OHL Trade Deadline Obscures Playoff Picture
Nine teams believe thye have a shot at making the Memorial Cup out of the OHL this season. Two of them will be proven right. With the Mississauga Majors hosting the annual CHL showcase, they're automatically guaranteed a spot in it. So, in reality, it's the Owen Sound Attack, Saginaw Spirit, Kitchener Rangers, Windsor Spitfires and Guelph Storm who think they can make it out of the West. The Niagara Ice Dogs, Ottawa 67s and Kingston Frontenacs are all gearing up to take shots at the Majors in the East.
How did the trade deadline treat all of them?
The Spitfires sold Marc Cantin and Justin Shugg in the offseason in an early anticipation that they wouldn't be competing for the Memorial Cup for a third straight season. But the development of Tom Kuhnhackl, Alexander Khokhlachev and Nick Ebert has made the Spits contenders again. A minor deal with Sarnia brought in John Cullen to back up Jack Campbell. Warren Rychel's signature transaction will be seen as the acquisition of Taylor Carnevale. The Centre from Barrie will bring a veteran presence to Windsor's top two lines and will give the Spits a legitimate number one centre.
Saginaw's major trade came last month when they acquired John McFarland and Ben Chiarot from Sudbury but they weren't nearly done and they clearly stepped out above the competition at the deadline. The additions of Dalton Prout and Brandon Archibald from Barrie and Sault Ste. Marie respectively, effectively giving the Spirit their top defensive pairing in two major deals. The most impressive part is that Coach/GM managed to bring in these major pieces without giving up promising sixteen year-old power forward Justin Kea. This should give the Spirit the edge in both their division and the conference. They are, by no means, invincible.
The Rangers did nothing at the deadline. Not for lack of trying. Maybe for lack of assets. At this year's trade deadline, draft picks were the major currency and the Rangers simply were overdrawn in that area. They were in on Taylor Carnevale and a few other players but just couldn't make it work. Kitchener can still compete. The returns of Michael Catenacci, Andrew Crescenzi and especially Gabriel Landeskog to their line up will bolster the Rangers. The Rangers are also waiting on the final decision on Jerry D'Amigo which the Leafs have said is likely forthcoming this week or next. If D'Amigo was finally sent down to Kitchener, as he should have been at the start of the season, he'd be just as valuable as the best players actually on the trade market.
Owen Sound Attack
Owen Sound started out the season absolutely on fire. They've definitely tapered off lately though. The additions of Michael Zador and Jay Gilbert are clearly targeted at the emerging problem that the Attack have been having surrendering goals. Gilbert is a big defensive defenseman but not a particularly physical one. He should provide a stay-at-home anchor for the more free ranging offensive weapons that the Attack possess on the blue-line in Jesse Blacker and Geoffrey Schemitsch.
Guelph is putting their chips on the table. They're at the bottom of their division, eleven points behind first place Kitchener and the Rangers have two games in hand on them. But Guelph's core is constructed of NHL drafted 1991s and overagers. In other words, there is no next year. The Storm have brought in Richard Panik and Kyle Pereira prior to today's trade deadline. The addition of big defenseman Stephen Gaskin will help clean up the defensive zone. But if Guelph was serious about contending, they would have gone out and made a serious offer for a goaltender. Brandon Foote's mediocre performance this season won't hold up against the best teams in the west.
The Majors are going to the Memorial Cup. but they still loaded up to put down the rising tide in their own conference. By adding Michael D'Orazio and Chris DeSousa from the London Knights, the Majors have made their defence more formidable and made their forward core deepers and more gritty. Of course, Mississauga's most impactful recent addition will likely prove to be big Russian sniper Maxim Kitsyn.
Niagara Ice Dogs
The Dogs made most of their additions earlier in this season. Recruiting David Pacan from the University of Vermont, trading for Steven Shipley and Darren Archibald. the Dogs are a team built a little more toward next season and as a result they didn't do a lot of major buying at the deadline. They did go out and get a little protection for their smaller, skilled forwards by grabbing enforcer Victor Terreri from the London Knights.
Given the prices at this year's deadline and his team's very strong play of late, Brian Kilrea stood pat at the deadline. Ottawa's trade earlier this year to bring in defenseman Jake Cardwell from Sudbury has yielded excellent results so far and with Petr Mrazek's ability to steal any game he's in if the mood hits him, Killer likely believed his team was good enough to upset the Majors as is. They could very well prove him right.
The Frontenacs, like the Storm, have put all their chips down on this year. But Kingston has slightly more cause. They have a Memorial Cup Champion in goal in Philip Grubauer, a fierce blue-line in front of him and some good offensive weapons. The Frontenacs traded for Ryan Spooner and Sean Jones earlier this season and added gritty checking line forward Tyler J. Brown from London at the deadline. The key for Kingston though is getting healthy. They won't win many games or get very far in the playoffs without Ethan Werek and Ryan Spooner in the line up.