While coming off of a career first overseas which saw Team Canada win gold in Ostrava, Akil Thomas is getting a new start as he returns home to the Ontario Hockey League. With that being said, after days of rumours and speculation, the Peterborough Petes announced on Thursday the acquisition of centreman Akil Thomas.
The chatter began on Wednesday, just one day before the OHL Trade Deadline, when OHL Insiders reported in the morning that Niagara and Peterborough were very close on a deal. Additionally, it was indicated that the Team Canada standout would be involved and it was likely that the trade would get done. As noted by OHL Insiders, there was a deal in place pending on Wednesday, however, it didn’t have as many picks involved from the Peterborough Petes as Niagara had hoped.
As well, it is worth mentioning that the Niagara IceDogs felt added pressure to make up for the offer with a separate deal. As such, they started discussions with the Oshawa Generals for Philip Tomasino. Of course, that comes just a day after the team dealt Serron Noel to the Kitchener Rangers.
As the evening progressed with ongoing discussion, it was then noted that the IceDogs would let Akil Thomas enjoy the night without worrying about trade talk as he had just gotten back to his hometown where he was honoured on Wednesday night with his teammates. This would see the Toronto Maple Leafs hold a pregame ceremony to acknowledge the championship. The beliefs are that Niagara wanted to let him have the night to celebrate before meeting in the morning.
Two hours later, with continued chatter, TSN’s Darren Dreger would add to the mix as he reported that the two sides had agreed to terms on the deal shipping Thomas out to Peterborough. However, he also mentioned that in order to do so, it was pending Akil Thomas waiving his no trade clause.
Following that, OHL Insiders returned, this time reporting that pending the meeting, the deal would see Thomas traded to Peterborough in exchange for Cam Butler and a pair of draft selections. Darren Dreger, moments later, would confirm this, adding that the deal would be player-for-player with four selections from the Petes said to be included. Dreger would then close by mentioning that given the ceremony being hosted in Toronto, the deal was not likely to be put together and finalized until Thursday.
This again being the case with Thomas and other gold medal recipients taking in the Leafs game on Wednesday night against Winnipeg. As conversation picked up on Thursday, Darren Dreger was first to chime in when he mentioned he was just on the phone with the L.A. Kings prospect to find out where things were at. As such, Dreger then reported that Akil Thomas had agreed to waive his no trade clause, therefore, joining the Peterborough Petes where he could be in the team’s lineup this weekend.
Just minutes later, Dreger then confirmed that it would be Cam Butler and a pair of draft picks going back to Niagara in exchange for Thomas. Within the next three hours after this, the IceDogs announced the deal that would ship Akil Thomas to the Petes for Cam Butler. Speaking of which, joining Butler in Southern Ontario is a second round selection in 2020, a second round selection in 2022, a third round selection in 2022 and a fourth round selection in 2024. The second round selection in 2020 originally comes from the Mississauga Steelheads, meanwhile, the 2022 pick originally comes from the Peterborough Petes. As well, the third round selection originally comes from the Niagara IceDogs, meanwhile, the fourth round selection originally comes from the Peterborough Petes.
In a statement from Joey Burke, general manager of the Niagara IceDogs, he said a short time after putting final details of the trade together, “This is easily the hardest trade I have ever made. Akil was the first player I ever drafted, and is my favourite IceDog of all time. There were a lot of tears shed this morning in Niagara. At the end of the day, we all know Akil will be in LA next year. We needed to add an exciting young player, and we get that in Cam Butler.”
As for Cameron Butler who joins the IceDogs on the trade’s other end, the 17-year-old right-winger leaves the Petes in Peterborough having played 103 games while putting up 45 points. Now in his second full season as a member of the Ontario Hockey League, Butler has played 39 games while scoring 12 goals and adding seven assists. As such, he has recorded 19 points while also accumulating 24 penalty minutes.
Butler, a right-handed shooter, joined the Peterborough Petes back in 2018 after he was drafted by the organization while playing for York Simcoe Express of the ETAMMHL. Speaking of which, Butler was a second round draft pick (27th overall) in the OHL Priority Selection. According to the Niagara IceDogs, Cameron Butler will wear No. 12 when he makes his debut with the team on Thursday.
In a statement from Michael Oke, general manager of the Peterborough Petes, he said with regards to Butler being dealt to Niagara in exchange for Thomas, “We felt that this move was an important step to take in order to put our organization in the best position to achieve our short- and long-term goals. We know that in order to acquire a good player you have to give up a good player, and we’ve given up a good player in Cam Butler. On behalf of the entire Petes organization and Peterborough community, we’d like to thank Cam for his dedication to the team and this community. We know that he’ll have great opportunities in Niagara to develop his game further this season and beyond.”
When discussing the acquisition of the Ottawa native from the Peterborough Petes, general manager Joey Burke said, “I have been a huge fan of Cam since his draft year and have always wanted him in Niagara. Cam brings a complete package with size, skill, speed, grit, and at 17 already possesses one of the best shots in the league.”
As for the 6’0 centreman who joins the Petes in the trade from Niagara, Akil Thomas adds another centreman to Peterborough while also providing production offensively. Thomas, who currently weighs in at 181lbs, comes from the IceDogs where he scored 96 goals and 179 assists in 219 games played. This would see the IceDogs captain make for a total of 275 points.
Thomas, 20-years-old, is currently a prospect of the Los Angeles Kings after having been selected back in 2018 in the draft’s second round (51st overall). Since then, the Toronto native has only excelled in his overall game as he was named to Team OHL for the yearly annual CIBC Canada Russia Series. With regards to his season thus far, the right-handed shooter has scored 15 goals and 29 assists in 27 games played.
Thomas made his OHL debut with the Niagara IceDogs back in 2016 after having been drafted 12th overall in the first round of the OHL Priority Selection. In a statement from Michael Oke upon adding Thomas to the mix on Thursday, he said, “We’re really excited to be adding a player of Akil’s calibre – he’s a player with a high level of skill that plays a 200-foot game. He is capable of playing in all situations, has played in big games, and comes through in big moments. He’ll be heavily counted on in Peterborough as we move forward in the second half and into the postseason.”
In addition to the World Juniors Championship where Thomas helped Canada claim their 18th gold medal, he also appeared on the international stage for Hockey Canada at the 2018 World U18 Championship. As well, in 2017, Thomas took part in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup while also participating in 2016 at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie.
As per the release from Peterborough, Akil Thomas will not dress on Thursday when the Petes take on Owen Sound, but is expected to be in the lineup on Saturday when the Petes play host to the Ottawa 67’s. Despite being traded to Peterborough Akil Thomas will be on-hand on Thursday when the Niagara IceDogs play host at Meridian Centre to Arthur Kaliyev and the Hamilton Bulldogs. As per the team, Akil Thomas will be honoured with a pre-game ceremony celebrating the World Juniors Championship.
In conclusion, when addressing the trade that sees his first ever draftee depart, general manager Joey Burke would close in saying, “It’s a day of mixed emotions. While we are all very sad to see Akil go, we are extremely excited to be bringing Cam in with some nice draft picks to continue our rebuild. It’s a great fit for both players. I hope to see PBO make a long playoff run this year.”