IceDogs locked in and loaded

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:36 AM ET

TORONTO - It was so quiet you could almost hear the crickets chirping.

The Ontario Hockey League’s trade deadline passed relatively quietly Tuesday, with just five minor deals being completed. But after the frenzy of activity in the days leading up to the deadline, when a handful of whoppers went down, it really shouldn’t have come as even a mild surprise.

More than two dozen deals were made in the week before the deadline, bringing the amount of activity to a level we haven’t seen in recent years.

The London Knights and Sarnia Sting joined the stand-pat Plymouth Whalers in what should be a three-horse race in the Western Conference. The Knights added forwards Greg McKegg, a Maple Leafs prospect, and Austin Watson, overage defenceman Brett Cook and solid backup goalie Tyson Teichmann while Sarnia coach/general manager Trader Jacques Beaulieu continued to tinker by acquiring forward Ryan Spooner (as expected), overagers Tyler Brown and Adrian Robertson and star netminder J.P. Anderson.

But the Eastern Conference is still wide open after every contender got in on the action.

The Niagara IceDogs made the biggest splash, landing Team Canada defenceman Jamie Oleksiak in a mammoth trade with the Saginaw Spirit and adding 18-year-old forward Brett Ritchie in a deal with the Sting. With five players who represented Canada on the roster, the ’Dogs are the favourites to come out of the east but it’s not going to be easy.

The Ottawa 67’s, already rich with offensive talent up front, traded for overage centre Mike Cazzola and enigmatic forward John McFarland, the first player picked in the 2008 OHL draft. The Oshawa Generals shored up the back end by grabbing veteran defencemen Geoffrey Schemitsch and Matt Petgrave from Owen Sound and added more offensive punch by acquiring overager Julian Melchiori from Kitchener.

Heck, even the Brampton Battalion, Barrie Colts and Sudbury Wolves made significant moves they think will help immediately.

Here’s a breakdown of where we stand with the GTA (using that term loosely) teams now that the deadline has passed. Yes, it’s OK to exhale.

NIAGARA ICEDOGS

The St. Catharines-based all-star team moved to the front of the class in the conference by grabbing 6-foot-6 Oleksiak to plug in alongside Canadian junior teammates Dougie Hamilton, Freddie Hamilton, Ryan Strome and Mark Visentin.

But Oleksiak came at a stiff price. Niagara had to part with three players, including two prospects who had no intention of playing for the IceDogs, two second-round draft picks, two thirds and an eighth to get him.

“The back end was a bit of an issue for us,” Williamson said. “I’ve been on (Saginaw) a long time for him. I thought (the price) was quite reasonable at the time. I think it was more a keeping-up-with-the-Smiths type of attitude. I think we’ve shored up our team but the East has five or six good teams.”

Almost lost in the shuffle was Williamson’s deal for Ritchie, who was rumoured to be headed to Peterborough for Watson. Ritchie is a big kid who’s struggled with consistency (and injuries) but he’s got at least one more OHL season in him, which helps the IceDogs now and down the road.

All told, the IceDogs traded five second-round picks, two thirds, a fifth, an eighth and a 10th to, essentially, add Oleksiak and Ritchie. Was it too much? We’ll see.

But Williamson has never been shy about making big trades so, really, why would this year be any different?

OSHAWA GENERALS

The under-achieving Gens never had to question their skill up front but on defence, well, it was a bit of a different story.

What a difference a week makes.

The addition of Schemitsch and Pettgrave, two 19-year-olds who won the OHL championship with the Owen Sound Attack last season, instantly makes the Generals a better defensive team. Both can probably help out on the power play, too, so the upgrade should be enough for the Generals to make the playoffs.

“We wanted to address our defence,” Oshawa GM Chris DePiero said. “You look at it, give it time. We waited to see what happened and assess it but maybe it was about time. They’re both mobile defencemen who move the puck well and that was the big thing for us. Hopefully their experience (from last year) will rub off on the rest of the group.”

The Generals also brought in Melchiori, a Winnipeg Jets prospect, for the low-low price of two fourth-round picks. Melchiori was made expendable in Kitchener when the Boston Bruins sent overage winger Tyler Randell back to junior.

BRAMPTON BATTALION

Not wanting to tinker with how well his team has meshed or give up a second-round pick (again), Battalion coach/GM Stan Butler simply added some sandpaper up front by acquiring Derek Froats from Kingston for 17-year-old winger Adam Lloyd.

It’s hard to argue with the decision. Somehow, the Battalion, a team picked by many to finish out of the playoffs this season, are in the hunt for first place in the conference.

“I think the strength of our team is the chemistry. We’re stronger as a group than as individuals. You’ve got to look at how it all fits and Froats is a good fit for our team. He’s a know quantity to our guys. And getting Ian Watters back is as good as a trade.”

MISSISSAUGA ST MIKE’S MAJORS

After building torwards last year’s Memorial Cup berth, the Majors were bound for a letdown this season.

It just took longer than expected. But with the Majors likely fading down the stretch, coach/GM James Boyd opted to unload Anderson, overage centre Jordan Mayer and 19-year-old forwards Derek Schoenmakers and Joseph Cramarossa in an effort to restock the shelves.

“We felt with the market and the price of some of the players, it would be disasterous to add a couple of pieces,” Boyd said. “J.P. was the crown jewel. But it’s a painful thing when you trade a kid like J.P. The other side of the coin, what makes it more palatable, is the picks involved are extremely valuable.”

Boyd re-couped five second-round picks (two in each of the next two years) and two fifths, plus OA goalie Brandon Maxwell and draft-eligible forward Kristoff Kontos. And that ain’t a bad way to start re-loading.


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