BELLEVILLE, ON - Belleville Bulls Head Coach and General Manager George Burnett has announced a substantial trade late Tuesday. The Bulls have dealt veteran centreman and team captain Brendan Gaunce and Mississauga's 5th round pick in 2014 to the Erie Otters. In exchange, the Bulls receive 18 year-old winger Stephen Harper and a package of draft picks. Erie sends Ottawa's 2nd round pick in 2014, London's 2nd round pick in 2016, Kingston's 3rd round pick in 2015 and Erie's 3rd round pick in 2016 back to Belleville.
A 215 game OHL veteran, Gaunce was the Bulls' first round, second overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection. The Markham native was a first round pick by the Vancouver Canucks in 2012 and has 82 goals and 108 assists over his OHL tenure.
"Brendan's been an integral part of our franchise for the past four seasons, a leader since his arrival, and our captain for the past two years," said Burnett. "It was very difficult for us to consider a move for Brendan. He has been a terrific ambassador for our program, a competitor on the ice and a humanitarian within our community. Throughout his time here, he's represented our program successfully at the international level and led the Bulls to one of their most successful seasons ever in 2012-13. This is the right move for our program at this time and a great opportunity for both players involved. Brendan and his family will be missed."
The first round, twelfth overall selection by Erie in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection, Stephen Harper comes to the Bulls as a 152 game veteran of the OHL. The Burlington native has 46 goals and 41 assists, including 4 goals and 10 assists in 22 games this season. A 6 foot 2, 205Ibs. left winger, Harper is a graduate of the Burlington Eagles AAA program.
"Stephen brings a combination of great size, skating and skill to our program, having scored 46 goals to this point in his young OHL career," said Burnett. "He is a versatile forward who can play both centre and the wing and is looking to have a breakout year. We're expecting him to make a significant contribution on the big ice and be a top line player for our program moving forward."
Gaunce will join the Otters on Friday night in Mississauga while Harper is expected to join the Bulls' lineup either Wednesday at home to Mississauga or on Thursday night in Peterborough.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)