By: Mitchell Fox
The Mississauga Steelheads took the idea of a new year’s resolution to heart in a remarkable way during the Ontario Hockey League’s trade season this year, dramatically changing the appearance and outlook of their team over the course of a week.
Ahead of the Ontario Hockey League’s trade deadlines on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 (overage players could not be traded after the ninth, while any other players could be traded on the 10th), the Steelheads made a number of significant trades.
First up was the addition of Adam Zidlicky on Jan. 5, then came the big splashes. Owen Beck, Ethan Del Mastro and Luca Del Bel Belluz were all rumoured to be traded late on Jan. 6 – a night they all spent in the press box – with official trade announcements coming the next day. Beck and Del Mastro, who had just returned from earning a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, were on their way to Peterborough and Sarnia respectively, while Del Bel Belluz was also headed to The Imperial City.
The Steelheads would make one more move, acquiring defenceman Stevie Leskovar from the Peterborough Petes on trade deadline day.
With five trades (or four), coach and general manager James Richmond and company refurbished their team, turning their gaze from this season to several down the road, while maintaining a roster construction that can pose an underdog threat in the playoffs.
ACQUIRED: Adam Zidlicky
The Steelheads’ first move of the new year was small compared to others they made, but it was noteworthy. On Jan. 5, the team acquired winger Adam Zidlicky from the Kitchener Rangers alongside a fourth-round pick in 2023 (from Barrie) in exchange for Sudbury’s 2023 fourth-round pick and Mississauga’s 2025 fifth-round and 2026 fourth-round picks.
Though giving up draft picks may not have seemed to be the prerogative of a Mississauga team in mainly selling mode, Zidlicky brings something the Steelheads want this season and in the future: a skilled player that can play anywhere in the lineup. The 17-year-old native of Prague, Czechia, joined the Steelheads having posted five goals and 12 points in 30 games with the Rangers, and looked ready to improve that quickly after two games with the Steelheads.
Zidlicky scored two goals in his first game in the blue-and-white, including a shorthanded tally and an impressive goal off the rush late in the third period. In his second game, he added an assist on Angus MacDonell’s first goal as a Steelhead. A week later, he even attempted a “Michigan” lacrosse move against the Barrie Colts, showing his skill to match his already impressive speed.
Zidlicky was ranked #220 on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm ranking of North American skaters for the 2023 NHL draft last week.
TRADED: Owen Beck | ACQUIRED: Jack Van Volsen, Justin DeZoete and picks
The Steelheads dealt Owen Beck to the Peterborough Petes on Jan. 7 in exchange for Jack Van Volsen, Justin DeZoete, two second-round picks in the 2025 OHL draft, a 2025 third-round pick and a 2026 fourth-round pick.
Beck was a star for the Steelheads, having posted 91 points in 98 games over the last two seasons (40 points in 30 games this season) and proved his worth as a strong two-way player.
Beck, who went to his birthplace of Peterborough in the deal, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the 33rd pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. Steelheads head coach and general manager James Richmond has often spoken about how NHL-drafted players set themselves apart in the OHL, and the return for Beck in the trade proves that value.
Jack Van Volsen is the centrepiece of the deal. The Whitby, Ont., native, who turned 17 on Jan. 12, was the 6th pick in the 2022 OHL draft. He had 11 pts in 29 games with the Petes this season, before adding a goal and an assist in his Steelheads debut on Jan. 8.
Van Volsen brings a mix of speed and strength, standing at 6’1” and already bringing the skillset of a solid middle-six OHL center. The Steelheads will hope to see the young centerman draw on his past successes – including 110 points in 57 games with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens U16 AAA in the Greater Toronto Hockey League before being drafted – as he develops into a bonafide top-six player.
Van Volsen’s development will surely be a focus for Mississauga as they set their sights on the future more so than this season. Justin DeZoete, meanwhile, may not quite provide that longevity but could be a useful piece this season and next.
DeZoete will provide some snarl alongside his puck retrieval and defensive abilities, playing throughout the lineup and likely on the penalty kill. Though not a premium scorer (the 19-year-old had 14 points in 36 games with the Petes this season and scored on an empty net in his first game in blue-and-white), DeZoete will provide Richmond with a player no opponent wants to play against.
Alongside Van Volsen and DeZoete, the Steelheads acquired four draft picks in exchange for Beck. The two second-round picks could be quite valuable (especially as first-round picks cannot be traded in the OHL), but third- and fourth-round picks will add even more possibilities in terms of players of the future. The picks all come in the 2025 and 2026 drafts, which means they can be used as trade chips over the next two seasons or can be kept to select the next round of young Steelheads.
TRADED: Ethan Del Mastro | ACQUIRED: Porter Martone, 2023 2nd-round pick
The Steelheads were busy on Dec. 7, as they also announced a massive deal with the Sarnia Sting. The deal was broken up into two, with the first involving (now former) Steelheads captain Ethan Del Mastro.
Del Mastro, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect, is an established leader, not only as an OHL captain but as an alternate captain on Team Canada at the world juniors. This combines with his defensive prowess – an asset that will likely drive his career – to make him an incredibly valuable trade asset (some rumours even circulated that the return for Del Mastro could exceed that for Shane Wright).
The return for one of the OHL’s best defensive defencemen? Porter Martone and a 2023 2nd-round pick originally belonging to the Flint Firebirds.
Once again, a player born in 2006 is the main piece coming back to the Steelheads. Porter Martone is the kind of player the Steelheads wanted to get back in return for a player of Del Mastro’s pedigree, as he brings high regard, skill and potential.
Martone had his 16th birthday in October, making him one of the youngest players in the OHL. There will thus be a lot of time for the Steelheads to develop him into a legitimate OHL star or an NHL prospect.
Martone brings a fascinating mix of size and skill, as his agility and puck-handling are as impressive as his 6’3” frame (and his ability to use it). He was selected fifth overall in the 2022 OHL draft, one pick above Van Volsen, who he played alongside on the Jr. Canadiens last season (and had a similarly impressive total of 107 points in 58 games).
The two players had a serious connection playing in the GTHL and will hope to re-ignite it in Mississauga. After one game, they appear set to do so, as Van Volsen said they “jumped right back into” the connection they had.
“We just know where each other are at all times,” he said.
An additional second-round pick in the next OHL draft is an asset the Steelheads will appreciate, as their draft cupboard for 2023 was depleted due to past moves. They now have Flint and Windsor’s second-round picks, two fourth-round picks (one is conditional), and their own seventh- and ninth-round selections.
TRADED: Luca Del Bel Belluz | ACQUIRED: Angus MacDonell, Picks
The final of the Steelheads’ three trades that day was another with the Sting. Also moving Northwest was another Del, Luca Del Bel Belluz. The Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect played three seasons with the Steelheads, making a particularly big mark this season and last. In 2021-22, he had 76 points (30 goals) in 68 games. In 34 games with the Steelheads this season, he had 41 points (20 goals), putting him on pace for a slight career-high.
The return for Del Bel Belluz included forward Angus MacDonell, London’s fourth-round pick in 2025 and Sarnia’s fourth-round pick in 2026.
MacDonell was the most notable piece in the deal, for good reason. The Toronto native is eligible for the 2023 NHL draft and was ranked #172 on NHL Central Scouting’s North American skaters ranking this week. He brings a mix of smaller stature, speed and toughness that culminates in a high-energy but skilled player who will play an important role with the Steelheads for the rest of this season and in the future.
MacDonell had 17 points in 32 games with the Sting, setting a pace well above his 21 points in 2021-22. He also had 60 penalty minutes, however, reflecting the edge that he plays with but also something the Steelheads may be wary of.
In his first two games with the Steelheads, MacDonell had a goal in each game. Add in the fact he has played in all situations in his first three games and MacDonell has proven himself a fit for the Steelheads’ system on both sides of the puck.
Meanwhile, the two fourth-round picks will be pieces the Steelheads can choose to keep and use or move based on how the next two years go, offering them flexibility and getting some value out of one of their better players in Del Bel Belluz.
ACQUIRED: Stevie Leskovar
The Steelheads did wait to make one last move on trade deadline day as well, acquiring defenceman Stevie Leskovar from the Petes in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2023 and a tenth-round pick in 2023.
Leskovar is by no means a replacement for Del Mastro, but he does bring one similarity: size. The 6’4” Cambridge, Ont., native fits the prototype of a stay-at-home defenceman, coming over to the Steelheads with no points in 26 games but bringing defensive awareness, long reach and physical presence. In his first two games this weekend, Leskovar was not remarkably noticeable outside of a few body checks and one powerful slapshot, but that is often a good thing for a player in his role.
Leskovar will likely spend time on the third pairing with players such as Parker von Richter or Finn Harding, though he may spend some time out of the lineup to get Harding and Dylan Gordon some opportunities. Moving a couple of mid- to late-round draft picks for defensive depth likely took little second thought from Richmond and company, who might see the new-look lineup as still capable of making a dent in the Eastern Conference.
At the end of the day (week), the Steelheads have changed their roster construction significantly but are still a team with a chance to challenge any team for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
Three wins to kick off their time without Beck, Del Mastro and Del Bel Belluz was a good start and though Sunday’ and Monday’s losses to the Barrie Colts and Erie Otters were shots to the stomach, there is plenty of time left in the season.
For now, the team will focus on getting the new kids on the block comfortable in their new home and on the ice while winning as many games as they can. What becomes of that, and what happens over the course of multiple years with some of these younger players, is still to be seen. But that is not a bad thing, some might say.