How the Windsor Spitfires are Rebuilding their Future
Last year, with all the odds against them, the Windsor Spitfires captured the 2017 Memorial Cup on home ice after 44 days off after being eliminated in the first round playoff by the London Knights. They clearly have received mixed reviews for the way they won the tournament but three Memorial Cup wins in nine years is very impressive for the storied junior hockey franchise. However, with the cupboards looking extremely bare, it was time for the franchise to build for the future and set a goal to compete for 2020.
When Windsor won the bid to host the tournament, General Manager, Warren Rychel knew he had to trade away his remaining valuable assets to acquire talent. That is what he did last season when he traded for Jermey Bracco, Graham Knott, Sean Day and Julius Nattinen, which dried out the Spitfires cupboard. Rychel had no choice but to go for a complete rebuild this season and it resulted in trading some of the fan favourites in the organization to steer the them into a young path.
It all started on December 14th when the trade of captain Aaron Luchuk to the Barrie Colts was announced. At the time of the announcement, Luchuck was leading all players in the Ontario Hockey League with 28 goals, and 51 points. It came at a shock to Windsor fans, but the return the Spitfires received was impressive for an over aged player. Barrie sent Windsor forward, Curtis Douglas, a 2nd round pick in 2021, a 2nd round pick in 2022, and a 3rd round pick in 2024. Of course, the 2nd round picks helped but acquiring a talented 17 year old forward was the most important asset in this deal. Currently, the NHL central scouting system lists the 6’8 Douglas at 93rd for North American Skaters, and he is expected to be listed higher in the final rankings, due to the fact that he has been given the number 1st line role for Windsor.
The next trade Rychel made was his biggest, and that was shipping Gabriel Vilardi and Sean Day to the Kingston Frontenacs. In return, Windsor received a big haul with 16 year old Cody Morgan, 2nd rounders in 2020, 2022, 2024, 2025, a 3rd round pick in 2020 and 3 extra conditional picks that are 2nd rounders in 2027, 2028 and another 3rd round pick in 2023. That is 5 picks, a 1st round rookie, and the likelihood of obtaining 3 more picks to add to cupboard. This trade was a big win for the Windsor Spitfires.
The final deal Rychel made to improve the future was the trade with the Kitchener Rangers that saw the very talented but also very injury prone centreman, Logan Brown, and over age defenceman, Austin McEneny leave Windsor. This deal, not as big as the Kingston Haul, saw the Spitfires acquire another 16 year old in Grayson Ladd and much needed 2nd rounders in 2018, 2019 with a 3rd rounder in 2018 and a 5th rounder in 2019 also being added to the deal. With the trades made, Rychel brought 3 quality young guys and 14 picks into the Spitfires cupboard.
Now the most valuable piece the Spitfires have, Rychel decided to keep and that is 18 year old star goaltender and local boy, Michael DiPietro. Just imagine the haul he would have brought to Windsor as there was a rumored 7 pick deal and the 1st overall pick in the 2017 OHL selection, Ryan Suzuki, from Barrie as a possible deal mentioned. Sources close to the Spitfires organization say that DiPietro would not waive his no-trade clause to leave the team, but I expect him to still bring a good return when/if the time comes.