Mitchell Stephens is one of three top-end players the London Knights added before Tuesday’s OHL trade deadline. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The disparity between the OHL’s Western and Eastern conferences is even greater now that the London Knights and other powerhouses in the west loaded up around this year’s trade deadline.
London made the biggest noise with three blockbuster deals that brought two-time Canadian World Junior team member Mitchell Stephens, Mitchell Vande Sompel and Dante Salituro to the Forest City on Monday.
As one can expect, they paid a pretty penny too, with the final bill showing 14 draft picks (two of them conditional), young defenceman Ian Blacker and 6-foot-7 rear guard Chris Martenet.
They’ll also benefit from Salituro, an overager who scored 38 goals and 83 points with the Ottawa 67’s last season before moving around in the professional ranks with the Cleveland Monsters, Cincinnati Cyclones and Norfolk Admirals this year.
The defending Memorial Cup champions didn’t mess around ahead of the trade deadline as they look to take over the West, a conference that boasts the Windsor Spitfires and Erie Otters, two fellow heavyweights who made impact deals on Monday.
After weeks of speculation during the World Junior Championships, the Oshawa Generals traded Team Canada top player Anthony Cirelli to the Erie Otters for three draft picks, two conditional picks and rookie Allan McShane.
With Dylan Strome cemented as the league’s top centre, the Otters have arguably the best number two centre in the league with Cirelli, one of the top face off men at the World Juniors.
Erie added defensive depth as well on Tuesday, bringing rugged veteran Cameron Lizotte into the fold from the Barrie Colts for three draft picks.
The 2017 Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires couldn’t go through the past few days without some sort of deal to bolster their lineup.
They now have what many consider the most dynamic forward in the league after claiming Jeremy Bracco from the Kitchener Rangers for three second-round draft picks (one of them conditional), defenceman Andrew Burns and forward Cole Carter.
Many OHL followers feel that wasn’t enough to stay on even footing with the Otters and Knights, but don’t forget the trades they made earlier this year for Sean Day and Graham Knott.
Out east, teams were a bit more hesitant to shop for elite talent. Despite being atop the conference, the Generals actually sold Cirelli and Vande Sompel for a smorgasbord of young talent and high draft picks in the hopes of enhancing their Memorial Cup bid for next year’s event.
The Generals realized the unlikelihood of being able to contend with whomever the Western champs may be, even with Cirelli and Vande Sompel leading the way.
However, the Peterborough Petes put a lot of chips on the table for Chris Paquette, picking up the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect from the Niagara IceDogs for four second round picks, a third rounder and goaltender Nate McDonald.
That came a week after they snagged Toronto Maple Leafs draftee Nikita Korotselev and Alex Black from the Sarnia Sting for Nick Grima and six draft picks, including three seconds and two thirds.
The Mississauga Steelheads were also in the market for veteran forwards who can fill in on the second or third line. They met that need by acquiring Jacob Cascagnette from the Kitchener Rangers and Trent Fox from the Hamilton Bulldogs.
In total, they spent five draft picks, one of them conditional.
It’ll be a stretch for either Mississauga or Peterborough to compete with the west’s best, and even relying on Windsor to win the Western title, giving the Eastern champs a bye into the Memorial Cup, seems less likely.
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