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Struthers is Troops’ druthers

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion acquired Matthew Struthers from the Owen Sound Attack in an Ontario Hockey League trade Wednesday for fellow centre Brett McKenzie.

The Battalion also received a 14th-round pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection and a second-rounder in 2020 in exchange for overager McKenzie.

Struthers, six-foot-two and 194 pounds, is a left shot who’s scored nine goals and earned nine assists for 18 points in 32 games this season. He’ll be in the lineup when the Battalion plays host to the Oshawa Generals in the second half of a home-and-home series at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The 18-year-old Milton, Ont., resident has 24 goals and 26 assists for 50 points while accumulating 34 penalty minutes in 145 games over two-plus seasons since Owen Sound made him a third-round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection from the Halton Hurricanes minor midgets. In 21 playoff games, Struthers has two goals and three assists for five points with six penalty minutes.

“He’s a guy that played for Team Canada under-17,” noted Stan Butler, the Battalion’s director of hockey operations and head coach.

“We really had a need for our team to have a ’99 centre iceman. We don’t have any on our team. We feel that he’s a guy, when you look at stats, they had the same amount of goals this year, and one played power play, one didn’t. We think that, giving Matt the opportunity that he can have up here, his numbers can grow.”

Said Butler: “We feel we got a player that can fit right into McKenzie’s position in our team and we also picked up a couple of picks, so we’re happy with that as well.”

McKenzie had nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points in 31 games this season after leading the Troops in scoring in 2016-17 with 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points in as many games.

In 295 games over four-plus seasons with the Battalion, he scored 88 goals and earned 110 assists for 198 points with 194 penalty minutes. McKenzie ranks third in franchise history in games played, ninth in goals, seventh in assists and seventh in points.

The Vars, Ont., resident was the Battalion’s first OHL Priority Selection pick after the announcement of the relocation to North Bay from Brampton, taken 10th overall in 2013 from the Oakville Rangers minor midgets.

“He’s done a lot for our organization,” said Butler. “I thought it was a good move for him too. Sometimes change is good, and in Brett’s case he’s got a half a year here to show the Vancouver Canucks that he deserves a contract.”

McKenzie was a seventh-round selection by Vancouver in the 2016 National Hockey League Draft.

The trade is the third between the Battalion and Attack this season. The Troops acquired goaltender Christian Propp and a 10th-round pick in 2020 for defenceman Brady Lyle and a 2020 seventh-rounder on Oct. 22, a day before swapping a conditional 15th-rounder in 2018 for rearguard Nick King.

Butler acknowledged that possibilities abound before the league’s Jan. 10 trade deadline.

“The phones are ringing off the hook now. They’re really ringing, and as a result of that you listen, and someone makes sense, then you talk, and some of the calls are over in 20 seconds because people are asking for ridiculous stuff.”

Apart from that, Butler said, reasonable trades could happen.

“We’re all ears right now to people and, if a movement or a trade makes sense for our hockey team and we feel it benefits our hockey team, then we’ll do that. We make trades based on what’s best for our hockey team.

“At this time of the year, you listen to what the offers are. You do your analytics. You look at what other trades have been done of comparable players, and you know what their value is.”

The Battalion, which lost 5-0 Monday at Oshawa, visits the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday night and plays host to the London Knights on Sunday to complete the week’s play.

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