Owen Lalonde shipped from Sudbury to the Storm
by Randy Pascal
The second overall pick from the 2016 OHL Entry Draft is on the move.
Defenceman Owen Lalonde, the Sudbury Wolves selection who was preceded only by #1 pick Ryan Merkley, is now about to join the
talented rearguard forward with the Guelph Storm.
In return, the local juniors seriously bolstered their slate of upcoming top three round draft selections, also adding another northern Ontario product
in the process.
The Storm shipped off a pair of second round picks (Windsor in 2018; Peterborough in 2019), a pair of third round picks (Windsor in 2018; Sault Ste Marie
in 2021), 18 year old defenceman Nolan Makkonen and a pair of conditional picks (Windsor 2nd in 2019; Guelph 2nd in 2021) in return for Lalonde, who
would play just one season with the Wolves, recording two goals and ten assists in 64 games.
Sudbury General Manager Rob Papineau felt more than comfortable in the haul of draft choices that he was able to extract from Guelph, tackling a
definite need in the overall makeup of his hockey team. “We’re happy with the trade, because it allows us to address an area of concern that we had, right
from the time we took over,” he said.
“At the time of the ownership change, Sudbury did not have a second round pick in 2017, 2018 or 2019. There were a couple of times, through the process
of last season, where you really feel how painful that can be.”
“At the trade deadline, when there’s some pretty good names out there, but you simply do not have the assets to be in the conversation,” detailed
Papineau. “On draft day, when you don’t have the pick to select one of those players that our guys have scouted, watching more than a hundred games, but
you just don’t have the pick.”
“When we’re managing the hockey club, we’re managing the players, and we’re also managing the future, which is the draft board,” he continued. “We felt
like we had a weakness in our draft board, specifically with high end draft picks.”
“We went from three second round picks and more than doubled that, with seven. Moving forward, it gives us a lot of flexibility to decide the best moves
for the organization, through the season.”
A ninth round draft pick of the Storm in 2015, Makkonen, a native of Sault Ste Marie, continued to show notable strides since his draft day, splitting
his 2016-2017 season between the Soo Eagles of the NOJHL and the OHL squad in Guelph, picking up four points in his latter stop, including his first
goal, in 28 games.
“He is a professional on and off the ice, and we love adding that type of person to our dressing room,” said Papineau. Makkonen will be welcomed in
Sudbury by at least one familiar face, as Wolves associate coach Jordan Smith was at the helm of the 2015-2016 version of the Soo Thunderbirds,
who called up their hometown blueliner for a handful of games en route to a league championship run.
“I really like his practices, that guy knows hockey,” said Makkonen of the latest addition to the Wolves coach staff. “I suppose it’s easy to say,
because he’s a hockey coach, but he really knows the game. I’m really looking forward to working with him again.”
In that sense, it will be the Sudbury fans and incoming head coach Cory Stillman who will have the opportunity to find out exactly what newly
acquired rearguard is all about. “I’m a stay at home defenceman, I like to get the job done in our zone,” said Makkonen.
“I hate losing puck battles in the corner, I can’t stand it. I don’t care if there’s two or three guys, I want to win that and get the puck to our
forwards so that we can get it out as clean and as fast as possible. They’re not going to score if they’re not in our zone.”
Meanwhile, with the opening of training camp just over one week away, GM Papineau has not completely ruled out any last minute tinkering before
returnees and newcomers alike take to the ice. “The phones are ringing right across the league, all of us are in constant conversation daily,” he said.
“I can’t say that we’re done, but I’m not saying we’re actively looking either.”