With the OHL trade deadline officially passed, the Erie Otters (and their fans) can get settled in for a less-volatile second half of the season. The Otters have made their moves and solidified their roster with a couple of key trades — most notably, the trade with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds involving Taylor Raddysh and Jordan Sambrook in exchange for 2017 first-rounder Hayden Fowler and a whopping nine draft picks.
The second trade that came just the day before the deadline involved Otters’ defenseman Mitchell Byrne, who was dealt to the Kingston Frontenacs for a sixth-round pick in 2018 and a thirteenth-round pick in 2020.
Just hours before the Byrne trade, Erie acquired overager (OA) Troy Lajeunesse from the Sudbury Wolves in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2020. Lajeunesse takes goaltender Troy Timpano’s third OA spot on the roster, as the team also announced the release of Timpano following an extended period of inactivity due to an undisclosed injury.
Restocking the Picks Department
The Otters were in desperate need of replenishing their future draft picks after trading many of them away to go all in for their championship runs over the past few seasons. General manager Dave Brown set out wanting to get a good return for some of the veteran players that likely would not be on the roster next year, in order to secure a bright future for the franchise.
It’s the Soo’s turn to go all in for the championship this year, and Raddysh and Sambrook are elated for the chance to contribute to yet another championship run. Raddysh tweeted that “winning a championship last season was one of the biggest accomplishments I have ever been a part of,” and that quote comes even after winning a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Buffalo just the day before the trade was announced.
“Both Taylor and Jordan were instrumental in helping us create memories that the city of Erie, the organization and teammates will remember forever and we’re evermore thankful for their contributions,” said Brown in a press release on trading two of our remaining staple veterans from Erie’s OHL Championship season.
On top of replenishing Erie’s future draft pick pool, Brown simultaneously added yet another first round pick in Hayden Fowler, drafted by the Soo just two spots before our own Emmett Sproule in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.
“In acquiring Hayden, we have brought in a young man who carries many of the core traits this organization wants in a player in the locker room and on the ice,” said Brown. “We are thrilled with what Hayden can add to our already exciting group.”
Young Gets Younger
The new additions to the Otters have pushed the team’s mean age well below 18. This is Hayden Fowler’s first year in the OHL. Being traded is a lot to handle for someone who is already still just trying to find their footing in this league, but the sixteen-year-old center has managed the ordeal very well thus far. Perhaps his self-described sunny personality has to do with his seemingly smooth adjustment coming to Erie from Sault Ste. Marie, but he has prioritized staying positive and recognizes the special opportunity he’s been given here.
The Greyhounds have some incredible talent on their roster—the likes of Morgan Frost and Boris Katchouk are the epitome of high-powered offensive talent—but that same asset can also be a hindrance to rookies like Fowler who aren’t allotted much ice time subsequently.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to being able to contribute more to this team,” Fowler muses, “maybe a little more than I did with the Soo. They have a great talented group of guys there. I think I’ll have a better chance here.” Fowler played in 33 games with the Soo, mounting two goals and two assists. He averaged just under a shot on goal a game, but that number should begin to rise substantially as he’s integrated into a younger team that is in need of some scoring prowess.
“I think I can bring a little more scoring and play-making [to the Otters].” Fowler considers himself a fast and skilled style of player, and cites Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins as his favorite NHLer and a shining example from which to model his style of play after.
Ringing in the New Era
Fowler is looking forward to his first home game in Erie this Saturday against the Niagara Ice Dogs, acknowledging that “it’s going to be exciting,” but nerves shouldn’t be too much of a factor since it’s “probably a lot like the home games in the Soo.” Of course it’s not the same, since it’s a brand new city, new arena, new teammates, and new style of play to get used to, but the experience Fowler has gained in Sault Ste. Marie will undoubtedly come in handy in not only the coming days in Erie, but for years to come.
At the end of the day, Fowler exhibits the right mindset for the job at hand: “There’s definitely a bit of pressure, but I try not to think about that too much and I’ll just try to do my best.”
Erie/Pittsburgh, PA | Erie Otters; Junior Hockey | Editor-in-Chief of The Grizzled Vet | Formerly: University of Pittsburgh D1 Hockey Journalist