top of page

Analysis: Quiet 2024 OHL Trade Deadline for Mississauga Steelheads



By: Mitchell Fox


A year ago, the Steelheads had one of the most noteworthy trade deadlines of any team in the OHL, making the kind of changes that alter the trajectory of the franchise. This year, their trade deadline moves reflected a commitment to the trajectory set on that day.


The OHL Trade Deadline comes in two parts, with a deadline for trading overage players (this year, players born in 2003) one day and a deadline for any other player to be traded the next day. This year, the overage deadline was at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 9 and the regular deadline was at noon the next day, Dec. 10.


The Steelheads were not too concerned with those deadlines. They made two of their four moves well before the deadline, acquiring Reed Gee from the Flint Firebirds in December to fill out the blue line and then Dean Loukus from the Saginaw Spirit on Jan. 5, using up their last overage spot. 


Their other two moves did come on the final two days but were not the kind of splashes made by teams around them at the top of the standings. They traded Zander Veccia to the Guelph Storm in exchange for a package of draft picks on Tuesday, then moved WIlliam Haley to the Peterborough Petes for a conditional draft pick on Wednesday. 


That the Steelheads decided to stay fairly quiet at this year’s deadline is not a huge surprise. Their core is young, with only a handful of players likely to move on at the end of the season (Chas Sharpe, Marc Boudreau and Loukus are the only certain departures as overage players) and many NHL Draft-eligibles this year or even next year. As such, they were likely comfortable letting this year play out and sticking to a plan of reaching their competitive peak next year or the year after. 


By the time this article is out, Mississauga will have played two games since the trade deadline. Their lineups will have looked similar to how the team looked before the trade deadline, except for Loukus in Veccia’s spot and Gee slotting in on the third defence pairing. 


Here is a breakdown of the Steelheads’ moves this year.


IN: Reed Gee 

To MISS: Reed Gee, 2024 12th rd. pick

To FLT: 2027 3rd, 2026 8th, 2026 11th


Reed Gee was acquired from the Flint Firebirds on Dec. 17 in a move to fill out a team desperate for more bodies in the lineup. At the time he was acquired, the Steelheads were missing Jakub Fibigr to injury and Luke Dragusica to a suspension, leaving a gap on the left side of the blue line William Haley could not fill on his own.


That said, Gee was not just a short-term stop-gap. Richmond told media the Steelheads had been trying to acquire a defenceman for about a month. As a 17-year-old, Gee is eligible to play for the Steelheads not only for the rest of this season but for at least two more, making him exactly the type of player James Richmond would like. Dragusica has had strong moments but has not proven to be ready for a full-time role on a contending team so Gee provides another capable left-handed presence on the back-end.


At 6’0”, Gee is not as big as Dragusica or Stevie Leskovar. Still, in his short time as a Steelhead, he has shown to provide a physical presence and not back down to bigger or older players. He is not the strongest puck-mover yet but there is promise in his skating, passing and especially his shot. Like many of the Steelheads’ young players, he is sure to improve over a couple more years in Mississauga.


“He's gonna be good for us,” Richmond said after Reed was acquired.


IN: Dean Loukus

To MISS: Dean Loukus

To SAG: 2024 6th (KIT), 2027 9th (MISS)


Dean Loukus is a player James Richmond clearly liked and will continue to like. Another smaller winger, Loukus brings a cerebral element to his game that might be lacking on a young Steelheads squad that can sometimes get carried away. Though he had an assist in his first game in blue-and-white on Saturday, what Richmond took away was his intelligence with and without the puck.


“He does some detail things that are really smart,” he said on Jan. 6. “[He has had] over 50 points every year he has played in our league, but he does a lot of other things away from the puck that are really high-end.”


Adding an overage player may in some ways be counter-intuitive to the later move of trading away Veccia but this was a case of the Steelheads needing an experienced presence and taking advantage of the opportunities available to them, a staple of Richmond’s thinking at this deadline.


With an overage slot available and the Spirit needing to move an overage player to make room for Josh Bloom to return to the OHL from the Vancouver Canucks organization, this trade was a case of perfect fits. Richmond and company were patient rather than overspending when their lineup was short due to injuries and other absences and the result is getting a player who seems to fit in well. 


Loukus will need time to adjust to a new situation after four years with the Spirit in his home state of Michigan but if he gets up to the level he has proven to be capable of for a couple of years now, the Steelheads will be happy with the low-cost addition. 


“He's gonna be a big acquisition for us,” Richmond added.


Mississauga will probably not miss a 6th-round pick or a 9th-round pick four years from now too much if Loukus helps them pull off some more surprises as the season goes on.


OUT: Zander Veccia

To MISS: 2026 2nd (GUE), 2025 3rd (KIT), 2024 5th (SBY), cond. 2027 4th (GUE) 

To GUE: Zander Veccia


Moving Zander Veccia may have come as a surprise to some but was a move reflective of the Steelheads’ direction. Veccia was fourth in the team in scoring at the time of the trade and was a key offensive piece for Richmond’s squad, providing speed and a never-give-up attitude that could inspire his team and impress audiences. However, as a player born in 2004, the Ridgetown, Ont., product was only going to be available for the remainder of this season and possibly next season, if he returned as an overage player. 


Though the Steelheads would have had room for Veccia as an overage player next season (Stevie Leskovar is the only other 2004-born player on the team), the move allowed Richmond to maximize future assets. Veccia’s value was at its highest it would likely ever be and as much as the Steelheads would love to succeed this season, they knew they could not go all-in as teams around them were. So, an early-to-mid-round pick in each of the next four drafts is a return the Steelheads will take and hope to use wisely for a player they selected in the third round in 2020.


With Loukus brought in and producing similar offensive results to Veccia this season, Richmond was likely comfortable ending up with a team similar in strength and composition to what he has had all season. Seeing as both players are 5’10” right wingers with speed down the boards, perhaps the writing was on the wall for Veccia to be traded once Loukus was brought in.


OUT: William Haley

To MISS: Cond. 2027 15th rd. pick (PBO)

To PBO: William Haley


Trading Will Haley to the Peterborough Petes in exchange for a conditional late-round draft pick feels like a move to give a player an opportunity for more playing time. 


Haley, a product of Cobourg, Ont., will be moving closer to home to play for a torn-down Petes team. Unsurprisingly, Peterborough general manager Mike Oke decided it was time to trade away all of their older players in exchange for younger up-and-coming players and a boatload of draft picks, moving Owen Beck, Jax Dubois, Konnor Smith and captain Donovan McCoy, among others. 


Four of eight defencemen on the Petes roster are rookies, meaning there could be some opportunity for Haley to slip into games than he would have with the Steelheads, where he was fairly clearly the eighth option. His playing time was sure to dip after Gee was acquired and once Jakub Fibigr returned from injury, even if he could fill in at forward as he did a couple of weeks ago. 


The 15th-round pick four years from now is unlikely to make a lot of difference for Mississauga, but they made some space, gave Haley an opportunity and might get something out of it.


In-house additions 

In the end, the Steelheads were happy to be a relative non-player compared to other OHL teams who made several newsworthy moves. Part of that is because of their philosophy for the season, while another part is knowing they have their own additions from December to January.


Last week, Angus MacDonell returned from a short injury stint looking like the NHL-drafted prospect he is. Lucas Karmiris also returned from injury and looked like a totally different player in his first couple of appearances, showcasing speed and skill to match his two-way ability. Similarly, Marc Boudreau returned from a suspension and showed he has more to offer than toughness (which he also did at the outset of the season with a couple of impressive snipes).  


This week, the Steelheads got Adam Zidlicky back from the World Juniors (where he earned a bronze medal playing for Czechia) and Jakub Fibigr returned from a lower-body injury. The addition of the two Czechs just in time for the deadline, paired with the relative health of the rest of his lineup, might have helped Richmond feel comfortable not making any drastic additions.


“Those are pretty good pickups at the trade deadline,” Richmond said of Fibigr and Zidlicky on Saturday. 


Mississauga currently sits third in the Eastern Conference just after the mid-way point of the season. It is a position they are glad to be in but also not necessarily the one that fits their trajectory toward being a definitive contender over the next couple of seasons. Richmond said so himself when talking about the addition of Loukus on Saturday – the Steelheads impressed enough to earn having their general manager acquire another forward.


“I'm really happy with the way our guys have played this year,” Richmond said last week. “We are the youngest team in the league and we should be in the bottom four, right? That's where all the experts picked us. So we're doing alright.”


A week later, that quote comes across differently. Richmond was acknowledging his pride but he was also acknowledging a truth about the youth of his team and their direction. He knows where his team stands but he also knows where he wants it to stand a year from now. That was reflected in protecting and building future assets at the trade deadline.


For now, the Steelheads are happy with where they are and to be one of the quieter teams at the OHL trade deadline. In a year from now, though, fans might want to buckle up. James Richmond is not afraid to use his cards when the time is right.













Opmerkingen


bottom of page