The eight most important trades in the OHL so far this season

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On Sunday, the Erie Otters hit the jackpot when the Arizona Coyotes returned Dylan Strome to the OHL after a seven-game NHL look-see at the 19-year-old. He has averaged 1.9 points per game with Erie the past two seasons and won the OHL scoring title two years ago with 129 points.

Strome re-joins and Erie club that was was listed as No. 2 in the most recent CHL Top 10 Rankings and will add even more offence to a team that leads the OHL in goals scored and boasts the loop’s two top point producers in Taylor Raddysh and Alex DeBrincat. Look out.

His return will certainly mean more to the OHL than simply an addition of star power, it also changes the landscape when it comes to contenders loading up in their bids to join Windsor at the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

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There have been 35 trades in the OHL since the Memorial Cup ended in May, with a handful having potentially meaningful impacts on how this campaign will play out. In some cases that’s because of the players involved, in others it’s about the picks that transferred and how they can—or already have been—used as the campaign continues.

There will certainly be more to come, but these are the eight most important OHL trades of the season so far.

No. 8 Kirill Nizhnikov to Barrie

Date From Package To Haul
Sept. 7 MISS Kirill Nizhnikov, RW BAR GUE 2 2017
        BAR 2 2023
        BAR 3 2019
        WSR 3 2019
        BAR 3 2020
        FLNT 4 2017
        BAR 3 2021*
        BAR 3 2022*
        BAR 4 2021*
        BAR 5 2021*

This can be sold two ways: “Colts acquire young sniper” or “Steelheads load up on trade chips”.

After being selected seventh overall from the Toronto Jr. Canadiens Nizhnikov was moved to Barrie for a whack of picks—perfect for a team with intentions to contend. At the time, the Steelheads were looking like a potential powerhouse, and in the mediocre East that could still come true.

The Colts are in full rebuild and wanted a player to build the team around. “Kirill brings an infusion of pure young skill into the lineup,” said GM Jason Ford in a trade release.

If the Steelheads had gotten off to abetter start, this trade would rank higher.

No. 7 Julius Nattinen to Windsor

Date From Package To Haul
26-Jun BAR Julius Nattinen, C WSR Kyle Auger, D
    BAR 12 2017   GUE 2 2017
        FLNT 4 2017

Anytime you’re gearing up to host a Memorial Cup and can get your hands on a 19-year-old forward who can play in your top six and has a World Junior Championships title on his CV, you do it. Nattinen had 71 points in 52 games for Barrie last season and added three more for Finland en route to gold on home ice.

“He has puck patience, a good hockey IQ and good size, too,” Spitfires GM Warren Rychel told the Windsor Star in July. “He protects the puck well. He fits into our top six really nicely.”

The Anaheim Ducks second-rounder has four goals and 14 points in 13 games with Windsor and is fourth on the team in 5-on-5 points per game. Auger has since been traded again, to the 67’s for a third-rounder.


No. 6 Vili Saarijarvi to Mississauga

Date From Package To Haul
24-Jun FLNT Vili Saarijarvi, D MISS Everett Clark, C
        MISS 4 2017
        MISS 2 2018
        MISS 5 2019
        MISS 2 2023*

This move hasn’t paid off at all yet, but it will begin to this week. Saarijarvi posted 12 goals and 43 points with the Firebirds in 2015-16 and added four more with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, then asked out of Flint after the season. “Vili’s representation made it very clear that a move was necessary or we risked losing him to the Finnish Elite League,” GM George Burnett said after the trade with the Steelheads.

The Red Wings third-rounder was hurt in August at a Finnish world junior evaluation tourney. What was first believed to be a minor injury turned into wrist surgery delaying his debut with Mississauga. Saarijarvi will be in a Steelheads uniform for the first time Friday when they take on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He’ll raise the tean’s transition game, add slick playmaking and should be a force on the power play.

No. 5 Spencer Watson to Mississauga

Date From Package To Haul
Nov. 3 KGN Spencer Watson, RW MISS SAR 2 2017
        MISS 2 2020
        WSR 3 2019
        MISS 7 2017*

This is where some of those picks come into play that the Steelheads have been collecting in recent years. Watson hasn’t yet played a game as he recovers from a wrist injury, but if Mississauga is going to get things in gear later in the season, Watson will play a big role.

“He’s just what the doctor ordered as an older player to our team,” GM James Boyd said at the time of the trade.

The Steelheads best players are all 18 or younger. Adding a veteran presence with proven scoring ability could be huge for the team as it attempts to turn things around.

No. 4 Will Bitten to Hamilton

Date From Package To Haul
Sept. 28 FLNT Will Bitten, C HAM Connor Hicks, G
    FLNT 12 2017   Fedor Gordeev, D
        OS 2 2019
        NIAG 2 2020

This deal took a while to come together, mostly because every other team in the league had Firebirds GM George Burnett over a barrell—everyone knew Bitten wasn’t reporting. Burnett had gone over to the franchise from the Hamilton Bulldogs, so he knew—and obviously liked—Hicks, 19, and young Gordeev.

In Bitten, Hamilton got a player with an NHL offensive skill set likely to be back in the fold again next season, one in which the Bulldogs expect to contend. And this season they are surprsing some by sitting third in the Eastern Conference.

No. 3 Troy Timpano to Erie

Date From Package To Haul
Aug. 24 SBY Troy Timpano, G ER ER 10 2018
        ER 3 2020
        ER 2 2021

In his four-plus seasons with Erie, Devin Williams played 9,636 minutes and won 106 games—73 of those in the past two years. Even a braintrust running an offensive juggernaut like the Otters knows the last line of defence is important. And in a season when you have dreams of a Memorial Cup berth, that goes doubly so.

After a hot start, Timpano has cooled some, but he still leads the league in wins with 14 and has provided some veteran stability in goal. With the offence that much better with Strome back in the fold, if Timpano can hold the fort, Erie might just reach 50 wins for an historic fourth consecutive season.

No. 2 Graham Knott to Windsor

Date From Package To Haul
Nov. 11 NIAG Graham Knott, LW WSR KGN 3 2017
    Trent Frederic, C   WSR 6 2017
    NIAG 7 2017   WSR 4 2018
        BAR 3 2019
        OSH 2 2021
        WSR 3 2021*
        WSR 3 2022*

At the time of this deal, the Windsor Star reported: Earlier deals by [GM] Rychel this season have netted the club overage forward Jeremiah Addison, centre Julius Nattinen, defenceman Sean Day and forward Mike Baird. The club now has 14 players that are at least six-foot-two or taller and 15 players that are 190 pounds or heavier.

“We’re already big, but he helps in all categories,” GM Rychel said of Knott. “He can play centre or wing, he can score and can kill penalties.”

And that’s exactly what a Memorial Cup host team needs, the closest thing to a sure thing you can find.

Frederic was an intersting addition since he’s playing at the University of Wisconsin this season after being selected 29th overall by Boston. If he were ever to join the Spits they’d be in real fine shape up front—if they aren’t already.

No. 1 Sean Day to Windsor

Date From Package To Haul
Oct. 19 MISS Sean Day, D WSR SAR 2 2017
    MISS 6 2017   NIAG 2 2018
    BAR 3 2019   WSR 5 2019
        WSR 3 2020

Miscast as an exceptional player from the beginning, Day’s run with Mississauga came to an end just as his fourth Steelheads season was beginning.

In Day, the Spitfires received a big, mobile blueliner with mesmerizing physical tools to bolster the back end. “I think our coaching staff can help him reach new highs in his game,” said Rychel at the time.

With twin towers Logan Stanley and Mikhail Sergachev in the fold as well, Day doesn’t have the pressure of being a perceived No. 1 defenceman and has performed well, scoring nine points in 11 games.

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