Look At Western Conference Trades


by C. Scott Holland

It was a rather quiet trading period, although many teams made moves to bolster their chances for an improved playoff and possible title run. A few impact moves were made when the deadline had passed with the Stars, Maroons and Rockets making the biggest noise.

No matter how one looks at the transactions, an analysis of the trades is circumspect since the players are still adjusting to their new teams.

St. Thomas made one of the most dramatic moves to shake up a club that was stalled in seventh place and had suffered a major injury thus relegating goalie Nikolas Dampier to the sidelines. The Stars replaced him by acquiring league-leading goalie Brendan Polesak from Caledonia. Polesak is new to the Western Conference and may have to adjust to the various rinks and teams he faces. Another factor affecting the Stars is Zach Grzelewski being promoted to the OHL London  Knights. The Griz, as he is affectionately known, has provided the Stars with an offensive threat every time he’s on the ice and the loss of his presence may affect St. Thomas’ offensive game. But, in general, Polesak’s play could help boost the Stars into a sixth or fifth place seeding.

The Strathroy Rockets lost Jack Kilgour, who signed with the OHL Kitchener Rangers and that unexpected big hole in the lineup created a flurry of action by GM Dan Gibson. In a deal with the St. Marys Lincolns, the Rockets exchanged defenceman Nick Whitworth for skilled forward Ocean Check who, once he is healthy, may help the club hold onto fourth place. But Strathroy wasn’t done with that one move. They picked up veteran defenceman Marcus Baird from Ancaster. Baird brings experience and size to the Strathroy blueline and, in his first game, paid some dividends. Both moves have given Strathroy some much-needed added depth as they battle LaSalle for fourth down the stretch.

The most unusual trade was made by Sarnia who got St. Marys Lincolns’ goalie Andrew Masters. The move was one few saw coming and although he’s only played one game for the Legionnaires, the Sarnia defense will have to cut down the high number of shots Masters previously faced. Masters is definitely an upgrade to goalie Hunter Johnson, who the Legionnaires sent to Welland where Johnson is now one of three goalies.  While all the scouts consider Masters talented, it is yet to be seen how he can provide wins for a team that has been playing sporadic hockey since late October. Yet, Masters’ value may be somewhat diminished simply because all the teams have scouted him and know his weaknesses and strengths. He also has to learn to play in one of the division’s (and GOJHL’s) smallest barns. Sarnia also added defensive help with the addition of Connor Andersen from Brampton. Together, the two may aide the Legionnaires in holding on to second or third place.

LaSalle added Mark Manchurek, who played for the club last season and who had been with the OHL Windsor Spitfires until recently. He was the Western Conference’s Top Rookie Scorer in the 2013-14 season and will provide leadership and skill, but one player alone doesn’t always turn a ship around. However, he will help the young Vipers’ team, but the lack of overall experience is still a factor there.

The London Nationals remained quiet and only signed APM player Matt MacPherson to their lineup. It’s not a defining move, since MacPherson has played nine games this season, but he does bring with him the knowledge and experience of coach Kelly Thomson’s systems.

St. Marys has jettisoned a few players this season, but even with the addition of defenceman Nick Whitworth, the ship is still sinking, maybe more so now with the loss of Andrew Masters.  This team needs to find a good core of players and keep them together for at least two years. That’s not happening in St. Marys yet, but if Merlin obtains the players he needs and gets the effort he desires, the boat will revert back to a proper course.

Of all the teams Lambton surprised many by not making any moves, although they did send DJ Sapone down to Dresden, but kept him as an APJ. They traded captain Ty Jackson to the OJHL and that move will certainly affect the team down the stretch. Leaving the team fairly intact means that coach Don Dickson may have a more experienced veteran team for 2015-16, they have already shown minuscule signs of hope and now the group has only to look to the future.

Some changes with the Chatham Maroons as well. They sent heralded Dede Cato to Blenheim.Jr. C and have called up Teddy McGeen to play a few games recently. But their biggest move came when high-scoring forward Michael Verboom, and captain, has reportedly left the team to join Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he accepted a hockey scholarship last year.  But they did acquire two former GOJHL players, both of which are considered snipers, former Stars’ players Luc Knight and Gus Ford. Ford began his GOJHL career with the Stars before playing with Brantford this season. Chatham will now have one of the oldest and most experienced Jr. B teams. The addition of Ford and Knight will certainly make their offense more powerful.

Finally the conference-leading Leamington Flyers made two minor moves. They picked up Travis Campbell and Ryan Shipley. Shipley, a former OHL player, had been with Wilfred Laurier (CIS) this season while Campbell came from the NOJHL. Nothing spectacular in the way of stats for both, but in the limited action they have seen so far, they are steady and fit in well enough to strengthen an already pretty solid club.

With all the additions, there is one month for them to get accustomed to their new teammates and systems as well as the various rinks and their new teams. In some cases, there are teams which are done their season series in some arenas (i.e. Leamington does not play any games at Memorial arena) so in those cases the new players will just have to gel as best they can with their new squads. Now only time will tell if these players become the impact players each clubs hopes. Best of luck to all the players who have found new homes, and best of luck to all the teams gearing up for the play-offs.

You all know that I am a die-hard Rockets fan, but I am also a die-hard GOJHL fan, having been watching Jr. B hockey since I was 10 years old. I will only watch the GOJHL and during the hockey season, you never know what arena RG is gonna show up at. I'm bringing you the games, news, and updates of the GOJHL. RG is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheRocketGirl16 and you can find me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheRocketGirl16 If you hear of anything about any of the teams in the GOJHL, or have questions about anything, feel free to post it. If I don't know the answer, I know how to find it.

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