Two days before the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline, the Kitchener Rangers kept even in the Western Conference arms race with the Owen Sound Attack, adding a high-profile defenceman and a power forward to their core.
Josh Leivo, a 2011 3rd round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Frank Corrado, a 5th round selection of the Vancouver Canucks that same season, are moving from the Sudbury Wolves to Kitchener and the ultra-competitive Western Conference along with goaltender Joel Vienneau. The Rangers are tied with Guelph for 4th spot and they play the Storm tonight in the lone game on the schedule.
In return, Kitchener will sent Matt Schmalz, Frank Palazzese, and Cory Genovese. Schmalz was the Rangers' 1st round pick in the 2012 OHL Draft, a 6'5" 186 lb winger from Dunnville. Palazzese is one of the top goaltenders in the OHL, and Genovese is an 18-year old draft-eligible defenceman from Hespeler who has one and a half seasons of experience.
In the deal, the Rangers send goaltender Franky Palazzese, defenceman Cory Genovese and forward Matt Schmalz to Sudbury. Kitchener also sends a fourth round pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection (from Oshawa), a sixth round pick in 2013 (from Owen Sound), a seventh round pick in 2014 (from Windsor) and a first round pick in the 2013 CHL Import Draft (from Plymouth). In addition, the deal includes two conditional picks, a conditional second round in 2017 if Palazzese does not return to the Wolves for his overage season and a conditional second in 2019, if forward Joshua Leivo plays in the OHL during the 2013-14.
In exchange, Sudbury sends Leivo, defenceman Frank Corrado and goaltender Joel Vienneau to Kitchener, along with Sudbury’s first round pick in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, a sixth round pick in 2015 and an eighth round pick in 2013. The deal also include a conditional third round pick in 2014 if Sudbury trades Palazzese during the 2013-14 season. [Kitchener Rangers]
There hasn't been an awful lot written about this deal. Time for some snap analysis.
On the Rangers end:
It appears Kitchener got the better of this deal, at least at this point, picking up two players who can contribute now and moving up in the CHL Import Draft, without giving up too much of their current assets to make a run. As high as Mike Farwell is on Cory Genovese, Corrado's stock as a defenceman has greatly improved over the last year and a half, leaving him to be one of the final cuts for Team Canada this past December after making the final selection camp and, by all accounts, playing extraordinarily well. He'll also be headed to Vancouver Canucks camp, whenever that starts, and presumably will be returned to junior when it ends. After all, the Canucks are reportedly looking at Cam Barker as depth insurance.
Josh Leivo meanwhile is a quiet force. He's big but not huge, listed at 6'1" 200 lbs, noted for his hands and his two-way play. He has 19 goals in 34 games this season, which isn't too much of an outlying total after scoring 32 in 66 last year. The numbers, like his size, aren't dominant, but their fairly useful, and he was the top scorer on a mid-range offensive team in Sudbury.
Usage will be a big factor. All three players will be in the lineup tonight against Guelph and Vienneau will get the start as John Gibson gets a night off after his dominant performance at the IIHF U-20 world championships for the gold medal-winning Americans. Vinneau is 9th in the OHL in save percentage, which is fairly impressive considering he's second in games played only to Niagara's Christopher Festarini.
On the Wolves end:
Losing the everyday Vienneau will be tough, but the goaltender they get out of the deal, Frank Palazzese, is exceptional, leading the OHL in save percentage this year, second only to teammate Gibson last year. He has the benefit of playing in a good Kitchener system with a dominant penalty kill this season (although somehow were 13th last year). Palazzese doesn't have an NHL team and will likely play his overage season in the OHL, sewing up Sudbury's goaltending situation at least through next season if everything shakes out as planned. Palazzese wants to be a starter and has been waiting for the opportunity.
Here's what Wolves GM Blaine Smith said about Genovese and Schmalz:
"Cory is a big, strong physical defenceman with excellent leadership qualities. Matt is already one of the biggest forwards in the league at 6'5" and only 16 years of age. I am looking forward to watching Matt develop into a premiere forward in this league." [TSN]
The loss of Corrado and Leivo stings, but the team is building for a run with its '94- and '95-born talent, leaving the '93s somewhat expendable this season. Schmalz's solitary assist in 25 games isn't indicative of busted offensive potential, but moreso that he wasn't necessary as a rookie on Kitchener's attempt to win this season.