The trading of Ty Collins earlier this week to the Mississauga Steelheads for draft picks helped reduce the number of bodies the Storm have been carrying to a more manageable level.
Collins, a second year forward, was dealt for a third and fifth round draft pick, a somewhat small return for a second round draft pick who is only 17.
But there are often more forces at play when a player is traded than comes out in public and this would seem to be one of those situations.
Or perhaps the Storm evaluated their forward group and made some choices on who to keep moving forward.
For the first 13 games of the season the team had been carrying four extra players, two of them forwards. That’s likely two players too many.
But with Danny Zhilkin gone for two weeks to the World Under-17 Challenge and Daniil Chayka expected to miss six games in December while playing for Russia at the Junior A challenge in British Columbia, coach George Burnett wasn’t too worried about players sitting out.
“Twenty four is not a great number,” Burnett admitted prior to the trading of Collins.
“But you saw it last year, we were decimated with injuries at mid-season and you just don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you want to be playing with nine or 10 forwards every night with a bunch of kids,” Burnett said.
The Storm has 12 rookies on the roster.
Granted, only three of them are 16, but even the 17 and 18 year old rookies are going through an adjustment period, both in the level of play and the practice/game demands that the OHL puts on them for the first time in their careers.
Andrei Bakanov, Jacob Roach and Danny Zhilkin have been regulars in the lineup. The other nine have been in and out of it.
“I think it’s healthy and I know they’d like to be in there a little bit more often,” Burnett said.
“I know they want to be in there every day … but it’s new for a lot of kids, they’ve never sat out of a lineup healthy for a night.”
The coach said it’s important that those who are healthy scratches understanding that it’s not personal and “we’re not mad at you.”
“If we don’t like what you’re doing, we’re going to tell you,” Burnett said.
“But It’s not just going to be the kids that are in and out, we have to look at who’s playing the best and who’s giving us the good minutes. If they’re challenging the older guys a little bit, then that’s good, healthy competition.”
The need for the young players to contribute is even more imperative, as Burnett points out, because the team has no 18-year-old forwards on the roster.
In fact there are only two 2001 birth years on the team: Defencemen Clark Hiebert and Colin Campbell.
“I think they’re gaining a lot more confidence to be out there,” Burnett said.
“Even late in the game, we want to see them in situations where they’re learning and gaining confidence.”
“It seems like they’re gaining confidence to be out there on the ice, whether they’re out there against the other team’s top players or the other teams’ young kids, they’re playing, they’re making mistakes but their hard work and second effort is strong to make up for them.
“It’s fun to see them be a part of things and playing some key minutes.”