Welcome back to the Wednesday Weekly. After a (longer than anticipated) break for Christmas, a fist-fight with the internet, and a Thursday Trade Deadline in the OHL, we run through just what happened in the Western Conference leading up to (and including) Thursday, January 10th.
1. London Knights (71 points)
Additions: Anthony Stolarz (Goalie-NCAA defection), Dakota Mermis (Defence-NCAA defection), Justin Sefton (Defence-Trade w/Sudbury)
Subtractions: Kevin Bailie (Goalie-Waivers/Release), Kevin Raine (Defence-Trade w/Sudbury)
One Man’s Thoughts: The Knights may be in the best position of any team heading into the playoffs and beyond. They added depth on defence with Mermis and Sefton, one of which can move the puck (Mermis—a former USHL teammate of current-Knight Alex Broadhurst) and the other adds grit and sandpaper. Add into that a (hopefully) reliable second goalie in Stolarz, making Bailie expendable. The best part of their deadline, was that two of the additions were free, leaving future assets intact. Mix in a dynamic offence and a defence that is led by NHL talent in no likely danger of going anywhere, and the Knights should be set for the back part of the season and playoffs.
2. Sarnia Sting (51 points)
Additions: Tyler Hore (Defence-Trade w/Oshawa),
Subtractions: Justice Dundas (Forward-Trade w/Oshawa), Jack Kuzmyk (Defence-Trade w/Erie)
One Man’s Thoughts: Sarnia is the biggest surprise to me right now in terms of the standings in the West, but this is a team in limbo. Has/will Alex Galchenyuk show enough to Montreal that the Canadiens think it’s worth losing a year off of his entry-level contract to play a shortened NHL season? Also, Connor Murphy is now out for the year with a knee injury, so there’s even more riding on that defence. The playoffs are in still sight for Sarnia, but maintaining their perch atop the division will be difficult.
3. Owen Sound Attack (53 points)
Additions: Cody Ceci (Defence-Trade w/Ottawa), Steven Janes (Forward-Trade w/Ottawa), Artur Gavrus (Forward-Returning from Europe), Daniel Milne (Forward-NCAA defection
Subtractions: Jake Dotchin (Defence-Trade w/Barrie), Devon Rymarchuk (Forward-Trade w/Barrie), Jacob Middleton (Defence-Trade with Ottawa), Josef Blandisi (Forward-Trade w/Ottawa)
One Man’s Thoughts: The Attack needed to beef up their power play at the deadline, and they did just that. Provided the Ottawa Senators don’t pluck Cody Ceci from his new home for a prolonged period of time, the 17th-ranked power play adds a three-zone defenceman to take some pressure off of sophomore Chris Bigras. 2012 first-rounder Jacob Middleton was never used enough to gain traction in his rookie year, and while they lose the long-term upside of Blandisi, Owen Sound gains depth and playoff experience with Janes (32 career playoff games). Welcoming back Artur Gavrus will help the team offensively as well, as second-year forward had 37 points in 45 games last year and will help balance the Attack. Oh yea, and they went the Knights' route, adding forward Daniel Milne from the NCAA for more punch up front.
4. Kitchener Rangers (49 points)
Additions: Frank Corrado (Defence-Trade w/Sudbury), Josh Leivo (Forward-Trade w/Sudbury), Joel Vienneau (Goalie-Trade w/Sudbury), Derek Schoenmakers (Forward w/Peterborough)
Subtractions: Franky Palazzese (Goalie-Trade w/Sudbury), Cory Genovese (Defenceman-Trade w/Sudbury), Matt Schmalz (Forward-Trade w/Sudbury), Nick Czinder (Forward-Trade w/Peterborough)
One Man’s Thoughts: While it hurts to lose the OHL’s leader in save percentage and goals-against average, the Rangers add another horse to the blueline and acquire a 40-point man (Leivo had 44 before the deal, 16 more than the injured Matt Puempel’s team-leading 28). Provided Puempel gets healthy and Radek Faksa doesn’t stick with Dallas, that’s a high-octane top line if everyone performs up to snuff. Corrado gives the Rangers power play options that they didn’t really have when it was just Ryan Murphy, and Vienneau ensures there’s some insurance if something happens to World Junior star John Gibson. In terms of the OA flip? Czinder was heating up, but Schoenmakers had as many goals (9) in 24 games, that either Czinder or Domenic Alberga (the other OA) had in points this year.
5. Guelph Storm (47 points)
Additions: Saverio Posa (Defence-Trade w/Windsor), Michael Nishi (Goalie-Signing)
Subtractions: Keegan Wilson (Goalie-Waivers/Released)
One Man’s Thoughts: Staying quiet is (in my mind) the best move for the Guelph Storm. They add a little depth and experience to the roster on the blueline, but other than that they’re a young team with all of the pieces they want for this year. With Garret Sparks in net and a team up front that’s young and hungry, the Storm can make some noise this year, but will also be in prime position to capitalize on desperate teams who sold the farm this year, when those teams become sellers next season.
6. Plymouth Whalers (46 points)
Additions: Zach Lorentz (Forward-Trade w/Windsor), Vincent Trocheck (Forward-Trade w/Saginaw), Sebastian Uvira (Forward-Trade w/Oshawa)
Subtractions: Alex Aleardi (Forward-Trade w/Windsor), Zach Bratina (Forward-Trade w/Saginaw), Simon Karlsson (Defenceman-Trade w/Oshawa)
One Man’s Thoughts: Obviously the Whalers don’t consider themselves your average sixth seed, and nor should they. Plymouth had offensive balance before (eight players with 20+ points after the Aleardi deal) and then added Trocheck and his 50 points this season. Lorentz will give them another player with good talent but consistency issues, and they add depth with Uvira. The loss of Karlsson won’t be felt much with two overagers back on the blueline in Austin Levi and Colin MacDonald, and with Connor Carrick and Gianluca Curcuruto rounding out the top four.
7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (45 points)
Subtractions: Mark Petaccio (Forward-Trade w/Ottawa)
One Man’s Thoughts: Going 7-2-0-1 as the deadline approached probably helped the case of a few of the ‘Hounds, but as the powers loaded up, it seems like the Soo might just have their fingers crossed for a handful of NHL recalls to weaken up their opponents. If they wanted to bring in some pieces for the future they could have done it if they saw fit, but the team will roll with it’s top three of Nick Cousins, David Broll and Ryan Sproul. Barring those recalls, moving up the standings will be hard, and firepower at the top of the conference could hurt them in the first round.
8. Saginaw Spirit (41 points)
Additions: Zach Bratina (Forward-Trade w/Plymouth)
Subtractions: Vincent Trocheck (Forward-Trade w/Plymouth)
One Man’s Thoughts: The Trading of leading scorer Trocheck is troublesome, even with fellow 50-point man Erik Locke still in the fold. Bratina was learning the ropes in Plymouth and going through the rookie ups and downs, so hopefully the 2012 first rounder can continue that growth in Saginaw. Once again Jake Paterson will have to carry this team through the regular season and into the playoffs as he returns from the WJC, but it could prove to be very difficult with two good teams behind them in the standings and wanting in on the playoff picture.
9. Windsor Spitfires (34 points)
Additions: Alex Khokhlachev (Forward-Returning from Europe), Remy Giftopoulos (Forward-Trade w/Ottawa), Alex Aleardi (Forward-Trade w/Plymouth), Slater Koekkoek (Defence-Trade w/Peterborough)
Subtractions: Saverio Posa (Defence-Trade w/Guelph), Zach Lorentz (Forward-Trade w/Plymouth), Michael Clarke (Forward-Trade w/Peterborough)
One Man’s Thoughts: So….the Windsor Spitfires are going for it? That’s certainly what it seems like, as the Spits threw the resources out there to get Koekkoek, flipped former Ranger Lorentz to get Aleardi (good production for an OA), brought in Giftopoulos, and then welcomed back Khokhlachev. The easy answer is that they will improve that conference-worst 106 goals-for by a mile, but do they make the playoffs? Yes. They got too good to miss (provided that whole ‘team chemistry’ thing wasn’t thrown out of whack), and have two games left against both Saginaw and the Soo to help them out. Not just that, they’ve also got three games against the Knights, two against Guelph, and one against Owen Sound when it comes to the current top four teams in the conference, so the new-look Spits will be tested.
10. Erie Otters (34 points)
Additions: Jack Kuzmyk (Defenceman-Trade w/Sarnia), Joel Wigle (Forward-Trade w/Niagara)
Subtractions: John McGuire (Forward-Trade w/Oshawa)
One Man’s Thoughts: I was serious when I said the two teams behind Saginaw in the standings were good. I like the Erie Otters and I like what they did. Before the deadline they had a good offence led by Connors Brown and McDavid, good goaltending when Oscar Dansk finds his groove (I also think more people should know the name Devin Williams), but the defence needed work. Kuzmyk won’t suddenly turn this team into the Belleville Bulls, but he’s still a veteran voice that can help out, and Wigle will provide some good depth to the forwards. Are they a playoff team? Probably not because that eighth seed will be hotly contested, but how about this: the Erie Otters finish 9th. What helps their cause is that they have five games remaining against the two teams directly ahead of them (three against Saginaw; two against Windsor) in the standings.
Bryan Thiel is a contributor to ITO and files feature reports for 'Inside the O' on Rogers TV. You can follow Bryan on Twitter @BryanThiel_88 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.