Every would-be contender the OHL's Western Conference seems to have stocked up on scoring, which makes Windsor Spitfires GM Warren Rychel's trade for defenceman Slater Koekkoek perhaps brilliantly counter-intuitive.
The Spitfires' trade with the Peterborough Petes for the disgruntled defenceman (as previously noted) highlights a flurry of activity in the final hours before Thursday's 12 noon ET deadline. The London Knights fortified their blueline by adding San Jose Sharks prospect Justin Sefton from the retooling Sudbury Wolves, while star centre Vincent Trocheck is headed from the Saginaw Spirit to the Plymouth Whalers.
Meantime, the Eastern Conference-leading Barrie Colts seem content to place their chips on 2014 and a Memorial Cup bid. It's either that or the uncertainty over Mark Scheifele's situation with the Winnipeg Jets tied GM Jason Ford's hands.
A quick-and-dirty rundown:
— There's much to like Windsor landing Koekkoek, who is the fourth first-rounder in a row the Petes have had to deal before his 19-year-old season. The ninth-place Spitfires, seven points out of a playoff berth, have scored the fewest goals in their conference. However, it might be a 'wrong side of the puck' problem. Koekkoek is a bona fide No. 1 defenceman and clearly needed out of a losing battle in Peterborough.
His presence might help Windsor at least get into the post-season, especially since eighth-place Saginaw is taking a step back by peddling Trocheck. The optics of Windsor missing the playoffs when it is bidding for the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup would be really, really bad. It already has tried to upgrade its scoring for the short term by trading for speedy, skilled Alex Aleardi and repatriating Alexander Khokhlachev. However, Rychel had to plan a year ahead. Koekkoek addresses that priority.
Peterborough receives is Colorado Avalanche-drafted centre Michael Clarke and two second-rounders. For interim GM Mike Oke, that is slightly more than what his predecessor got for Austin Watson last season. The difference here is unlike Watson, who led London to the Memorial Cup final, Koekkoek still has a season after this one.
— Trocheck, who will be reunited with Team USA teammate Ryan Hartman in Plymouth, could be very catalytic for a Whalers outfit that has yet to really hit on all eight cylinders. The Whalers recently got overage Mitchell Heard back from the AHL and have their three first-rounders up front (Stefan Noesen, Tom Wilson and Rickard Rakell) who might have all played in the world junior championship with a better twist of fate. Trocheck has a lot of little skills that could help them achieve more puck possession and stay out of 6-5 games, like the one they lost to none other than Saginaw on Wednesday.
It sounds like the eighth-place Spirit could get a very good return. Boston Bruins pick Cody Payne might be involved, according to Terry Doyle.
Hearing SAG/PLY trade could end up as 2 deals. In the end, Trocheck to PLY, Bratina/Payne to SAG, picks involved, pending approval.
— Loosepucks.com (@loosepucks) January 10, 2013
Confirmed deal - Saginaw trades Trocheck to Plymouth for Bratina, 3rd '16, cond 2nd '15, cond. KIT 3rd '15. #OHL
— Loosepucks.com (@loosepucks) January 10, 2013
— Meantime, the London Knights must take some confidence from the fact they have scored 26 more goals than anyone else in the league. General manager Mark Hunter added Sefton, but seems to be willing to stand with his forward corps.
From Ryan Pyette:
The Knights have firepower, but it’s still hard not to conjure up memories of the Memorial Cup final last spring, where they only managed one goal in a bitter overtime loss.
“You can’t really look at it like that, that we didn’t finish or chances in the final,” London forward Max Domi said. “It’s so tight-checking and that stage was huge. Anything can happen. This year, we have some pretty talented goal scorers. You look at a guy like (Seth) Griffith or (Bo) Horvat or (Alex) Broadhurst; all four lines can score goals and that’s what you need to win hockey games.
“We’ve been doing a good job of that.” (London Free Press)
— In the East, front-running Barrie has added only one high-profile 19-year-old, nabbing rugged two-way winger Mitchell Theoret from Niagara while sacrificing their first-rounder, Brendan Perlini. The Colts are bent on bidding for the 2014 Memorial Cup after having bid during every previous cycle. That probably also explains trading four draft choices to Owen Sound for 18-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning-drafted defenceman Jake Dotchin.
But a bid is not something that can be taken to the bank, especially when London and Windsor are in the running.
From Gene Pereira:
Despite leading the Eastern Conference standings and icing a talented club that will lose stars like Scheifele, Anthony Camara, Mathias Niederberger and Ryan O’Connor after this year, it appears the Colts are not interested in making any kind of extra push for this season.
Which, at least to this scribe, doesn’t add up.
Even without Scheifele, the current Barrie lineup, with some key additions and who were plenty available at this year’s deadline, had a pretty good shot at winning a league title. (Barrie Examiner)
At the end of the day, it is probably safe to say that this shakes out with the J. Ross Robertson Cup staying in the Western Conference for the seventh year in a row.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.