You’re never too old to do what you love, unless you’re a 20-year-old playing in the Ontario Hockey League.
Teams are shuffling their decks to find the right balance of veteran talent and experience within the confines of the OHL’s rules – only three ’98 birth year players allowed per game this season.
Late Tuesday night the Sarnia Sting moved one of their four overage players, Theo Calvas, to the North Bay Battalion for a pair of mid-round picks.
The Battalion cut overage forward Kyle Potts to make room for Calvas, and before that, the Oshawa Generals traded overage forward Domenico Commisso to the Guelph Storm for a pair of second-round selections and a third-round pick.
The Attack are now the only OHL team with more than three overage players on the roster: Sean Durzi, Kevin Hancock, Alan Lyszczarczyk and Trenton Bourque.
Since Durzi’s return Owen Sound has sat out a player who, when dressed, has garnered first line or first pairing minutes.
Bourque sat out the first two games before Lyszczarczyk took a turn wearing a suit when head coach Todd Gill wanted the veteran defenceman in the line-up for Andrew MacLean’s first OHL start in goal.
“It’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make. We have a guy who would be a one or two on almost every team in this league and I am sitting him out,” Gill said after a game Bourque watched from the seats.
Owen Sound could keep all four of their overage players until early 2019, per OHL rules, but no one on the team or in its offices has an appetite for the current situation.
Gill isn’t necessarily enjoying the bounty of talent when it means making a tough call night in and night out – sitting a 20-goal scorer in Lyszczarczyk or a NHL draft pick and anchor on the back-end like Bourque.
“It’s a very tough situation,” he said after Owen Sound beat Oshawa 4-2 on Saturday night. “Not sure how it’s going to end up, but we’ll just have to deal with it.”
There are now five teams in the OHL with room to take on one of Owen Sound’s surplus overage players without making a corresponding move.
Those teams are the Erie Otters, Flint Firebirds, Mississauga Steelheads, Niagara IceDogs, and Saginaw Spirit.
“The reason I don’t want this to go on very long is because all four guys need to be playing in this league,” Attack GM Dale DeGray
It’s almost certain that of the four overage players on the Attack roster, Hancock and Durzi are staying put unless something drastic occurs. Both are key players and were recently made assistant captains.
Of course other general mangers are circling the waters looking for the big fish.
“I can tell you right now I’ve had a number of calls for the other two,” Attack GM Dale DeGray said in a recent interview. “Whether you want to trade guys or not, if guys are open to make suggestions and deals you’ve got to look at them.”
A little lost in all the talk about roster composition is the human element, but it weighs heavy on the minds of the Attack brass. Both Lyszczarczyk and Bourque are in their final year of junior hockey.
Lyszczarczyk has ambitions of playing professional hockey in Europe and earned a tryout this offseason, and Bourque, a sixth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2017, has one year left to show he deserves a contract from the NHL club before he becomes a free agent.
This is a big development year for both players.
“The reason I don’t want this to go on very long is because all four guys need to be playing in this league,” said DeGray. “That’s the bottom line . . . is it a week, two weeks, a month? I don’t know. I know the longer it goes on the more unhappy the guys are that are sitting out.”
DeGray is the one under pressure to make a move that will both help the players get back on the ice and help his club.
The Attack’s draft-pick cupboard is a little light in the front-end for both 2019 and 2020 after recent moves. Owen Sound traded a 2019 second-round pick (from Erie) in the deal for Christian Propp, which eventually netted them Brady Lyle. They sent a 2019 second-round pick from London in the deal for Carter Robertson earlier this season, and their own 2020 second-round pick in the deal that returned Brett McKenzie from the North Bay Battalion last season.
An online draft pick database – independent of the league, but over 98 per cent accurate ahead of the 2017 OHL draft – has the Attack void of second-round picks for the next three years and without a third-round pick in the next two priority drafts.
Trading one of Bourque or Lyszczarczyk should help refill the pick stock, however, if Bourque is traded Owen Sound would most likely want another defenceman back in the deal. If not, they’ll be left with only six defenders on the roster.
“It’s all part of the dance,” said DeGray. “That may come into play. Who is going to get you the biggest bang for the buck, and where does that fit if that person is not on the roster . . . it’s very tricky.”
It looks like a buyer’s market.
Commisso got the Gennies two seconds and a third coming off back-to-back 60-plus point seasons. Lyszczarczyk had 41 points in 2017-18 while missing a bulk of games for duty with the Polish National team. His career best was 50 in 2015-16 while a member of the Sudbury Wolves.
Calvas, a six-foot-five defender, had three goals and 20 assists last season with the Sting and returned a fifth-round and sixth-round pick in the trade Tuesday night to North Bay. Calvas has comparable career numbers to Bourque, although Bourque has 70 more games under his belt and was thought of highly enough as a defender to be taken in the NHL draft.
Owen Sound next plays the Guelph Storm at the Sleeman Centre on Friday night. DeGray doesn’t want his “OA” situation to linger on, but said he will wait if made to.
“They’re all good kids. They’re all good players,” he said. “It’s not going to be a knee-jerk reaction as to who leaves and who stays.”
*updated from a previous version to correct Alan Lyszczarczyk’s career-high in points.