The Canadian Hockey League recently released the Top 10 Rankings for week 15. From the Ontario Hockey League, four teams made the list; Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (1), Hamilton Bulldogs (6), Kitchener Rangers (7), and the Sarnia Sting (9). As the OHL’s January 9th (overage players), and 10th trade deadlines approach, trade negotiations, rumours and transactions have heated up. With the OHL being considered ‘wide open’ with the exception of Sault Ste. Marie, general managers now have to decide whether they are all in, staying the course or selling off high profile assets.
Around the O: Soo Dominance, Frontenacs All-In
Coming off a Memorial Cup Championship, at the beginning of the season TheHockeyWriters unanimously ranked the Windsor Spitfires 9th in OHL. Despite sitting 6th in the West with an above .500 record, Spitfire Management concluded that this OHL season may not be theirs for the taking given the powerhouses in the Western Conference. The West happens to consist of three of the four recently ranked Top 10 teams in the CHL. On Dec. 14th, the Spitfires dealt leading goal scorer Aaron Luchuk to the Barrie Colts in exchange for 2018 NHL Draft eligible forward Curtis Douglas, a 2nd round pick in 2021, 2nd round pick in 2022, and a 3rd round pick in 2024.
On New Years day, the Spits sent defenceman Sean Day and forward Gabriel Vilardi to the Kingston Frontenacs in exchange for 2017 first rounder Cody Morgan, 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2020, three 2nd round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2025, as well as a conditional 3rd round pick in 2023, and two conditional 2nd round picks in 2027 and 2028.
With players such as goaltender Michael DiPietro and forward Logan Brown still on the Windsor roster, it would not surprise me to see one, if not both players dealt before the official Jan 10th trade deadline.
Greyhounds Keep Winning
It was well documented that the Soo Greyhounds would be a top contender this year in the OHL. However, did anyone predict a 23-game win streak? What is even more impressive is the fact the Greyhounds continued to win games without top players Boris Katchouk and Conor Timmins as both were selected to Team Canada’s World Junior roster. Currently sitting 1st in the OHL and ranked 1st among CHL teams, the Greyhounds find themselves with a very convincing 32-3-2 record while averaging 4.6 goals per game. On Jan 2nd, OHLInsiders rumoured Sault St. Marie to be in contention of acquiring Erie Otters forward Taylor Raddysh who is currently playing for Team Canada at World Juniors.
Sault Ste. Marie is extremely close to acquiring #TBLightning Prospect Taylor Raddysh from the Erie #Otters – Could even be done and backdated at this point as Raddysh is away at the World Juniors. Last I heard, Price tag starts with an 01, 2 2nds and a 3rd. #OHLTradeDeadline
— OHLInsiders (@OHLinsiders) January 2, 2018
It is hard to imagine the Greyhounds acquiring any more star power. Nevertheless, this is the CHL after all, and as every general manager knows, in junior hockey, the window of opportunity to win is short.
Kingston Frontenacs All-In
When the Frontenacs acquired both New York Rangers prospect Sean Day and Los Angeles Kings prospect Gabriel Vilardi from the Windsor Spitfires on Monday, the OHL gained confirmation that Kingston was going all in. For Kingston, they are looking to get over the hump of early playoff exits. As history has shown over the last 10 years, the Fronts have either missed the playoffs or were knocked out of early from playoff contention in rounds one and two. Currently 4th in the East, only one point short of the Niagara IceDogs and 7 points behind 2nd place Barrie Colts, it is clear that Kingston management feels confident heading into the final stretch of the season.
Today, the Frontenacs finalized another piece to their roster by adding London Knights forward Cliff Pu. In return, Kingston traded 2018 NHL draft eligible Nathan Dunkley, along with a 3rd round pick in 2019 and 2nd round pick in 2020. Given Kingston’s position in the standings and no ‘true’ powerhouse team in the Eastern Conference, it is a very bold decision, yet most would agree that it is the right decision for Kingston to go all in this season. The real hurdle for Kingston is to overcome their early playoff round exits.
With six days remaining until the official OHL Trade Deadline, it is highly likely that the OHL trade frenzy has only just begun. With names such as Taylor Raddysh (ERI), Michael McLeod (MIS), Max Jones (LDN), Logan Brown (WSR) and Michael Dipietro (WSR) rumoured to be involved in trade talks, one can only assume the best of the OHL deadline has yet to come.
LONDON, ON – MARCH 26: Gabriel Vilardi #13 of the Windsor Spitfires celebrates a goal against the London Knights during Game Two of the OHL Western Conference Quarter Finals at Budweiser Gardens on March 26, 2017 in London, Ontario, Canada. The Knights defeated the Spitfires 5-2 to even the series 1-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)