The Trade Deadline – Departures
The Hamilton Bulldogs are an organization that is gearing up to be contenders in the near future, but were faced with balancing leadership and development. At the start of the season, Hamilton had seven players on the roster who were 19 years old. Ontario Hockey League teams are allowed to carry four overage players, and play three each game, between training camp and the first week of January. This presented Bulldogs General Manager Steve Staios with an evaluation problem. He would have to essentially cull the herd from the 2016 training camp up to January 2018. This thinning of the herd came at the expense of former Belleville Bulls.
At the end of the day, the decision by Staios to move these experienced assets will play out well for their personal careers. Saban and Fox will be looked to as leaders on teams pushing for playoff positions. Laishram was coveted by the Memorial Cup hosts, and will have the unique opportunity to win the national championship that few players get to experience.
Jesse Saban (story) came to the organization in a blockbuster trade between the Belleville Bulls and the Erie Otters in January 2015. Saban, a promising rookie defender at the time, brought his steady stay-at-home style of defense to a struggling Bulls depth chart that at times required Stephen Harper to switch between centre and defense. Belleville transitioned to Hamilton, and then GM George Burnett acquired two import defenders, and things looked a little uncomfortable for Saban, who was seen as a depth defender at the beginning of the season.
Saban’s dependable play elevated him to the first pairing following Justin Lemcke’s broken fibula. Saban spent the 2015/16 season facing the toughest competition and was fed minutes at even strength and both special teams. Saban was almost exclusively paired with offensive defensemen Ben Gleason, a tandem that saw a reduced role on the 2016/17 roster. Under new coach John Gruden, the defensive pairings have been fed fairly equal minutes throughout the season.
Trent Fox (story) came to the organization along with Jesse Saban in the Jan. ’15 blockbuster Bulls/Otters trade. For two straight seasons, Fox was a ranked prospect in the NHL Central Scouting lists. NHL clubs liked his size and offensive ability, but he was past over in the last two drafts. Under Burnett, Fox found a role as a Top 6 left winger who was consistent in finding ways to put the puck in the net. As a member of the black and gold version of the Bulldogs, Fox struggled to regain his offensive touch and began to see reduced ice-time and special teams opportunities. The nature of the OHL is that it’s a development league, and every player faces internal competition. Fox now finds himself on a roster poised for a deep playoff run that is light on veteran leadership.
Adam Laishram’s (story) playing style and effort lend to his tendency to be a fan favourite where ever he plays. He’s a speedy offensive forward that plays with no fear, who had a willingness to take the puck into dangerous scoring areas. Laishram is the type of player who sacrifices his body to make a play, and despite being laid out on the ice from time to time, he never stayed down. Laishram made the Belleville Bulls as an underage player, coming from the Whitby Wildcats organization with teammates Justin Lemcke and Jack Hanley. A leader on the Bulldogs, Laishram was often responsible for mentoring rookies on his lines, including MacKenzie Entwistle, Connor Roberts and Brandon Saigeon. He’ll be relied on for his two-way abilities and as a depth offensive tool by the Windsor Spitfires in their hunt for the Memorial Cup.
TRADE DEADLINE SERIES
- Hamilton at the Trade Deadline – Acquisitions
Feature Image: Photo: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator