I had the chance to catch up with OHL Insider and Radio Host Brandon Sudeyko of ‘In The O Radio’ in an e-mail interview to get his thoughts on the OHL Trade Deadline. Brandon has interviewed many of the brightest stars in journey hockey, including Marcus Foligno of the Sudbury Wolves and Casey Cizikas of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
GT: Who were the biggest winners and losers on OHL Trade Deadline day?
BS: It depends how you justify winners and losers. If you get what you wanted to accomplish you are a winner, no? With that said, Trade Deadline day was not as dramatic as many expected. If you are willing to include the 48 hours prior to the deadline on the weekend, it was very busy.
On Saturday the players started packing and leaving and without a doubt, the Saginaw Spirit scream winner to me. The addition of Dalton Prout and Brandon Archibald make them the top two D pairing in Saginaw, which just makes their defense even stronger. You cannot ignore Mississauga adding Michael D’Orazio and Chris DeSousa from London. A shut down defenseman in D’Orazio and a shutdown forward in DeSousa is perfect for the Majors. Not necessarily to win the OHL Championship, but specifically for the Memorial Cup when they do not know what they will encounter from the WHL or the QMJHL. I also like what Barrie did. Their management knew they had to deal their top players to re-stock the cupboards and were able to get the right players in Eric Locke from Windsor, as well as Matt Ashman and Adam Lepkowski from Saginaw. If you ignore the picks those deals were worth it.
As for the losers on deadline day, Owen Sound made an awful trade with Plymouth in which they sent a promising 17-year old in Curtis Crombeen and two draft picks for Jay Gilbert. Whalers GM Mike Velucci stated he would not partake in the wheeling’s and dealings of Trade Deadline day, but this deal came across his desk and he couldn’t ignore it. Another bad deal was Kingston picking up Tyler Brown from London. Kingston made this move for the sake of making a move to stay with the pack in the East. Brown is a gritty winger who likes to rough it up in the corners, but is not going to push the Frontenacs over the top.
GT: Were you surprised that prominent players like Windsor’s Ryan Ellis and Sudbury’s Marcus Foligno remained with their teams?
BS: I made a point on Twitter (@intheoradio) with regards to this by asking if ‘anyone is surprised that there is no talk of Foligno moving? Could Sudbury keep their word?’
The Foligno situation does surprise me because Wolves GM Blaine Smith stated he would not move John McFarland, but he still dealt him, so that is the main reason why I am surprised with the no movement of Foligno. In Windsor’s case with Ellis and Zack Kassian, they were never going to move. There is only one team out there to part with the assets that Warren Rychel wanted for his studs, and that team has an automatic berth in the Memorial Cup. Also, the likes of Steven Shipley and Ryan Spooner were moved earlier in the year so that took out possibilities of the ‘big names’ being moved at the deadline.
GT: Speaking of Windsor, have their moves solidified them as a legitimate contender or have they passed their prime? What was your reaction when the Spitfires acquired Kerby Rychel or was it inevitable?
BS: Ah, Kerby Rychel. It was inevitable because OHL fathers want their kids home. They believe the best environment with their family is to play on the local team or wherever they are and since Barrie scooped him up, rightly or wrongly, Papa Rychel was on a mission. I cannot understand why it took so long for this deal to take place. The closer we got to OHL D-Day I thought it wouldn’t happen. Kerby is playing on a competitive team, getting decent minutes for a 16-year old, going to have a long playoff drive, possibly win the OHL Championship and whether the Majors win or lose that, he is going to experience the Memorial Cup. Along with that invaluable experience is his experience at the World Under-17 Challenege, where he won a gold medal and received a valuable crash course as a rookie in this league. Now he goes home to the Spitfires who have a history of winning, but are not guaranteed anything. So is it better to have it given to you, or to earn it?
As for those Windsor Spitfires, they made several good moves at the deadline. John Cullen wants to be the number one goalie and will absolutely push Jack Campbell to take over the crease. Ellis on the point with Adrian Robertson, Nick Ebert and Saverio Posa is a quality blueline, but they obviously lack the fire power up front from last year. How can you replace Taylor Hall, Greg Nemisz, and Adam Henrique in one year? But bringing in Taylor Carnevale and Jake Carrick, along with the emergence of Tom Kuehnhackl and Alexander Khokhlachev gives them a good chance to have a deep playoff run. Will they do it and make it to their third Memorial Cup? Personally, I think they will fall short, but anything can happen in the playoffs.
GT: What will the additions of Michael D’Orazio and Chris DeSousa bring to the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors?
BS: Mixed feelings here on these two additions to Mississauga. Mississauga prides themselves on having a complete team effort and all buying in for the greater good. Michael D’Orazio will have no problem adjusting to his new team, and considering he is a former captain in the OHL, he will be a good positive presence in the dressing room as well as on the blueline.
By contrast, I don’t think Chris DeSousa can buy fully into this system. His role in London is not going to change now that he is in Mississauga. He is a top shutdown forward who will go up against the other teams’ top lines and do what it takes to keep them off the scoreboard. It is DeSousa’s attitude that may hurt the Majors. The blame won’t be placed on DeSousa if Mississauga fails to win the OHL Championship, but I believe he will not fully reach his potential, or the potential that Head Coach Dave Cameron wants from him. DeSousa will shine at the Memorial Cup when Cameron will be unfamiliar with his WHL and QMJHL and he will be relied on to shutdown the other teams. Overall, the Blueline got stronger with the addition of D’Orazio to provide more experience. As long as DeSousa is motivated, this will be a positive move for Mississauga.
GT: Are there any underrated moves that were made which could pay long term dividends for one team?
BS: I mentioned it earlier that the deal Plymouth struck with Owen Sound was a dud for Owen Sound and brilliant for the Whalers. GM Mike Vellucci knows his team is not going to compete for the OHL Championship, but he had a chance to move a 19 year old for a 17-year old and acquire two draft picks (Saginaw’s second rounder in 2012 and Owen Sounds third in 2013), these will pay long term dividends because those two teams will be on a down swing then. Barrie got younger, but also acquiring superb talent back in the form of Eric Locke, who was leading Windsor in goal scoring prior to the trade. Adam Lepkowski from Saginaw is a carbon copy of Dalton Prout, only three years younger.
London GM Mark Hunter is the smartest GM in this league and should always be named GM of the Year. No matter where the Knights draft, the talent is evident. This year alone, London had four picks in the fourth round of the OHL Priority Draft and three of them are active members on the roster including Andreas Athanasiou, who may not have the points to prove he is a stud, but there is comparable to former Knights’ Nazem Kadri, Corey Perry and David Bolland. These picks will have a huge impact on London for the next six seasons.
GT: Which team is posed to rebuild from today’s transactions?
BS: If by re-build you mean who had a flat out fire sale of talent, I have to say the Soo Greyhounds and London Knights. The Greyhounds are definitely ‘playing dead’ when it comes to competing for the playoffs and it is a shame, really. They have the talent and skill, but were so heavy down the middle that when they were forced to move guys to the wing, but couldn’t get production out of them. There was no leadership in the room by putting the ‘C’ on Brock Beukeboom so no one could really speak up and say ‘hey we are still in this’. They also had issues with their over-agers, which resulted in them being moved out. This rebuild is completely necessary whether or not the General Manager Dave Torrie is still there to pick up the pieces that he helped create.
GT: Were there any players that didn’t move who you expected to be traded?
BS: Call me crazy, but I really expected Josh McFadden to be traded. He is an experience blueliner who is great on the powerplay. You look at his point totals (6 goals and 33 points), you are impressed, but his minus-33 rating turns you off. From all the defenceman that moved this deadline, here is your poor man’s version of them. He will get you points and make an effective powerplay even better. The only other player with any significance that I expected to be dealt is Colin Behenna of the Barrie Colts. The Colts were selling off pieces, so it seemed likely that he could be dealt aswell for a nice package of prospects. There were serious talks with a few teams from the Western Conference, but I suppose the assets were not out there.
GT: Who should fans be watching out for at next week’s (January 19th) CHL Top Prospects Game?
BS: Can I say all 39 players?
In all seriousness, there is going to be an excellent mesh of styles in the game. I remember talking to Devante Smith-Pelly after practice last season and seeing him calm and cool. Then on the ice he is a freight train. He can run you over and if you tried to run him over, you went down. It was phenomenal. But every year there is a stand out like that, someone that you would never expect. Some of the notables include Sean Couturier, Tomas Jurco and Gabriel Landeskog from the Kitchener Rangers. Goaltenders never have a fair chance in these games but Christopher Gibson from Chicoutimi has garnered a lot of attention and I’m interested in seeing him live. For Team Orr, Sven Bartschi of the Portland Winterhawks, Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Saad of Saginaw will be nice to see going up against top level talent and Nathan Beaulieu from the Saint John Sea Dogs.
GT: What are your thoughts on the upcoming Memorial Cup in Mississauga and who do you think will qualify out of the three Canadian junior leagues?
BS: Thoughts of the Memorial Cup in Mississauga, eh? Well, the CHL got it right to have a strong host team for the tournament. But like many critics before me have said, it is a mistake to have the event in Mississauga. The intention and reasoning may not be to promote Junior Hockey to the GTA and surrounding area, but it sure seems like it. And so far it is not paying off. As you know, Toronto is a Leafs’ city, not a hockey city.
I am pulling for Mississauga to pull off an amazing event though. I would like this to be a success and make the city quite a bit of revenue and be a highly talked about Memorial Cup event in years to come. But frankly, I don’t think many people who do not already attend Majors or Brampton Battalion games know the greatest tournament in Junior Hockey, will be played in Mississauga this May. Good attempt at promoting Mississauga and the OHL, but we’ll see if it works or not. I mean one day the IceDogs could return home too right?
Aside from Mississauga from the OHL, I would say it is a toss up between Saginaw and Ottawa. Saginaw is the heavy favourite in the west and Mavric Parks can carry this team if they decide to not score a goal in a playoff game. I say Ottawa because I believe they are the only team to be able to take out Mississauga. Their speed has exposed the Majors this year in their dominant 7-2 victory in Ottawa. This weekend is round two in Mississauga and if they pull out another win in convincing fashion there is no reason as to why Ottawa couldn’t take down Mississauga in a seven game series.
The WHL just got very interesting with their trade deadline just passing as Team Canada Silver Medalists Cody Eakin and Brayden Schenn found new homes. I still think the WHL title goes to the Portland Winterhawks. They are an offensive juggernaut with too much talent to be denied. Saskatoon currently holds first in the WHL but in a playoff series give me Portland in six for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
The Q I think is a one headed monster named the Saint John Sea Dogs. 12 players with at least 20 points with another 3 currently sitting at 19. Include their goaltender Jacob DeSerres who played for Brandon Wheat Kings last season in the Memorial Cup, and they are undoubetly the From top to the most complete team in the Q. So I say Mississauga, Ottawa, Portland and the Saint John Sea Dogs. Maybe not the most out there predictions, but expect highlights galore and an amazing game every night if these four teams make it.
Special thanks to Brandon for taking the time to provide his insight into the OHL. You can check his work at www.intheoradio.com for exclusive player interviews and blogs.