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Butler ‘extremely happy’ with deals

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion will offer yet another fresh look when the Owen Sound Attack pays an Ontario Hockey League visit at 7 p.m. Thursday, while the opponents figure to feature a couple of familiar faces.

North Bay made its third trade in seven days Tuesday, acquiring overage right winger Jake Henderson and a 10th-round pick in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection from the Kitchener Rangers for an eighth-round pick in 2019.

The Battalion got centre Matthew Struthers, a 14th-round pick this year and a second-rounder in 2020 from Owen Sound for overage centre Brett McKenzie last Wednesday. On Saturday, the Troops sent Cam Dineen to the Sarnia Sting for fellow defenceman Braden Henderson, five OHL Priority Selection picks from 2019 to 2022 and two conditional picks, in 2024 and 2025.

McKenzie and defenceman Brady Lyle, who was dealt to Owen Sound on Oct. 22 in the trade that got the Troops goaltender Christian Propp, should be in Attack uniforms, while rearguard Nick King, acquired Oct. 23, will dress for the Battalion against his former Owen Sound teammates.

“From my perspective, I’m extremely happy,” Stan Butler, Battalion director of hockey operations and head coach, said Wednesday of the most recent acquisitions.

“I think we were going to have four defencemen graduate at the end of the year, and by bringing in Henderson and getting Dineen out, it now put us in a situation when we only have three graduating. We didn’t have enough ’99 centre icemen on our team, so I thought it was important to get that, which we accomplished with Struthers.

“And then when you really look at the draft-pick thing, four of the next five years we now have two seconds each year, as well in 2019 we didn’t have a second and now we have one. And we were able for a good price to bring in a really quality, character overage player to help some of our younger guys the last part of the season.”

Butler noted that the plethora of picks acquired before the OHL’s final trade deadline, which fell at noon Wednesday, puts pressure on the Battalion scouting staff to maximize their use.

“I told our head scout: ‘The cupboard now is very full. Don’t screw up.’”

Even with the departures of rushing rearguard Dineen and McKenzie, who paced the Troops’ offence last season, Butler said, the Battalion should acquit itself well.

“We like to think our team will still be competitive, since our goaltending’s got turned around and Christian’s playing. Since Christian’s playing, (Julian) Sime’s numbers have got a lot better. Our record hasn’t been bad, and we like to think that, by bringing those three guys in and releasing the players that we did, we’re at least as good a team as we were beforehand.”

Said Butler: “Sometimes it’s a situation here that’s based on opportunity. We’ve seen that with Justin Brazeau with his development, and Luke Burghardt coming in here where he got more opportunity. So I think both these guys are good young players and, given the situations they were in, there were a lot of good young players ahead of them that they wouldn’t get the opportunity that they’re going to get here. So far, I think, in Matthew’s case he’s shown us that he’s capable of bringing what he needs to bring in order to get that opportunity.”

Forward Henderson, no relation to the 17-year-old defenceman, boasts his own attributes, noted Butler.

“Obviously, the first thing is he’s one of the better penalty killers in the league, and our penalty kill is under 80 percent, so we’re hoping that that’s an area he can really help us. I think, if you looked at his bio, he was voted the most popular player last year in Kitchener.”

Henderson elicited chuckles with his account of learning he was heading to North Bay from Kitchener.

“The initial reaction was, ‘It’s going to be cold.’ I heard some stories about the coldness up here, but we know it’s a rich-history club as well.

“I can’t complain about anything. They brought me in, so they must want me a little bit. It’s going to be a good opportunity to show my skills off and show the guys that I can play with them as well and hopefully have a good run in the playoffs.”

Defenceman Henderson said he looked forward to playing his game after talking with coaches Sunday before making his Battalion debut in a 6-3 victory over the visiting London Knights.

“I was able to talk to them when I first got here, and we were kind of on the same page. They wanted me to fill in the role of an offensive defenceman and move the puck well.”

Butler said that two forwards who have been sidelined for two months each are about to return.

“Rhys Forhan comes back in the lineup this Thursday, which is great, and Daniel Walker should be about a week behind him.”

Right winger Alex Robert has been released after clearing OHL waivers, and defenceman Eric Allair has been reassigned to the affiliated Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

North Bay has a won-lost-extended record of 15-19-6 for 36 points, third in the Central Division and tied with the Ottawa 67’s for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Owen Sound is 16-16-6 for 38 points, fourth in the Midwest Division and eighth in the Western Conference.

The Battalion visits the Barrie Colts on Saturday night and plays host to the Peterborough Petes on Sunday to complete weekend play.

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