OHL powerhouses load up

AEDAN HELMER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The rich got richer at the OHL’s Jan. 11 trade deadline, with eastern and western conference powerhouses loading up for a championship showdown.

The east-leading Barrie Colts netted the biggest fish on deadline day, acquiring Alex Pietrangelo, a standout defenceman on Team Canada’s silver-medal team at the World Juniors, from the Niagara IceDogs for a package of players and draft picks.

The Colts didn’t stop there, adding some grit to their lineup by flipping freshly acquired Chris DeSousa to London for league penalty- minute leader Zac Rinaldo, and shoring up their goaltending position by adding the Kitchener Rangers’ Mavric Parks, of Eganville, to back up starter Peter DiSalvo.

Of course, the defending-champion Windsor Spitfires may have something to say about the Colts’ championship hopes.

Spitfires GM Warren Rychel kicked off the trading frenzy a few days early this year, dealing slick-skating Slovak sniper Richard Panik to Belleville for goaltender Phillip Grubauer in a blockbuster seven-player deal that also sent a package of five draft picks the Bulls’ way.

Rychel added some sandpaper to his forward ranks, acquiring Windsor native Zack Kassian from the Peterborough Petes for Austin Watson and a pair of second-round draft picks.

Rychel told reporters he was “thrilled” to be able to add a player of Kassian’s calibre to an already potent offence that features league scoring leader Taylor Hall with world junior teammates Adam Henrique and Greg Nemisz.

“(Kassian) is a hard-nosed player and local boy who will bring a special element to our team, as he is a highly skilled and tough player,” said Rychel earlier this week.

One Eastern Conference executive said Windsor, with a 34-5-0-4 record, remains “the team to beat” in the OHL this year.

“But Barrie (33-6-0-1) could give them a run for their money if it gets to it. They gave up a lot to get (Pietrangelo) and they’ve still got the depth to make a pretty decent run.”

They’ll have to get through some pretty good teams to get there, he said, including the league’s No. 1 defensive team, the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors, who stood pat at the deadline, and the Ottawa 67’s, who have been steadily climbing the standings since December.

Ottawa GM Brian Kilrea did well, adding Kitchener Rangers’ winger Shane Prince to the scoring mix, sliding comfortably into a second-line role with Cody Lindsay and Tyler Toffoli.

Kilrea said he liked the speed and grit he saw in Prince during several visits to Kitchener this season, and pulled the trigger on a deal once Prince came available.

The 67’s are also benefiting from the long-anticipated return of Corey Cowick from injured reserve.

Cowick has been sidelined all season after shoulder surgery to correct an injury he suffered in the pre-season.

The Senators prospect wasted no time making an impact, throwing his weight around with some crushing hits and netting four goals in his first three games of the season.

With Cowick’s return, Kilrea was forced to make a move with an overager, and sent enforcer Peter Stevens to Sarnia for a pick.

Kilrea also cleared up a logjam on defence by dealing Brian Birkhoff, who had been a frequent scratch lately, to Peterborough.

aedan.helmer@sunmedia.ca

ALL-STARS

There was plenty of local flavour on the OHL All-Star rosters, announced yesterday, with the game going Feb. 3 in Kingston. Ottawa 67’s linemates Tyler Toffoli and Cody Lindsay were named Eastern Conference all-stars, joining Kanata’s Ryan Spooner at forward, with Carp’s Calvin de Haan on defence. Nepean Raiders graduate and Mississauga backstopper Chris Carrozzi, the OHL’s leading goaltender, will be in net for the East. He’ll be staring down the rink at the Soo’s Robin Lehner, who was selected by the Senators in the second round of the 2009 NHL draft.

Orleans native and Kingston Frontenacs defender Erik Gudbranson was named to the 2010 CHL top prospects game, Jan. 19-20 in Windsor.

RANKINGS

The 6-foot-4, 195-lb., Gudbranson is the top-ranked local player according to Central Scouting, which released their mid-season rankings this week. Gudbranson is ranked sixth, while Spooner is projected to go somewhere in the second round of June's NHL draft, ranking 38th among North American skaters. Ottawa 67's forwards Toffoli (22nd), Ryan Martindale (24th), and Dalton Smith (66th) also made the list.

67's IN ACTION

TONIGHT: Peterborough Petes at 67's, 7:30 p.m.

SUNDAY: London Knights at 67's, 2 p.m.


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