Laker Headrick says no to Otters’ offer
As the Erie Otters added world-class forward Anthony Cirelli in an Ontario Hockey League trade with the Oshawa Generals earlier this month, they once again tried to talk 1997 birth-year defenseman Owen Headrick into leaving the Lake Superior State Lakers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Headrick, though, turned down the Otters’ latest overture to leave Lake State for Erie, which for the third year in a row is chasing what has been an elusive OHL championship.
Erie has maintained the OHL rights to Headrick after selecting the Garden River First Nation product in the 14th round of the 2013 OHL draft.
But after starring with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League for two seasons, Headrick opted to accept a scholarship offer from the Lakers as a freshman for the 2015-2016 campaign — and as the youngest player in the WCHA.
OK, so maybe the London Knights do have a cash war chest that exceeds what most Ontario Hockey League teams have. But it’s also the ability of the Knights to scout and sign free agents and later trade them for value that sets the perennial OHL contenders and defending Memorial Cup champions apart from the rest.
Emptying a full cupboard stocked from previous deals, the Knights gave up a whopping 13 draft picks at the trade deadline to bring three star players to London — forwards Dante Salituro (Ottawa 67’s) and Mitchell Stephens (Saginaw Spirit) and defenseman Mitch Vande Sompel (Oshawa Generals.)
It’s how the Knights have been able to acquire excess draft picks and later parlay them for star players is what is impressive about how London hockey boss Dale Hunter and his staff do business.
Consider five players who the Knights have dealt away for high draft picks within the last calendar year and how London was able to get those skaters in the first place.
In five separate transactions, original free-agent forwards Ryan Valentini, Kole Sherwood and C.J. Yakimowicz, free-agent defenseman Chris Martenet and former 10th-round pick defender Aiden Jamieson yielded the Knights a total return that included four second-round picks, two third-round picks, a sixth-round pick and the aforementioned Salituro, who netted 82 goals for Ottawa over the past two seasons, playoffs included.
Now that is what can be called effective scouting, making use of assets and advanced planning.
And the above examples of being able to get major returns on players who were either free agents or a late-round draft pick — and later selling them off — are just some of what makes London the long-time OHL powerhouse that it continues to be.
Not that the Knights trade off all of the free-agent finds that they manage to sign and bring to London.
One free agent standout who remains in London is goalie Tyler Parsons, the un-drafted OHL phenom and second-round National Hockey League draft pick of the Calgary Flames who, after leading the Knights to the 2016 Memorial Cup title, merely back-stopped Team U.S.A. to a gold-medal triumph over Team Canada at the recent World Junior Hockey Championships.
In like Flint
Dealing from depth via excess draft picks from earlier trades, the Flint Firebirds have given up previously acquired, second-and-third-round selections for the 2018 Ontario Hockey League draft to obtain highly touted, 1999 birth-year forward C.J. Clarke from the Peterborough Petes.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Clarke was Peterborough’s second-round pick at the 2015 OHL draft. In modest duty with the Eastern Conference-contending Petes thus far this season, Clarke had six goals and five assists for 11 points in 27 games.
Flint general manager George Burnett said Clarke has the potential to be a “key member of our group moving forward."