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Wolves build for post-season hockey
2024-01-10
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The theme of the 2023-2024 trade deadline for the Sudbury Wolves was clear: focus on acquiring character veterans and heavier and defensively-sound and experienced blueliners - all with an eye towards making a very deep playoff run in the spring.

One has to think that Wolves VP and General Manager Rob Papineau is walking away a happy man, having accomplished much of the above without completely decimating his stockpile of draft picks and his upper end young (2006) talent.

In fact, between the picks they have remaining, the flexibility they should have in making some deals through an excess of 2004 overage talent for 2024-2025, and a very impressive core of returning forwards, there's a very good chance the Wolves could target a top four finish in the Eastern Conference again next year.

How much of a priority that becomes will weigh heavily on just how successful the current group is in accomplishing the task at hand.

An already prolific attack got that much stronger with the acquisition of hometown product and Flint Firebirds' team captain Zacharie Giroux. The cost to acquire the 20 year-old who instantly finds himself in third place in Wolves scoring (15G-22A in 36GP) was a pair of third round picks in 2026 (Soo Greyhounds and Windsor Spitfires).

Having already welcomed Peterborough Petes' captain Donovan McCoy aboard the previous day, Papineau went shopping for another blueliner with championship pedigree, acquiring defenseman Noah Van Vliet (19) from the Brantford Bulldogs.

In picking up the big, strong shut down rearguard who was part of the Hamilton Bulldogs 2022 Memorial Cup run, the Wolves had to surrender promising young blueliner Owen Protz, as well as three draft picks (2nd rd in 2026; 2nd rd in 2027; 3rd in 2027).

The addition of Giroux created an excess of overagers, with the Wolves shipping feel-good story Djibril Touré to the Windsor Spitfires in exchange for a 2027 3rd rd pick and an 8th rd pick in 2025.

When the dust settled, Sudbury now has the ability to ice four complete forward lines that can score, with at least 12 attackers easily capable of playing in a top nine, providing a great deal of depth that may be tapped into in post-season play.

They have also realigned their back-end with a focus on being more physical and structured in their own end, all of which bodes well for the remainder of this year.

Beyond that, the team is now looking at an overage pool of 2004-born talent as follows: Kocha Delic, Nicholas Yearwood, Evan Konyen, Nolan Collins, Noah Van Vliet, Nick DeAngelis, Donovan McCoy and Marcus Vandenberg.

The belief (from my end) is that David Goyette (also 2004) with be playing pro hockey within the Seattle Kraken organization, and that Carolina Hurricanes' prospect Jakub Vondras might well be doing likewise.

Beyond that, some of the initial 2004 octet noted above will also likely land in the pro ranks, though some are sure to look at an extra year of OHL experience on a very solid team as a viable option.

Remaining 2004 in the Wolves' system include Lucas Signoretti, Devin Mauro and Ryan Pryce.

Sudbury Wolves