Trades are never an easy part of the OHL. Trading away your own family is that much more difficult. For Windsor Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel, it was a necessary evil.
In December 2013, the Spitfires were a team looking for an identity. They had the tools to compete but were a middle-of-the-pack team in a historically strong Western Conference. Warren’s son, Kerby, was a veteran force on the team with 39 points in 27 games. However, that just meant they could get a pretty price for him. It wasn’t something that was desired, but it had to be done.
The Spitfires teamed up with the Guelph Storm to complete a blockbuster trade. Warren sent Kerby and veteran defenceman Nick Ebert to the Storm. In return, the Spitfires got forward Brody Milne, Guelph’s second-round picks in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018, Windsor’s fourth-round pick in 2014 and Kitchener’s third-round pick in 2016.
Deals like this don’t just go quietly into the night. Kerby and Ebert played significant roles on the Storm as they went all the way to the Memorial Cup finals. Kerby had 51 points in 31 regular season games and another 11 goals in 20 playoff games. Ebert had 33 points in 38 games with another 16 points in 20 playoff games.
For the Spitfires, Milne had 15 points in 40 regular season games. It was the picks, though, that have allowed Windsor to create some interesting situations.
Spitfires Get Second Chances
Let’s take a look at how each of the picks has played out for the Spitfires.
Guelph’s second-round pick in 2014 was used on highly-touted forward Clayton Keller. As hard as the Spitfires tried, they couldn’t land the prospect. Keller finished out his time with the US National team before moving on to Boston University in 2016-17. The Coyotes pick will now likely play in the NHL from here-on-out.
The 2015 Guelph second-round pick was part of a significant package of draft picks that landed the Spitfires’ forward Logan Brown. The Niagara Ice Dogs drafted Brown in 2014, but he did not report and was dealt to the Spitfires in August 2014.
The 6’6” 215-pound center came advertised as an offensive threat every time he touched the ice. While had had injury issues with the Spitfires in 2016-17, he still put up 40 points in 35 games. Brown was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
In June 2016, the Spitfires used the Guelph 2017 second-round pick as part of a package to acquire veteran forward Julius Nattinen. The Anaheim prospect scored four points in four games during the 2017 Memorial Cup and is expected to play with San Diego (AHL) in 2017-18.
The last second-round pick from Guelph was the 2018 selection and the Spitfires used that in June 2014 to acquire prospect Luke Kirwan. While the 6’2” 220-pound Kirwan was highly-touted prior to the OHL, he never really got going with the Spitfires with just 23 points in 90 games. The Spitfires dealt him to the Flint Firebirds in 2015-16 where he has seen more success.
Picks Keep Going and Going…
The picks weren’t done yet for Windsor. Warren used the Spitfires’ fourth-round pick in 2014 to draft giant defenceman Nick Gauvin. The 6’5” 210-pound, 16-year old started in Junior B with the LaSalle Vipers, but then hit a rash of injuries. In 2016-17, he got into 15 playoff games for the Leamington Flyers Junior B team. He still has a shot of cracking the Spitfires’ lineup this season.
As we continue on, the Kitchener third-round pick in 2016 was also a part of the Logan Brown trade. It was the Guelph fourth-round pick in 2015, though, that made the trade even more complicated.
In January 2015, Warren made a sudden trade sending forward Ryan Moore to the Oshawa Generals. The fourth-round pick in 2015 was part of that package. In return, the Spitfires received forward Chase Pearson, Oshawa’s second-round pick in 2021 and Oshawa’s third-round pick in 2018.
Pearson never reported to the Spitfires, though. He played with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL before going to the University of Maine in 2016-17. Of course, though, the two picks acquired didn’t stay Windsor property for long.
Warren dealt the second-round pick in 2021 to Niagara as part of the package to acquire veteran forward Graham Knott. The Chicago prospect was at his best under pressure and was ‘Mr. Clutch’ in the 2017 Memorial Cup. Here’s a clip of Knott following the 2015 NHL Draft:
The third-round pick in 2018 appears to have been a part of a rare Windsor/London trade. It went to the Knights while veteran defenceman Tyler Nother came to the Spitfires. Nother, now 19, has become a steady fixture on the Spits’ defence. While he’s not flashy, he gives the team plenty of minutes and plays a physical style that fans love.
It All Adds Up
It was no secret that the Spitfires were hoping to win a title while Kerby was on the team. They just ran into a very strong Western Conference at the wrong time. Kerby and Ebert found success with the Storm, though, winning the OHL title.
The deal helped Windsor create opportunities for themselves down the road. While not all of the picks panned out, you can’t expect every selection to be pristine. Life gets in the way and that’s a part of the game.
Those picks that did work out, though, played a vital role in bringing the Spitfires to where they are today.
While it’s impossible to tell how a trade will work out several years later, this one seems to be a win-win. The Storm got pieces that put them over the top in the OHL. The Spitfires got pieces that brought the city a championship down the road. You can’t ask for much more in a deal.