On Thursday, the Kitchener Rangers announced the acquisition of Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd round pick Alexei Lipanov from the Sudbury Wolves in exchange for Oshawa’s 3rd round pick in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection and Kingston’s 3rd round pick in 2022.
Lipanov first jumped to the OHL in 2017-18 with the Barrie Colts after spending time in Russia with the Dynamo Moskva development system. He was drafted to the NHL earlier that summer, 3rd round, 76th overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lipanov’s international experience with Russia is expansive, with selections to the U16 and U17 rosters, captaining the U18 squad in 2017, and making Russia’s junior squad for the Jr. Super Series.
With Barrie, Lipanov set a quick pace with 30 points in his first 35 games as a Colt. But at the trade deadline, he was sent to Sudbury as part of the Dmitri Sokolov deal. With the Wolves, Lipanov struggled to find his offensive footing on a non-playoff team, eventually finishing with just three goals and nine points in his 20 games with Sudbury.
At the end of the ’17-18 season, Lipanov played 10 games with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, recording three assists. After being reassigned to junior out of AHL camp this season, he will spend one more season in junior hockey.
Although Lipanov is skilled and offensively talented, he brings a level of aggression and tenacity to Kitchener’s front lines too. With Joseph Gareffa moving back to defence, it shallows out of the forwards, especially the top six. Kitchener bring in a legitimate NHL prospect for a good price and have a number of ways to plug him into the top six.
For Sudbury, they had to make a move. With Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen already on the roster with Zack Malik, they had one too many imports. Although Sudbury get two third rounders, they’ll only be able to use one, and the other will go directly to Barrie to complete the Sokolov deal.
Not often will you find a player of this calibre for this cheap on the OHL market, so the Rangers get great value in that sense. But after a slow finish to the season last year and being cut from AHL camp, the Rangers need to find a way to get him invested in playing junior hockey again for him to be effective. If they do, this team looks even better after a strong start. Despite not many NHL prospects, have a great base of good junior hockey players that could carry them further than most thought might be possible.