The OHL's Early Deadline
In some ways, the OHL is closer to Major League Baseball than it is to the NHL. There is of course, the OHL draft which has long been a lightning rod for criticism because like the Baseball draft, the prospects have the option of reporting or not reporting to the teams that draft them. The other manner in which the OHL and MLB are similar is in how they react to the actions of their marquee franchises.
During the '07-'08 season, the Kitchener Rangers and London Knights completed a deal during the World Junior tournament that sent Steve Mason to Kitchener in return for Steve Tarasuk, Phil Varone (SJS, '09) and later Nazem Kadri (TOR, '09). The Knights and Rangers often times function as the OHL's equivalent of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. This trade, along with others helped spur the OHL to create two new rules.
The first, a reaction to this trade as well as deals between the Windsor Spitfires and Oshawa Generals, and between the Sarnia Sting and Barrie Colts; was a league wide crackdown on "two-part"deals which essentially saw draft picks being traded in place of key players at the trade deadline. Those draft picks would then be traded back to their original team in the offseason for that name player.
The second rule is actually referred to colloquially as the 'Steve Mason Rule'. This prevents players from being dealt while away at the World Junior tournament. This rule has had the effect of creating two in-season trade deadlines in the OHL. The first before Team Canada opens its World Junior camp (this year on Dec. 12) and the other is the standard deadline usually during the second week of January.
This year, this promises to have a unique effect. Barrie's first year General Manager, Dale Hawerchuk, has started selling off his key assets prior to the Dec.12 deadline. Overager Darren Archibald has already been moved to the Niagara Ice Dogs, defenseman Dalton Prout (CBJ, '10) is rumoured be on his way to the Memorial Cup host Mississauga Majors while top centre Taylor Carnevale has been linked to the Majors, Kitchener Rangers and Saginaw Spirit.
If Hawerchuk succeeds in saturating the market prior to December 12th, he will likely find no friends in Windsor's Warren Rychel and Sudbury's Blaine Smith who both have assets that they were hoping to have a richer market for.
The addition of Prout to the Majors roster puts the East out of reach for a lot of teams. It also has an interesting effect on a rumour that has existed since the summer that has had Ryan Ellis (NSH, '09) heading to the Majors in January. The Kingston Frontenacs have already made three major trades this season and only the Ottawa 67s have a chance at battling it out with Mississauga among the rest. The 67s might look to add a Ben Chiarot (ATL, '09) to their defence corps or they might just save their young assets if they see the Majors as too daunting a task.
In the West, Rychel and Smith might find a little more luck. The Guelph Storm have been making moves to shake up their roster lately. The additions of Richard Panik (TBL, '09) and and Kyle Pereira in the last month have stabilized the situation. The Storm could still part with Matt Finn and Zach Mitchell in a decent package to land one more big piece going forward.
If the Rangers miss out on Taylor Carnevale, look for them to kick the tires on a couple names in Sudbury. John McFarland (FLA, '10) has been a person of interest in Kitchener for a few years now. The former first overall pick's performance has yet to meet lofty expectations and many believe a ticket out of the Nickel City might be the only remedy. McFarland's brother Paul played for Kitchener when they won the Memorial Cup in 2003. The question with McFarland is whether potential or performance dictates his trade value. It's hard to foresee Sudbury being pleased with any scenario where they'd have to sell low on such a valued asset.
Marcus Foligno (BUF, '09) will also be of some interest to the Rangers and could be a fit if they lose out on Carnevale.
This leaves only the Zack Kassian (BUF, '09) Sweepstakes to interest us. If both Guelph and Kitchener have made their moves early, then Warren Rychel will be faced with a stiff choice. Does he lower his price for the prized power forward or stand firm and risk getting nothing for him when he graduates this spring? The removal of Guelph and Kitchener leaves only Owen Sound and Saginaw as potential buyers. The Spirit have the assets to complete the deal but might not want to pay Rychel's premium. The same can be said for Owen Sound. Both teams currently sit atop the OHL's two Western Conference divisions and even the loading up of their rivals might not be enough to force a pair of usually prudent GMs in Todd Watson and Dale DeGray to overpay for a valuable player.