When a team makes a deal during the rebuild process, they often acquire pieces that can be used now and well into the future. The Windsor Spitfires don’t always do things the normal way, though. Sometimes, their firesales help in the short term.
In 2016-17, Spitfires’ then-general manager Warren Rychel went all-in prior to hosting the 2017 Memorial Cup. A year later, he needed to get the youth and picks back, so the firesale began.
One of the bigger deals came on Jan. 8, 2018 with the Kitchener Rangers and those pieces are already becoming a factor for the Spitfires. Let’s take a look at how the deal shook out and why both teams benefitted so quickly from it.
The Future Is Now
To Kitchener Rangers:
- F Logan Brown
- D Austin McEneny
To Windsor Spitfires:
- D Grayson Ladd
- Saginaw Spirit’s 2nd round pick 2018
- Saginaw Spirit’s 3rd round pick 2018
- Kingston Frontenacs’ 2nd round pick 2019
- Kitchener Rangers’ 5th round pick 2019
Rangers Get Rewarded
With stars like Adam Mascherin, Joseph Garreffa, and Kole Sherwood, the Rangers were already a loaded team heading into the deadline. They just needed to top off the tank.
In Brown, they got the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Ottawa Senators’ prospect who had 24 points in 17 regular-season games and another 27 points in 19 playoff games. While they were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals, Brown did everything he could to get them to glory.
McEneny shored up their defence with 10 points in 26 regular-season games, adding another four points in 12 playoff games. The Spitfires brought him in as a free agent prior to their Memorial Cup win and he showed his worth with the Rangers.
While the Rangers didn’t win the OHL title, making it to the Western Conference final was an accomplishment on its own. The conference was no joke and they gave the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds everything they had.
Spitfires Get Their Ladd
It was tough to argue the return coming to the Rose City.
Young defenceman Grayson Ladd was the key piece for Rychel. The 13th overall pick in the 2017 OHL Draft has an incredible upside. At 16, he was a steady, 6-foot-1, 175-pound smooth skater who was reliable in his own end, could make that crisp first pass, and was able to chip in on the scoresheet.
While he took some time to adjust to his new team, and the league as a whole, Ladd has shown his true colours. In 2018-19, he had 18 points in 48 games before a season-ending injury. This season, he’s showing he’s ready for more with 8 points in 17 games.
He wasn’t drafted by the NHL in 2018 but he’s using that as motivation. Ladd has become a top-four defenceman for the Spitfires and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a pro club take a flyer on him in the near future.
What happened to the picks?
The Picks Paid Off
Saginaw Spirit’s Second-Round Pick in 2018:
The Saginaw Spirit’s second-round pick in 2018 became forward Kyle McDonald. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound winger has been a treat for the club. The Ottawa native had 15 points in 2018-19 and was a part of Team Canada at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
He went down late last season with an injury, but he’s found his groove early this season. With 9 points in 17 games, he’s getting a regular role on the second-and-third lines.
McDonald is your typical big winger, using his size along the boards to create chances for both himself and teammates. It’s taken him a bit of time to get used to the OHL pace but the Spitfires have a good one here.
Saginaw Spirit’s Third-Round Pick in 2018
Chosen after McDonald, defenceman Dylan Robinson is being brought along slowly by the Spitfires. In 2018-19, he got a sniff of the league with four points in eight games. At this season’s training camp, he bulked up to 6-foot-5, 185-pounds and showed he belonged full-time.
The result has been scoring six points in 18 games, becoming a steady force in his own zone (plus-six rating), and getting regular minutes. He’s also getting looks from the NHL.
While he has yet to show the grit you’d expect, he had 102 penalty minutes last season with LaSalle Jr. B, so he’s not afraid to get dirty.
Robinson is steadily progressing and, being only 17, has his career in front of him. Look for him to be an integral part of the defence for a long time.
Kingston Frontenacs’ Second-Round Pick in 2019
When you have a blockbuster deal, it’s rare that all of the picks stay with one team. Some tend to pinball around the league until someone uses them.
Such is the case for the Kingston Frontenacs’ second-round pick in 2019 that came to the Spitfires. It bounced from the Frontenacs to the Rangers to the Spitfires and finally to the Peterborough Petes, who ended up using it.
The Spitfires sent the pick to the Petes, along with several other picks, in return for 2018 third-overall pick Will Cuylle.
Cuylle had a 26-goal rookie season for the Spitfires and has 6 goals and 13 points in 18 games in 2019-20. He’s among the top prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft.
While this is a deal to examine down the road, it has worked out for the Spitfires so far.
Kitchener Rangers’ Fifth-Round Pick in 2019
This was the strangest pick by far. Rychel used it on defenceman Isa Parekh, which turned the franchise upside down.
Isa’s father, Dr Azim Parekh of Markham, was set to buy the Spitfires in a sale that hit the media on Apr. 8, just 24 hours prior to the draft. When Rychel selected the 5-foot-9, 134-pound blueliner (listed as low as 114 pounds), fans made their voices heard.
It was a controversial move given Isa wasn’t rated near the fifth round nor was he anywhere near ready for the OHL. If he was taken in a later round, which isn’t uncommon for friends and family, nobody would have thought twice.
Once the sale to Parekh failed a month later, and the Spitfires restructured their ownership, the draft talk settled down. Isa came to training camp in August with his brother Aydin (chosen a week later in the Under-18 Draft), but both were cut along with a host of others.
Isa is now playing in the Toronto area, though his stats are currently unavailable.
The whole situation was tough, as Parekh simply wanted to play hockey. It goes to show that one pick really can make a world of difference for a hockey club.
A Win-Win Deal
Rychel was never one to shy away from sending, or acquiring, several picks for a player. Much of the time, those picks were for several drafts down the road. On occasion, though, you get a blockbuster deal that benefits both clubs almost right away. This was the case with the Brown/McEneny deal.
The Rangers got the best that they could out of Brown and McEneny, getting to the conference finals. While the goal is always the Memorial Cup, there wasn’t much more they could do.
Meanwhile, the Spitfires have several young talents on their way to competing in the near future. Sure, there was some controversy along the way but that’s life in the OHL. It rarely goes smoothly. Both teams got what they wanted, though, and that’s what it’s all about.
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.