Welcome back to yet another Monday and another week of the Monday Night Major.
It’s been a week with a pair of trades and Teddy Bear tosses as the league gets closer to their Christmas break in just under two weeks time.
Without further adieu, let’s get to the hockey talk.
Owen Sound Strike First!
Every year at this time of year there is a trade that happens where a team officially declares they are all-in for a championship this season.
While this trade may not signal that for the Owen Sound Attack, it certainly indicates that the management team there believes they are capable of more. The Attack is in playoff position and has hovered a few wins away from being in the upper echelon of the OHL’s Western Conference.
The Attack bolstered their offence this week by acquiring the all-too-familiar Matthew Struthers from North Bay in exchange for second, third and sixth-round picks from 2022-2024.
Struthers returns to Owen Sound where he spent the first two years of his OHL career before a trade sent him to North Bay. With the Battalion this year Struthers scored 21 points in 25 games but has started his return to Owen Sound on fire with six points in his first two contests.
While Owen Sound likely needs to do more in order to contend this season, this trade should open what should be an interesting trade season in the OHL. With league-wide parity this year we could see some outstanding prices paid with the potential of so few sellers this year.
Five In The Box
Chad Denault moves from the Peterborough Petes to the North Bay Battalion in exchange for a real late pick. Denault joins the Battalion after spending the last three seasons in Peterborough and moves a bit closer to home with the trade.
It should also provide greater opportunity Denault in terms of ice time. Denault was off to a bit of a slower start this season and could benefit from the change in scenery as he will no longer be stuck behind a very deep Petes’ bench as they look to capture the Eastern Conference.
For the Battalion it adds a veteran body upfront to help offset some of the ice time left vacant with the departure of Struthers earlier this week. The one thing about this trade is that North Bay get an excellent team player as Denault was awarded the most dedicated Pete’ last season at their team award function.
Gruden is becoming quite the acquisition for London this year with 29 points in his first 26 games in the OHL.
After being drafted in the 4th round by the Ottawa Senators in 2018, Gruden finally joined the Knights this season; three years after being drafted by the Knights in the OHL draft.
Gruden’s solid two-way game has really had the opportunity to shine, with the Rochester Hills, MI native sitting at a +15 as of the weekend.
It’s taken a while but the Hunter brothers have to be happy with the reward for their three years of patience while Gruden takes full advantage of playing for a strong Knights team.
The resident of St. Catharines is having a fine season for the Flint Firebirds, in his second full season in Michigan.
McCourt is building off of a strong season that saw him post 32 points in 47 games played. This year he is average a point per game and already has hit 10 goals for the campaign; a career-high.
As great as his offensive play has been this year, the coaching staff in Flint will most likely be pleased with his improvement defensively. A season ago McCourt was a -38 but has improved to an even zero through 28 games in the 2019-20 season.
A lot of these numbers certainly reflect the overall improvement of the Firebirds team but it is hard to ignore McCourt’s contributions to that improvement. His two-way game has become one of the more underrated in the Ontario Hockey League and he flies under the radar playing in Flint. If he continues to play this way, he won’t be a hidden secret in Michigan much longer.
Paputsakis is not exactly a household name in the OHL yet however that could change really soon if he continues his strong rookie season.
Paputsakis has played 14 games for the Generals this season and has posted a solid goals-against average under three and a save percentage above .900 for a strong Oshawa team.
While many expected incumbent Andrew MacLean to shoulder the load this year, the emergence of Paputsakis provides the Generals with a terrific one-two punch for the rest of the year.
McGregor returned to Sarnia for his overage season after failing to get a contract offer from the Toronto Maple Leafs the past two years.
McGregor was named Captain of the Sting and has had a solid season despite missing some games. His 25 points in 18 games is solid production and could lead to the centre signing a free-agent deal this spring.
McGregor was dominant against the IceDogs on Saturday night with three points and looked dominant every time he was on the ice.
The question is whether or not he remains with the Sting the rest of the year. Sarnia is last in the Western Conference and it could be mutually beneficial for both the player and the organization to move him.
Of course, having said that Sarnia is only a few points out of a playoff spot despite being last in the conference. The team has added Ryan Roth and Jordan Kooy as well so something tells me that McGregor could also finish his career with the Sting.
No matter where he finishes his OHL career, McGregor will likely finish it with a career-high in points and could earn a professional contract as a result.
That’s Why It Is The Preseason, Folks!
One of the oddest things about the OHL is how one can simply dominate a preseason but cannot sustain it in the regular season.
The problem with trying to read anything into the preseason is that most of the dominant scoring leaders are away at NHL camps, leaving a lot of ice time for some of the depth players.
This preseason Niagara’s Jonah De Simone and rookie Barrie defender Brandt Clarke lead the league with 10 points each. Cameron Butler of Peterborough and Erie’s Brendan Sellan were fourth and fifth with eight points. We will omit Saginaw’s Cole Perfetti from this as his success was projected as one of the top picks for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in June 2020.
Joan De Simone has just seven points in 30 contests during the regular season. He’s eclipsed last year’s point total already but has been challenged during the regular season.
Brandt Clarke is a rookie defender that made the preseason look easy. The challenge for any young defender in the OHL is to just survive a regular shift. Clarke has been good with nine assists in 21 games for Barrie but has found that the regular season is vastly different than the preseason as well.
Cameron Butler has been the best of the four with nine goals and 15 points in thirty outings, while Sellan has just four goals and 11 points in 28 games.
The lesson here is that you cannot judge anything in the OHL by what you see in the preseason as the league is a vastly different beast when everyone returns from their NHL and pro hockey training camps.
Thanks again for reading the Monday Night Major. Until next week keep supporting the OHL and enjoy the games.