Saginaw Spirit seems serious about taking a shot at Ontario Hockey League supremacy. The addition of Team Canada right winger Owen Tippett in a swap with the Mississauga Steelheads has solidified Saginaw as it sets sights on the stretch run of the 2018-2019 season.
In exchange for Tippett, who has a 1999 birth date and who was a first-round pick, 10th overall, at the 2017 National Hockey League draft, the Spirit sent 2001 birth year center Aidan Prueter, a second-round pick in 2020, a second-round pick in 2021, a third-round pick in 2019, a third-round pick in 2020, a seventh-round pick in 2019 and a seventh-round pick in 2020 to the Steelheads.
Just a few days earlier, in a separate trade with Mississauga, Saginaw obtained high-end, 1999 birth-year center Ryan McLeod from the Steelheads for 2001 birth-year defenseman Duncan Penman and a number of draft picks.
Saginaw general manager Dave Drinkill, known for his thoroughness and attention to detail, commented on the additions of Tippett and McLeod.
“Owen is one of the best pure goal scorers not only in the OHL, but in all of junior hockey, and we feel we added a top-end, elite talent that can help produce a lot of goals down the stretch and into the playoffs,” Drinkill began.
“Tippett has a lethal shot with a quick release and has the unique ability to score from anywhere in the offensive end. Adding Owen Tippett and Ryan McLeod has added two elite, offensive game-breakers to our already strong and deep group of forwards.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Tippett, who netted 19 goals in just 23 games with Mississauga in 2018-2019, tallied 36 times in only 51 games for the Steelheads in 2017-2018. Thus, the big right winger scored 55 goals over his last 74 regular-season games with Mississauga.
Of note, Tippett is a first cousin of former Saginaw first-rounder Mitchell Stephens, who is a top second-year forward prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL.
Meanwhile, Saginaw is part of a multi-team battle with the London Knights, Soo Greyhounds and Guelph Storm as the main contenders in the Western Conference this season.
Looking back, it has been a long time since the Spirit was any sort of force in the Western Conference as the road to respectability in Saginaw has been a rugged one, full of potholes.
The Spirit has not won a playoff series since the 2011-2012 season and the last time it won a playoff game was in the first round of the 2013-2014 campaign.
In fact, over its last five playoff series appearances, Saginaw has lost 20 of 21 games.
But that was then and this is now.
And as the fourth-year GM in Saginaw, the aforementioned Drinkill has set up the Spirit for what could be a sweet ride into the spring season.
Up front alone, Tippett and McLeod join a top three line combination that includes the high-scoring likes of Cole Coskey, Damien Giroux, Blade Jenkins, Nick Porco and Cole Perfetti.