Thursday, November 13, 2008

O Doctor: Wild card in the '08 goalie shuffle

Not much creates more chatter in OHL circles than a top-flight American-eligible player rumoured to be on the move from the US National Development Program to the OHL. Right now, that is goaltender Brandon Maxwell, a highly touted 2009 NHL draft prospect who became the property of the Windsor Spitfires last week.

The Cambridge, Ont., native with dual citizenship remained with the U.S. under-18 nats team for a four nations tournament last weekend.

Of course, this is all part of the usual mid-November kickoff to the OHL arms race when GMs who fancy their teams as contenders begin to add the missing pieces.

It started when London pulled Trevor Cann out of Peterborough last week. Now, however, anything anyone thought they knew about the way the goalie dance might go leading up to the early January OHL trade deadline was fed through a wood shredder when Windsor traded for Maxwell — giving up a good young player, Andrew Yogan, and Barrie's 2009 second-round pick – to Erie for the US NDTP goalie, who happens to have a verbal commitment to play at Boston College next year. Now, there’s chatter on a few blogs and in posting forums that the Spits may flip the all-upside Maxwell to Guelph in a deal for one of the OHL’s elite 'tenders, Thomas McCollum.

With the amount of attention this thing is getting, it seems sure Maxwell will leave the U.S. program for the OHL, eventually.

OHL reporters have different considerations than NHL beat guys or columnists. Some pro writers will put anything that comes across their crackberries in print. With a few exceptions, OHL beat guys are in a different situation and tend to keep more under their hats. There sure is a lot of hinting going on, though, enough to make this Maxwell thing seem good as done.

But outside of the parties involved, who knows how far this Guelph idea goes? Maxwell’s father Brad is an assistant in Guelph. And the only reason the 17-year-old goalie of Maxwell’s calibre would leave behind a full NCAA ride, and perhaps piss off the U.S. nats enough to risk grudges and future international play, is if he were to get enough OHL experience to help his development prior to and after his NHL draft.

Another consideration is the Spits are looking to build a fault-less team for a run at the Memorial Cup. They aren’t going to bring in a 17-year-old to be their go-to No. 1 guy. They’ll want experience to lead the way in the form of Andrew Engelage and/or a McCollum-esque goalie.

A when you’re talking about wheeling, dealing Warren Rychel, you can’t rule out anything. Maybe he brings in McCollum and flips Engelage, an overager, to another team for some more experience for the Windsor blueline.

Then again, maybe Maxwell sticks with the Spits, gets all the experience that this spring's run brings – as a backup, primarily – and is the key cog of a Spitfires organization that is interested in hosting the 2011 Mem Cup.

The only safe bet right now is taking the over on how many moves the Spits and Knights wll make to gear up for what should be a heck of a Western Conference final.

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