It was an Ontario Hockey League frenzied flurry for the books as close to 40 separate transactions were completed in the days leading up to the January 10 trade deadline. And Western Conference teams such as the contending Soo Greyhounds and Saginaw Spirit along with the playoff chasing Flint Firebirds and Windsor Spitfires all made multiple moves that included major exchanges of veteran players and future draft picks.
Windsor and Flint were especially active including a pair of trades with each other that had the Firebirds obtain a duo of overage players from the Spitfires for a cargo of draft picks. In total, Windsor pulled off no less than nine undertakings ahead of the trade deadline while Flint was close behind with eight.
Of the barrage of moves that OHL general managers combined to make on the trade market, there were several of the more notable variety.
• Flint general manager Dave McParlan and his trusted head scout Mike Oliverio teamed up to swap three of the Firebirds four leading scorers for current and future assets. Flint sent Team USA world junior gold medal champion Gavin Hayes to the Soo Greyhounds and shipped overage forwards Zacharie Giroux and Braeden Kressler to contending teams in the Eastern Conference.
In exchange for the 19-year old Hayes — who is a signed National Hockey League prospect of the Chicago Blackhawks — the Greyhounds sent 18-year old forward Connor Clattenburg, 17-year old forward Alex Kostov, a second round draft pick in 2027, a third rounder in 2025, a fourth rounder in 2026 and a fifth rounder in 2025 to the Firebirds.
Meanwhile, Giroux was moved to his hometown Sudbury Wolves for a pair of third round draft picks while Kressler is now a member of the Ottawa 67’s after Flint dealt the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and two draft picks in return for five draft picks. The net gain in draft pick exchanges for Flint in the trade with Ottawa stands at a second round pick and two thirds.
Though Flint was intent on stockpiling draft picks for a potential future run at Western Conference contention, the Firebirds were able to add a couple of key overage players — albeit at a steep price — in separate deals with Windsor. Flint parted with a second and a third round pick to get defenseman Roberto Mancini from Windsor and then pried high scoring forward Oliver Peer away from the Spitfires for five draft picks that included a second, two thirds and a fourth.
• Windsor general manager Billy (The Kid) Bowler was a gun slinger in restocking what had been a bare Spitfires draft cupboard with a net exchange of seven future picks. The wily Bowler also moved out the Spitfires three overage players and brought in three new ones while at the same time upgrading Windsor’s goaltending and coming out ahead with extra picks.
Spitfire additions include overage goalie Max Donoso, overage defenseman Djibril Toure and overage forward Pasquale Zito. Of particular note, Donoso is a Windsor native who won 34 games in the OHL for the Ottawa 67’s last season. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-7 Toure is a signed NHL prospect of the Ottawa Senators who plays with a definite edge. Bowler was able to get the towering, tough Toure out of Sudbury as the Wolves had four overage players — one over the limit — at the time of the deal. And Zito is a former 20-goal scorer for the Spitfires who is back in Windsor after his OHL rights were obtained from the North Bay Battalion.
“We still feel like we are a competitive hockey club that can win games and get into playoffs and we also feel like we have put ourselves in a good position in the future with some of the assets we have obtained,” Bowler relayed to the Windsor Star. “It is always sad to have to let players go, especially good players, but we think the (future) return on these kids is something that had to be done at this time. By doing this and with players coming in, we think we can still win games and take a run at the playoffs.”
Windsor is currently chasing Flint for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But the Spitfires are playing above the .500 level since Casey Torres took over as interim head coach from Jerrod Smith, who was fired after the Spitfires staggered to a 4-16-1 start to this season.
• As the Greyhounds added the world class Gavin Hayes in the aforementioned trade with Flint, the Red and White also paid big to obtain overage forward Jacob Frasca and an eighth round draft pick from the Barrie Colts. To get the 6-foot-5, 215 pound power forward, the Greyhounds parted ways with overage forward Brenden Sirizzotti as well as future second, third and fourth round draft picks.
• Saginaw made a big splash as the Spirit acquired two former OHL champions who recently returned from representing Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Sweden.
Saginaw, which will play host to this spring’s Memorial Cup championship tournament as host entry, bolstered its lineup in a big way with the acquisition of forward Owen Beck from the reigning OHL champion Peterborough Petes and defenseman Jorian Donovan, who was part of the Brantford Bulldogs title run of two years ago.
Both are top NHL prospects — Beck of the Montreal Canadiens and Donovan of the Ottawa Senators.