IceDogs comfortable with course of action
Defenceman Gerard Keane was added last week in a deal with the London Knights. Photo by: BILL POTRECZ
When Darren DeDobbelear took over the Niagara IceDogs after purchasing the team from the Burke family this summer, he quickly went work.
DeDobbelear named himself general manager and then made five deals right off the bat, quickly establishing he was more interested in the present than the future.
“Never want to rebuild,” DeDobbelear said at the time. “I don’t believe with this facility, in this location, in this region, we should ever have to rebuild. It’s a cycle of five 16-year-olds, five 17-year-olds, five 18-year-olds. Every team gets 15 draft choices and draft picks aren’t players. We need players. I don’t think we ever need to be in a rebuild.”
DeDobbelaer backed up his philosophy with a plethora of trades involving 22 players and a whopping 47 draft picks.
“Our main focus for this year was to put the best product on the ice right away and if it meant unloading some draft picks — we have a lot of draft picks we acquired through trades — but we feel we’re in a good position moving forward,” IceDogs assistant general manager Wes Consorti said. “We have to monitor who’s going out with the 20-year-olds and who’s graduating. We’re cautious of that.”
The philosophy has led some to believe the IceDogs have mortgaged their future, but Consorti feels they have achieved the proper balance.
“We have picks. I know people have thought we don’t, but we have picks,” Consorti said. The IceDogs own two first-round picks next year — their own choice based on where they finish this season — and the fifth overall pick which they were awarded when Sam Dickinson, their first-round selection this season, did not sign and was later traded to London. As well, the club has picks in the second, fourth and fifth rounds. They do not have picks in third, fifth or sixth rounds but have 15 overall.
“We have five picks in the top 80 next year,” Consorti said. “Obviously the draft this year is very important with five picks in the top 80. We have to get it right in this year’s draft. I don’t think it’s a secret how the last couple of drafts have went based on who’s still here.”
Despite the volume of deals, Consorti said the plan was never to turn over the roster just for the sake of change.
“I think it was more of what the team needed, what was missing,” he said. “More of a collective effort from our group to identify what we need now. We had to make decisions as a team what was here maybe that wasn’t the best fit for us, fit for them.
“Under no circumstance it wasn’t just us coming in and tearing the roster down. We have a team identity we feel we have to play to and obviously decisions need to be made. At this level, that’s just the way this goes.”
Consorti said management has addressed the players.
“As a player, I’m sure like any other team there’s anxiety of trades or losing your spot in the lineup. We’ve made it clear to our group and our leadership group this is how our team needs to play and these are the guys we feel can do that. I wouldn’t say we have players playing in fear.”
Last week, the team dealt promising defenceman Alec Leonard, 18, and two high picks to the London Knights for overage defenceman Gerard Keane in a move that puzzled some.
“It’s difficult because (Captain Landon) Cato is hurt,” Consorti said. “We needed a right-shot D, a power-play defenceman and Keene was available. He’s a top player in the league we felt. We did our homework on him.”
“Alec is a great player but we were in a spot where he’s in a certain spot in our lineup today. We had to do what was best for us and for him as well. We believe he’ll be fine in London.”
Consorti hinted the team may be done wheeling and dealing for the time being.
“We like our group. We’re at a point where we see what we have. We feel we have a lot of depth in our lineup, we feel our D are very good, our goaltending situation is fine. I think we’re pretty good right now,” he said.
The IceDogs, 3-3-1, are home to Erie Thursday after a solid effort in a win over Flint Saturday.
“There’s growing pains for sure, everyone has seen that,” Consorti said. “Our three-game losing streak we went through some things but we also sorted a lot of things out in our week of practice. The more we tighten up defensively collectively, the offence is there. It just needs to stay there. We score five or six goals and let in five or six, that’s not sustainable. If we stick to our team system then that should pay off.”
Ice cubes: Cato continues to rehab his upper body injury but there is no time table for his return.
Following are a list of deals made by the Niagara IceDogs since June. 30:
From Oshawa: David Jesus
From Niagara: Niagara (5) 2023, Mississauga 3 2025
From Ottawa: Vsevolod Gaidamak
From Niagara: Niagara (4) 2023
From Guelph: Matthew Papais
From Niagara Oshawa (4) 2024, Niagara (3) 2025
From Windsor: Nathan Ribau
From Niagara: Niagara (4) 2025, Niagara (3) 2026
From Windsor: Pasquale Zito
From Niagara: Oshawa (2) 2023, Oshawa (2) 2024, Niagara (4) 2024, Niagara (6) 2024, Mississauga (4) 2024*, Niagara (5) 2025*
From Sarnia: Nolan Dann
From Niagara: Kitchener (2) 2023, Oshawa (2) 2025, Niagara (5) 2026.
From Mississauga: Saginaw (3) 2024, Mississauga (12) 2025, Mississauga (3) 2026, Mississauga (15) 2026
From Niagara: Isaac Enright, Ryan Struthers.
From London: North Bay (3) 2023, London (5) 2023, London (2) 2024, London (2) 2025, London (3) 2025, London (2) 2026, London (3) 2026
From Niagara: Sam Dickinson
From London: Owen Flores
From Niagara: Niagara (5) 2024, Niagara (2) 2026
From Flint: Flint (14) 2024
From Niagara: Boe Piroski
From Oshawa: Oshawa (8) 2024
From Niagara: Dylan Roobroeck
From Flint: William Stewart
From Niagara: Niagara (12) 2023
From Peterborough Gabriel Runco
From Niagara: Niagara (15) 2024*
From Saginaw: Evan Klein
From Niagara: Mississauga (12) 2025
From Windsor: Windsor (4) 2023, Windsor (12) 2026
From Niagara: Joey Costanzo.
From Kitchener: Andrew LeBlanc, Jacob LeBlanc
From Niagara: London (5) 2023, London (2) 2024, London (3) 2025, Mississauga (3) 2026
From Mississauga: Mississauga (4) 2023, Saginaw (5) 2025, Mississauga (2) 2026
From Niagara: Brice Cooke
From London: Gerard Keane, Mississauga (12) 2023.
From Niagara: Alex Leonard, North Bay (3) 2023, Mississauga (2) 2026.
From Owen Sound: Owen Sound (5) 2025
From Niagara: Matthew Papais.
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