Niagara IceDogs deal 1st-round pick, for 7 choices over next 4 years


Published August 31, 2022 at 3:17 pm

Sam Dickinson was the No. 4 overall choice in the 2022 OHL priority selection draft. (OHL Images)

Niagara IceDogs general manager Darren DeDobbelaer took decisive action with the OHL club’s defected top priority-selection draft choice.

Wednesday, the IceDogs announced the return they will get from the London Knights in exchange for 16-year-old defenceman Sam Dickinson, the No. 4 overall draft choice who had not reported to Niagara’s camp. The IceDogs will receive London’s second-round selections from 2024 to ’26, third-rounders in ’23, ’25 and ’26, and a fifth-rounder in ’23. The 2023 third-round choice originated with the North Bay Battalion.

Since Dickinson is a defected player (in OHL argot), the IceDogs will receive a compensatory No. 5 overall choice in the ’23 draft.

The draft of incoming 16-year-olds was held at the end of April, right around the time of the first media reports that IceDogs’ former managing partnership, led by Bill and Denise Burke, were going to sell the club. Word of the DeDobbelaer-helmed partnership broke in mid-May, and the sale was formalized soon thereafter. DeDobbelaer, his wife Michele DeDobbelaer now head up a partnership that includes hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Daniel Fitzgerald has been hired as the head coach.

Darren DeDobbelaer stated that the IceDogs had not had formal meetings with Dickinson’s advisers.

“We had no intentions of trading Sam Dickinson when we drafted him, he was the best player available,” DeDobbelaer said in a statement. “We were unable to secure a meeting with his representation and family to convince him to report to Camp. After an aggressive offer by London, we thought this was the best move for our organization moving forward and in the years to come.”

The IceDogs finished in the OHL basement last season with 48 points from 68 games. But the OHL, due to using a regionalized scheduled as part of COVID-19 health protections, held a draft lottery for the four non-playoff teams. The IceDogs wound up with the No. 4 pick and missed out on a chance to recruit 15-year-old Oakville star Michael Misa, who went No. 1 to the Saginaw Spirit.

It is not unheard for a 16-year-old incoming OHL player, who typically faces relocation from their home to live with a billet family in order to play professional-format hockey, to decline to report.

During the Burke era, it happened thrice in six years with the IceDogs. In 2014, they moved the rights to forward Logan Brown to the Windsor Spitfires. Niagara acquired six choices in that swap, including three seconds and two thirds. The IceDogs made the 2016 OHL final. Brown helped Windsor win the Memorial Cup as a host team in 2017.

In 2011, defenceman Adam Bateman was also moved to Windsor. Bateman was a No. 19 overall selection. Niagara received six picks that time, including two seconds and two thirds.

Two years before that, forward Lucas Lessio was flipped to the Oshawa Generals. The deal was structured to be contingent on how long Lessio played in the OHL, and Niagara came away with six picks (three seconds, two thirds and a fourth) after Lessio graced the Gens for three seasons.

London has been on the other end of the defected pick game. Over the years, the Knights have acquired current NHL players Max Domi and Victor Mete after they declined to report to other OHL puck precincts.

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