It’s only a matter of time before the big four stars acquired right before the OHL trade deadline start making an impact with the Western Conference heavyweights.
Anthony Cirelli, Jeremy Bracco, Mitchell Stephens and Mitchell Vande Sompel were held goalless in their first weekends with the Erie Otters, Windsor Spitfires and London Knights, but it’s clear that none of them will take long to get comfortable in their surroundings.
All three teams were rich in NHL-calibre talent and used the trade deadline to get richer in pursuit of an OHL title and a spot in the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Even though the Windsor Spitfires have their Memorial Cup berth guaranteed as tournament hosts, they want to prove they belong there by claiming the OHL championship.
While London, Windsor and Erie made the most noise at the trade deadline with the star power they picked up, there were other teams who can be viewed as winners, either for the talent they acquired or the youngsters and draft picks they picked up in return for their assets.
The defending Memorial Cup champions dropped a bombshell the day before the deadline by snagging Stephens from the Saginaw Spirit and Vande Sompel from the Oshawa Generals.
GM Rob Simpson wasn’t done there as he made a deal with the Ottawa 67’s for Dante Salituro, who was developing within the Columbus Blue Jackets farm system and was sent down to junior for his overage season following the trade.
The total price tag: Defenceman Ian Blacker to Oshawa, defenceman Chris Martenet to Ottawa and 14 draft picks dispersed to the three teams, seven of them to Saginaw.
During the World Juniors, there was a lot of speculation that Cirelli, then playing for Team Canada, would be dealt from Oshawa to Erie.
The deal came to fruition and as one can expect, the Otters paid a king’s ransom for the versatile centre, giving up 2016 first-round draft pick Allan McShane and five early-round draft picks, two of them conditional.
This came a week after high-end forward Warren Foegele was traded to Erie from the Kingston Frontenacs.
Following the Cirelli trade, GM Dave Brown rounded out Erie’s defensive core with rugged blueliner Cam Lizotte in a deal with the Barrie Colts.
As Memorial Cup hosts, the Spitfires had to go all in and land at least one standout player before the trade deadline.
GM Warren Rychel met that need when they shipped forward Cole Carter, defenceman Andrew Burns and three second-round draft picks to the Kitchener Rangers for Bracco, who enjoyed a 26-game point streak earlier this year and won gold with the United States at the World Junior Championships.
More depth was added to the Windsor lineup when Daniel Robertson and Adam Laishram were picked up from the Generals and Hamilton Bulldogs, respectively.
Lets not forget that the Spitfires made blockbuster deals for Sean Day and Graham Knott in the fall too.
Somebody from the East has to challenge one of the Western juggernauts and, based on their recent pickups, the Petes are clearly determined to do it.
A 10-game winning streak through December put them within striking distance of the Generals for first place in the East and it gave GM Mike Oke confidence to gamble some prospect capital for more established forwards.
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Chris Paquette came at a high price, with goalie Nate McDonald, four second-round picks and a third going the other way to the Niagara IceDogs.
On New Year’s Eve, Nick Grima and six draft picks, including three seconds and two thirds were shipped to the Sarnia Sting for Alex Black and Toronto Maple Leafs draftee Nikita Korostelev.
Also in a position where they’re hoping to contend in the East, the Steelheads have their defensive unit and top two forward lines figured out and needed to pad out their roster with forward depth.
Veterans Jacob Cascagnette from the Rangers and Trent Fox from the Bulldogs were sought after to fill out those roles.
Cascagnette has made a strong first impression in the blue and white with two goals and two assists in his first three games.
GM James Boyd didn’t have to part with much in either trade as they sacrificed five picks, including two thirds, for both players.
They made a splash in November when they got Spencer Watson from the Frontenacs.
Despite climbing to the top of the Eastern Conference a lot sooner than anyone could have expected following their Memorial Cup run in 2015, GM Roger Hunt knew it would be hard to stay there and make a convincing bid to host the 2018 Memorial Cup as well.
There’s no question it would have been tough to have Cirelli and Vande Sompel both graduate to the professional ranks and not be left with much for next year.
Now the draft cupboard is stocked with at least six early-round picks and youngsters McShane and Blacker.
As well, the Generals added veterans Mason Kohn and Matt Brassard in deals with Kitchener and Barrie, respectively.
Owen Sound Attack
GM Dale DeGray was relatively quiet around the trade deadline, but perhaps the best deal was the one he didn’t make.
Michael McNiven has been the best goalie in the OHL this season and was highly sought after by a number of top contenders, but the Attack held onto him and he’s helped them extend their winning streak to a staggering 13 games.
Even with that impressive streak, Owen Sound is fifth in the West, although only five points back of the first place Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Trading for Barrie overager Cordell James has paid immediate dividends as he collected three goals and two assists in his first three games with Owen Sound.
The Attack gave up a fourth-round pick in 2018 in that exchange.Back to Top
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