There are sidebars to the rebuild project that the Soo Greyhounds are undertaking after a bid to win the Ontario Hockey League championship came up short this past spring.
With so many key components from the 2017-2018 team that was upset by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL championship series having moved on to begin their professional careers, the Soo almost certainly will not be the top dogs of the Western Conference in 2018-2019.
As it stands at this stage of the off season, the Greyhounds are seen as a so-so team that is destined to place in the lower rung of the Western Conference in 2018-2019.
Besides having to replace all of the players who are poised to move on to the pros, the Soo is also short on future draft picks that general manager Kyle Raftis dealt away as part of the big price the Greyhounds paid to take a run at the OHL crown last season.
Which is where a high-end returnee such as 1999 birth-year goalie Matthew Villalta comes into play.
Villalta, who is a top prospect of the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, could fetch a hefty return if Raftis opts to deal the 6-foot-3, 180-pound goalie ahead of next January’s OHL trade deadline.
Never drafted into the OHL and signed by the Greyhounds as a free-agent, training camp walk-on prior to the 2016-2017 season campaign, Villalta has put up astounding numbers en route to developing into one of the top-rated goalies in the entire Canadian Hockey League.
As a rookie backup to since-traded Joseph Raaymakers in 2016-2017, Villalta posted a regular-season record of 25-3-0 to go with a 2.41 goals against average and .918 save percentage.
And as the Greyhounds undisputed starter in 2017-2018, Villalta had a regular-season record of 40-5-4 to go with a 2.58 goals against average and .908 save percentage.
Do the win-loss arithmetic and Villalta’s two-year, regular-season record with the Greyhounds is an eye-popping 65-8-4.
To be sure, Villalta represents considerable value to the Greyhounds.
Should they keep him and not trade him, the Greyhounds are set between the pipes for the 2018-2019 season with one of the top two or three goalies in the 20-team OHL.
Should they trade Villalta, the Greyhounds are in position to get a bounty of draft picks and/or a high-end younger player or two in exchange for the veteran goalie.
In so many ways, Villalta and the Greyhounds have numbers in their favour.
Villalta’s statistics show numbers that include a personal, two-year record of 65-8-4.
And the numbers — as in draft picks and/or players — that the Greyhounds could command in return for Villalta are multiple.
Without question, the value that Villalta has to the Greyhounds, one way or the other, is huge.
PHOTO: Soo Greyhounds goalie Matthew Villalta. (Photo by Hockey News North.)