Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

The pattern of the North Bay Battalion dealing players who are in a pivotal season continues unabated, with Friday's swap that sees 18-year-old wing Brandon Robinson cross conference lines to retooling Kitchener, with overage New Jersey Devils draft choice Ben Thomson taking his bashing style of play to northern Ontario.

Superficially, the Battalion get a 6-foot-4 bruiser to work the corners and walls at Memorial Gardens. The Battalion should know especially well that Thomson can bring that junior scale Milan Lucic act to the table. The more notable part, though, is Robinson changing teams early on in his third season.

Earlier this week, North Bay dealt defenceman Zach Bell to the London Knights, which the 20-year-old evidently feels is the best situation for him in place of playing fewer minutes in the ECHL or staying with Battalion. The 6-foot-2¾, 200-pound Robinson's priorities aren't exactly the same, but one can extrapolate that there might be a feeling on the power winger's part that his growth was plateauing under coach-GM Stan Butler.

Robinson had a promising 15-goal, 24-point yearling season in 2011-12 as the Battalion's top choice. That was followed by modest progress as a late-birthday sophomore, with 17 goals and 34 points. He was on NHL draft watch lists from the outset, but has only four goals and zero assists through 15 games. Central Scouting only sees him as a potential fourth- to sixth-rounder, while fellow wing Blake Clarke, who plays a somewhat similar game but with more scoring output, is getting the premium minutes.

Kitchener certainly has plenty of minutes to lavish on an 18-year-old this season, if he earns it.

It raises an eyebrow. But a proof of whether there's any discontent in North Bay would have to be whether Butler swaps another contributor who has significant junior eligibility remaining. Meantime, Thomson could make the Battalion a tougher team to face in the Central Division, where the bar to finish first and nab a No. 2 playoff seed might not be set overly high.

(Some OHL observers have had fun imagining there might be some initial awkwardness with Thomson and overage Battalion captain Barclay Goodrow, who had a memorable fight three seasons ago. Hockey players have a way of getting past that, though.)

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to

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