With the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline fast approaching, several big deals have gone down today. The first, and arguably the most impactful, is the highly-speculated trade of Saginaw Spirit forward Mitchell Stephens. The 2015 second-round selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning is fresh off of a point-per-game performance for Canada at the World Juniors and has 28 points in 22 games thus far in the 2016-17 OHL season. He now heads to the storied London Knights franchise, the defending Memorial Cup champions and winners of three of the last five OHL titles. The former Spirit captain waived his no-trade clause to go to the Knights, where he’ll join a multitude of fellow elite prospects including Olli Juolevi, Cliff Pu, and Max Jones. The return for Saginaw is four second-round picks and two-third round picks over the next seven years.
After acquiring New York Islanders defenseman prospect Mitch Vande Sompel yesterday and Stephens this morning, the Knights still weren’t done. They’ve also added Columbus Blue Jackets forward prospect Dante Salituro. Salituro has yet to play a junior game this season, signing an entry-level deal with Columbus this summer and bouncing around through the AHL and ECHL so far this year, but the 20-year-old still has his junior eligibility and is expected to join the Knights for the remainder of the season. It was a risk-free trade for his former team, the Ottawa ’67s, who obtained Chris Martenet and a trio of future draft picks (2nd, 3rd, and 5th) for a player who was not even on the roster.
Armed with their three new additions to an already talented lineup, the London Knights should again make a deep run in the OHL playoffs. They currently hold a slim lead on the Erie Otters and Owen Sound Attack in the OHL’s Midwest Division, and trail the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds by just three points for the best record in the league.
In other juniors news:
- Another big trade today was that of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and World Juniors standout Jeremy Bracco. After returning to the Kitchener Rangers with a gold medal in hand, the 2015 second-rounder is on the move again, this time to the Windsor Spitfires. Bracco has 51 points in only 27 OHL games this season, and chipped in three goals and two assists for Team USA as well. Bracco is now guaranteed to see some Memorial Cup action this year, as Windsor is set to host the event. They would be a contender to compete regardless, as they boast two 2016 first-round picks on defense in Montreal’s Mikhail Sergachev and Winnipeg’s Logan Stanley, as well as 2017 top prospect Gabriel Vilardi up front. Adding Bracco to Vilardi should boost the offense in Windsor and make them a real threat to unseat the Soo Greyhounds in the West Division.
- Over in the WHL, the Brandon Wheat Kings probably feel as if they have made a huge trade themselves, as they announced that presumptive #1 overall pick in 2017, Nolan Patrick, is ready to return this week. The big center has missed all but six games this season – though still has nine points – but has finally recovered from his upper body injury. Expect the top prospect to put up big-time points down the stretch for the Kings, as he looks to shake off any skepticism stemming from his absence and re-assert himself as the definitive top pick this June.
As a Knights fan, those are 3 huge additions for the team. It completely stacks the top 2 lines while also deepening a defensive unit that really only had Victor Mete and Juolevi.