The Oshawa Generals could very well have their cake and eat it too.
Approaching the trade deadline, general manager Roger Hunt faced the dilemma of whether to sacrifice some of its young players and draft picks for star power – knowing they were atop the Eastern Conference – in order to contend for a spot in the 2017 Memorial Cup, or sell off some veterans in the hopes of spicing up their line up for next year, when they’re bidding to host the Memorial Cup.
Possibly realizing how tough it would be to beat one of the Western Conference heavyweights in the playoffs – Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Windsor Spitfires may have been a testament to that – Hunt opted for the latter.
Captain Anthony Cirelli and stud defenceman Mitchell Vande Sompel were shipped off to the Erie Otters and London Knights, respectively, for prospect capital.
Their divisional rivals, the Peterborough Petes, were buyers at the deadline and had caught up to Oshawa atop the East, and it’s expected that Peterborough will take that lead for good by season’s end.
But not so fast. A month after the deadline, the Generals are just two points back of the Petes, thanks to Peterborough’s 2-1 win over the Sudbury Wolves on Thursday.
Prior to the Windsor setback, Oshawa had won six of its last seven games, including a 3-2 overtime decision over the Petes.
With at least an eight-point edge over everyone except Peterborough in the East, it’s likely that Oshawa will finish no worse than third, giving them home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
How is that the Generals are in the position they are right now?
For one thing, they’ve gotten an immediate return out of Allan McShane, the OHL’s rookie of the month for January and part of the package Hunt got in return for Cirelli.
Even though Domenic Commisso is the only player averaging roughly a point a game, Jeremy Brodeur has been a linchpin in goal, boasting the league’s fifth best goals-against average and sixth best save percentage.
Lets not forget the clutch contributions from overage defenceman Médric Mercier, an early-season trade pickup from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds who leads all OHL defencemen in power play goals with 10.
It’s going to take everything they’ve got in order to finish ahead of Peterborough, but we’re sure to look back on this season as a great one for Oshawa either way, especially considering they’re only two years removed from their run to the 2015 Memorial Cup crown.
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