‘Tis the season for movement in the Ontario Hockey League.
On Thursday afternoon, the London Knights traded 19-year old defenceman Ben Roger to the Kingston Frontenacs in exchange for a third-round draft pick in 2022, a second-round pick in 2024 and a conditional third-round pick in 2025.
For a team like the Knights that sits atop the league standings by four points over the next closest club this would seem like an unexpected trade.
But when you examine the emergence of players on the London roster and add in a key detail about the future things quickly come back into focus.
“There is a really good chance that we will get (Kirill) Steklov back shortly (from Vityaz Podolsk of the KHL),” says Knights associate general manager Rob Simpson. “His return allows for the move.”
Steklov has played in the KHL, MHL and VHL this year in what has been a bit of a turbulent season for him. He hasn’t spent a great deal of time in one place.
Steklov spent the 2019-20 season in London where he played in 50 games scoring two goals and adding seven assists.
The native of Estonia who plays internationally for Russia was a plus-10 and at six-feet-four-inches tall and nearly 200 pounds he has a fantastic reach and great athleticism.
Factor in the emergence of 17-year old Isaiah George, who sits at plus-12 on the season which is the second best among rookie defencemen and the play of 18-year old London, Ont. native Ethan MacKinnon, 19-year old Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Bryce Montgomery, a guy like 19-year old Gerard Keane who plays in all situations and hard-hitting 18-year old Connor Federkow and big minutes on the blue line were becoming hard to find.
And that list fails to factor in 17-year old Jackson Edward, who is out with a lower-body injury but has had an impressive start to his major junior career and 16-year old Oliver Bonk who looked very good in his OHL debut on November 16 against the Sarnia Sting.
Roger adds an excellent defenceman to a Kingston Frontenacs team that knows it only has phenom Shane Wright for the rest of this season. He also moves closer to his home of Brighton, Ont.
Simpson points to the draft picks London received as being useful in a couple of ways.
“The draft picks give us options,” explains Simpson. “We can keep them for the draft or make use of them if we need to make a move.”
From Oct. 21 to Nov. 14 not a single trade was made in the OHL.
From Nov. 15 to Nov. 25, teams combined to make seven different deals.
Two of those were made to smooth out extra overage players on the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Owen Sound Attack as 20-year old London, Ont., native Liam Van Loon went from the Bulldogs to the Niagara Ice Dogs and the Attack dealt 20-year old goaltender Mack Guzda to the Barrie Colts.
A trade freeze will go into effect over the holiday break which is set to start in the OHL following the games to be played on December 19.
The Knights will play their final game before the holidays on Dec. 18 in Guelph, Ont.
After games on the road against the Storm and the Owen Sound Attack, London will return home December 3 against the Erie Otters and then host their 2021 Teddy Bear Toss on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. against the Sarnia Sting.