IceDogs do the right thing dealing stars
The IceDogs received an astounding nine draft picks from Oshawa for Phil Tomasino. Photo by: OHL IMAGES.
When the Niagara IceDogs dealt stars Akil Thomas and Philip Tomasino last week before the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline, it was a classic case of short term pain for long term gain.
The IceDogs made the wise decision — really the only sane decision — to flip Thomas and Tomasino in order to accelerate their rebuilding process. It’s common practice in the OHL, although, that doesn’t mean it is without pain to trade away the face or faces of a franchise.
And trading Thomas only a few days after he scored the winning goal for Team Canada in the gold medal game at the World Junior Championships only made it even harder for some to swallow.
Let’s set the record straight.
More than one fan I’ve come across has wondered aloud why the team would trade their two best players and not receive back a player or players of equal value.
Akil Thomas and Phil Tomasino are two of the greatest IceDogs ever to lace up their skates in St. Catharines. Both are class individuals off the ice and were a credit to the organization. But as great as they were, the IceDogs are simply not in a position to contend this season.
In other words, the team was going to finish somewhere around the .500 mark, with or without them.
Thomas will turn pro next season and be gone, and while Tomasino has one year of junior eligibility remaining, there continue to be whispers he may have a chance to crack Nashville’s lineup next season as a 19-year-old.
With those factors in mind, IceDogs general manager Joey Burke struck while the iron was hot and acquired an astounding nine draft picks from Oshawa for Tomasino, including six second-round picks, as well as a pair of second-round picks from Peterborough as part of the package for Thomas. The IceDogs earlier peddled import forward Kyen Sopa to Erie for three picks, including a second in 2022.
It was an astounding haul, and an absolute necessity.
The IceDogs were without a second-round selection for the next five seasons after emptying their cupboard last year in an all-out attempt to win.
Remember when the IceDogs acquired Jack Studnicka and Matt Brassard from the Oshawa Generals? Both were solid contributors — particularly Studnicka — as the IceDogs went for broke last season. But the cost was steep: Stud prospect Lleyton Moore, three second-round picks, and three thirds.
The IceDogs also traded several picks, including three seconds and a third, as part of the package to acquire Jason Robertson and Jacob Paquette from Kingston.
Those deals left the cupboard bare. Toss in the team is without a first -round pick in 2021 as part of the punishment from the OHL for their part in the Zack Wilkie issue, and it was imperative the team somehow, some way, restock their picks.
“This was a difficult decision to make but the fact of the matter is we are building our future around 02-04s and younger, and we will never get a chance to acquire this amount of picks again,” general manager Joey Burke said at the time of the deals. “With the pick window closing to four years next season, I believe this is the last deal of this magnitude we will see in this league.
“The opportunity to add nine impact players for our future is something we couldn’t pass up. Not only have we now restocked our draft cupboard, we have multiple seconds in every year. This deal sets us back up for the future and gives us the tools to build a winner.”
The IceDogs now have two second-round picks in each of the next three years, three seconds in 2023, and two thirds in 2021 and 2022. They are without a fourth in 2020 and a third in 2023 as well as a few lower round picks scattered through the years.
With so many picks at their disposal, the IceDogs can begin the cycle of rebuilding. They already have a couple of pieces to centre the rebuild around in defencemen Isaac Enright and Landon Cato, while forwards Jake Uberti and newcomer Cameron Butler, picked up from the Petes in the trade for Thomas, have been listed on the NHL’s Central Scouting Services mid-term rankings.
The IceDogs will likely focus on high-end forwards in the upcoming drafts and may also look at picking up another goaltender in the wake of Tucker Tynan’s serious leg injury. Tynan is expected to make a full recovery, but has to be considered an unknown quantity until he proves he can play again.
The remainder of this season will likely a struggle. The club has dropped four straight but still hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a seven-point lead over Kingston. To be able to qualify for the playoffs in the midst of a full-blown rebuild would be the icing on the cake and is still a real possibility.
What the club does for the remaining 26 games of the season, however, isn’t nearly important as how they fare at the draft table in April.
The IceDogs are well set up for the future. Burke should be given credit for doing what he had to do to set the team up for a rebuild. Now it’s up to the scouts and the IceDogs to make good on those picks and select the next Akil Thomas and Phil Tomasino.
The IceDogs are home to Barrie Friday and North Bay Saturday.
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