the trade deadline came as advertised — a series of high-end deals that positioned teams to take that run into the post-season. The prices were high, but that didn’t stop a few teams from sending a clear message.
While many deals take years to sort out, some teams have specific goals in mind for this season or next. Now that the dust has settled, let’s look at which teams were most successful in hitting their target for the deadline.
Three Stars of the Deadline
1. London Knights
After losing significant offensive talent to the pros in the summer, some questioned whether the dynasty was over. Veteran forward Cliff Pu and a host of others, though, have stepped up to help London be near the top of the conference. The Hunters weren’t satisfied, though.
They made a huge splash just prior to the deadline by bringing in hometown favourite Mitchell Vande Sompel from Oshawa. The veteran defenceman is offensively gifted, a New York Islanders prospect and will stabilize the defence. Youngster Ian Blacker and picks head back up the 401 to Oshawa.
Soon after, they went out and acquired the rights to 20-year-old sniper Dante Salituro from Ottawa. They gave up 20-year-old defenceman Chris Martinet and picks. Salituro was playing in the ECHL but has reported to the Knights.
Finally, the Knights swung a deal with Saginaw obtaining Team Canada forward Mitchell Stephens for five picks and a conditional pick. The 5’10″, 190-pound offensive leader of the Spirit had 28 points in 22 games.
London bringing in three major talents was impressive. What is even more impressive, though, is that they only gave up two bodies — Blacker to Oshawa and Martinet to Saginaw. While they dealt a ton of picks, those can be recuperated over time. Vande Sompel provides instant offence from the back-end, while Stephens and Salituro provide top-line production to a team that has plenty of that already.
The Knights won the 2016 Memorial Cup and they’re doing everything they can to ensure they defend their throne come May.
2. Oshawa Generals
Being in first place but aiming for the 2017-18 season is a complex situation. For general manager Roger Hunt, though, there was only one real solution. Hunt made two difficult moves before the deadline, sending forward Anthony Cirelli to Erie and defenceman Mitchell Vande Sompel to London.
While trading two key players while in first place look odd, it makes perfect sense right now. Oshawa is one of two OHL finalists to host the 2018 Memorial Cup and the team was always built for the 2017-18 season.
Dealing Cirelli and Vande Sompel brought back two very young, but very talented players in forward Alan McShane and defenceman Ian Blacker. The Generals also received several picks, which can be used next year to shore up their roster.
This was a bold but necessary move for the Generals. They’re still in the thick of the playoffs, too, and any playoff experience gained this year will be invaluable next season.
3. Peterborough Petes
This was a huge deadline for the Petes and general manager Mike Oke delivered. The team was in a battle with the City of Peterborough to prove they could generate revenue. Coming up to the deadline, the Petes had proven talent. They were right on the heels of the Generals for the top spot in the conference. They also had several picks to help sweeten any trade.
One of the elite forwards on the market was Sarnia’s Nikita Korostelev. Oke pulled the trigger on a huge deal on New Year’s Eve. He sent young defenceman Nick Grima to Sarnia with six picks in return for Korostelev and veteran defenceman Alex Black.
Closer to the deadline, the Petes also made three others deals, including acquiring youngster Chris Paquette from Niagara in a package deal.
Oke was willing to trade several picks to bring in talent, helping the team now and in the long term. Bringing in the talent showed the team, its fans and the city of Peterborough that he’s willing to do what was necessary to better the team.
What also helped the Petes were moves made by the Generals before the deadline. The Generals are still prime for the playoffs, but now Peterborough is the team to beat in the East.
It’s looking like a fun second-half for Petes fans and the city of Peterborough.
Windsor Spitfires – General manager Warren Rychel did a lot of his heavy lifting prior to the Christmas break. He brought in forwards Jeremiah Addison, Graham Knott and Julius Nattinen, along with defenceman Sean day — adding significant offence to the team.
Here’s a clip of Nattinen scoring between the legs while shorthanded earlier this season:
Rychel wasn’t finished, though.
At the deadline, he made more moves to solidify Windsor’s offensive weapons and overall depth. The Spitfires acquired veteran forwards Jeremy Bracco from Kitchener and Adam Laishram from Hamilton, along with veteran defenceman Daniel Robertson from Oshawa.
Bracco gives Windsor an elite top-six forward group, while Laisham is a water-bug-type forward that brings minutes and depth, Robertson is a local product who can stabilize the defence.
Despite giving up forward Cole Carter and defenceman Andrew Burns in the Bracco deal, the Spitfires checked off three areas that needed addressing. Windsor is already in the Memorial Cup but there is always room for improvement on a roster. With both London and the Erie Otters loading up before the deadline, the Spitfires had to hit the mark and Rychel did that.
Injuries were a big factor for the team in the first half of the season, but the team is healthy now so it’s time to put lines together and see what they’re made of.