Windsor Spitfires Make Trio of Trades to Start Off-Season

Windsor Spitfires’ general manager (GM) Bill Bowler isn’t sitting around and waiting for things to happen. As we head into summer, he made a major splash on Thursday morning, pulling off a trio of trades to give his club a new look.

When Bowler became the Spitfires’ GM in July 2019, he was quiet and kept to himself, much different than his mentor, long-time GM Warren Rychel. However, after pulling off several big deals in 2021-22, it was clear that he had a plan in place and is more of a silent assassin than Rychel’s in-your-face style (which was always entertaining, though). With the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) trade window briefly open on Thursday morning, the club had a short chance to make some moves. There was no hesitation.

Pair of Trades with IceDogs

Coming into the off-season, nobody really knew what to expect. The Spitfires had an abundance of overage (20-year-old) players but, beyond that, it felt like a wait-and-see summer. However, Bowler had other plans.

He started off Thursday morning by sending 19-year-old forward (and Detroit Red Wings’ prospect) Pasquale Zito to the Niagara IceDogs in exchange for picks. Then, he sent 20-year-old defenceman Nathan Ribau to the IceDogs for more picks.

Pasquale Zito, Windsor Spitfires
Windsor Spitfires’ forward Pasquale Zito. (David Jewell / The Hockey Writers)

The 6-foot-1, 176-pound Zito was the club’s second-round pick in 2019. In his time with the Spitfires, he became a fan favourite, throwing his weight around, defending teammates, and scoring 42 points in 49 games in 2021-22. If the club needed it, he would provide it. Unfortunately, he also battled injuries throughout this season and playoffs, which forced him out of the lineup more than he wanted.

Related: Windsor Spitfires Hit Mark with 2021-22 Leadership Group

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Ribau came to the Spitfires in October from the Sudbury Wolves along with a third-round pick (2025) in exchange for defenceman Dylan Robinson. In 62 games, the Oakville-native had 11 points and 63 penalty minutes (PIMs) and became a popular player around the WFCU Centre. However, he was also part of the congested overage group, so something had to give.

In total, the trades shake down like this:

To IceDogs:

  • Zito
  • Ribau

To Spitfires:

  • Oshawa Generals’ second-round picks in 2023 and 2024
  • Niagara IceDogs’ fourth-and-sixth round picks in 2024
  • Mississauga Steelheads’ fourth-round pick in 2024 (conditional)
  • Niagara IceDogs’ fifth-round pick in 2025 (conditional)
  • Niagara IceDogs’ third-round pick in 2026
  • Niagara IceDogs’ fourth-round pick in 2025

The conditional picks were acquired with the Zito trade and they’ll come to the Spitfires if he plays an overage season in 2023-24.

These weren’t easy deals for Bowler to make but became necessities, as it gives Zito a fresh start with the IceDogs and Ribau a spot to play. The picks will become key parts of the Spitfires over the next two or three seasons, depending on which route they want to go.

Spitfires and Knights Pull Off Trade

While the IceDogs deals were big, Bowler wasn’t done wheeling and dealing. He made a third deal right away, bringing home a popular forward in 18-year-old Colton Smith from the London Knights in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2025. The Knights’ second-round pick in 2020 is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound power forward who put up 18 points in 41 games in 2021-22.

Smith, the son of former Spitfires’ great and head coach D.J. Smith., grew up watching the club at the old Windsor Arena. He told the Windsor Star that it was a dream come true.

“I watched the Spits growing up,” he said. “My dad (D.J.) coached there and played there; Mickey Renaud was the reason I wore No. 18 in London. He was my babysitter as a kid.” (from ‘Spitfires deal Zito, Ribau to IceDogs while bringing Smith home in trade with Knights’, Windsor Star – 6/30/22)

Smith gives the club a tough, productive power forward who will help towards another championship run, whether it’s in 2022-23 or beyond. The move was surprising, though, as it was the second trade between the Spitfires and Knights this year after several years of limited interactions between the clubs. Rychel and the Hunter brothers, who have been involved in the Knights’ management for over 20 years, didn’t have the best relationship. It appears Bowler has mended those fences a bit, as the clubs previously hooked up in January with Bowler acquiring goaltender Mathias Onuska.

Windsor Spitfires' GM Bill Bowler
Windsor Spitfires general manager Bill Bowler. (Dave Jewell/THW)

Now, Bowler will get ready for the 2022 CHL Import Draft which goes Friday, July 1 at 11 AM. The Spitfires have picks 56 and 116, if they choose to use them.

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