When your mentor was one of the most active general managers in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for 10-plus seasons, you learn a thing or two. Windsor Spitfires’ GM Bill Bowler hasn’t been one for the spotlight during his three seasons but, with the trade deadline quickly approaching, he’s finally showed the league that he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve.
Bowler is relatively new to the job, taking over for long-time GM Warren Rychel in July 2019. While the mentor was active every season, the protégé has taken a far quieter, more calculated approach to just about everything. It’s meant an adjustment, not only for the team but for the fans, too. However, while he’s shown a different style, sometimes it’s just playing possum. On Wednesday afternoon, he shocked the OHL, pulling off three trades and proving he’s not going to sit around and watch.
Let’s dig into the craziness of the deadline…
Buying Season at WFCU Centre
For over a decade, fans expected Rychel to pull off a few big deadline moves that either put the team over the top or set them up for future success. That hasn’t been Bowler’s style, though… until maybe now?
With the club showing it can compete with anyone in the Western Conference and sitting near the top of the West Division, Bowler got the ball rolling and the OHL talking.
He started by getting 19-year-old goaltender Matt Onuska from the London Knights in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2022 and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2024. It was a (very) rare trade between the 401 rivals.
Then, just hours later, Bowler pulled off two major deals. First, he acquired 20-year-old defenceman Andrew Perrott from the Owen Sound Attack. In return, the Spitfires sent a second-round pick in 2022, a third-round pick in 2023, a third-round pick in 2025, and a sixth-round pick in 2024 the other way.
Shortly after, the club sent 20-year-old defenceman Grayson Ladd and 19-year-old forward Kyle McDonald to the North Bay Battalion. In return, the Spitfires get 19-year-old forward Joshua Currie, a second-round pick in 2022, a third-round pick in 2023, and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2023.
Teams can only carry three 20-year-olds, and the Spitfires had all of their spots filled (Ladd, fellow defenceman Louka Henault, and forward Daniel D’Amico). Once Perrott was in the mix, someone had to go. Ladd was the odd-man-out.
The moves sent shockwaves through the league, shades of the Rychel era dancing in the Spitfires’ heads. Nobody can argue that Bowler’s not willing to pull the trigger.
Spitfires Bring in Toughness, Size
With three deals in one day, Bowler has silenced his critics. What are the Spitfires getting out of this, though? A little bit of everything!
Perrott is the big fish of the day. The 6-foot, 215-pound defenceman had 22 points and 34 penalty minutes in 23 games for the Attack this season. He’s similar to former tough guy Sean Allen; that crease-clearing style but with more offense. In a statement, he said he’s excited to play for the Spitfires.
“It feels amazing,” Perrott said. “It is a historic franchise and a lot of winning culture from prior history. I am excited to work with the coaching staff as well.”
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Currie was the Battalion’s sixth-round pick in 2018. He had 17 points in 28 games and, while it seems like a mild downgrade, he’ll get a chance to break out in the Spitfires’ offensive-minded systems. Onuska has spent most of his career behind stud goaltender Brett Brochu, playing only three games this season. However, he’s eager to show his stuff in his new crease.
What did the Battalion get? Ladd had over 150 games with the Spitfires as a steady defenceman who’s solid in the room. McDonald was the club’s second-rounder in 2018. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound forward was having a career season with 27 points in 25 games. It’s tough losing them, but you have to give something to get it.
Bowler needed to make a statement. The club is looking to win this season while keeping its young core (Wyatt Johnston, Pasquale Zito, Ethan Miedema, etc.) for the future. He learned from Rychel and is now applying the techniques. Don’t be surprised if more moves are coming.
The deadline for overage players is Fri., Jan. 7 at noon, while everyone else is noon on Mon., Jan. 10.
A nearly life-long resident of Windsor, ON, I graduated from St. Clair College (Journalism) and University of Windsor (Communications) and have attended Windsor Spitfires’ (and OHL) games for 30-years. My areas include multimedia journalism and photography.