Saginaw Spirit GM Dave Drinkill announced the acquisition of veteran defenseman D.J. King in a trade with the Hamilton Bulldogs for a pair of future draft picks on Thursday afternoon.
“Heading into this season, we felt it was very important to acquire an older, more experienced defenseman to solidify our backend,” Drinkill said. “D.J. King is a player we targeted and have liked for a while now going back to his OHL draft year.”
In exchange for the rights to King, the Spirit will send Hamilton a second round pick (from Barrie) in 2021, along with a fourth round pick in the 2022 Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft.
King, who just turned 19 earlier this month, is the son of former NHL player Derek King, who played in 15 NHL seasons, most of which were with the New York Islanders (11 seasons) followed by stops with the Hartford Whalers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and St. Louis Blues, before stepping behind the bench into his current job as head coach of the Rockford (IL.) Ice Hogs in the American Hockey League.
Unlike his father who was a left wing, the younger King is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-shooting defenseman who grew up in Northport, NY before moving to the greater Toronto area to play minor hockey for the Mississauga Rebels, where he was drafted by Hamilton (his dad's hometown) in the second round of the 2016 OHL priority selection draft.
He did not sign with Hamilton right away, however, instead choosing to follow the same path as current Spirit players Blade Jenkins, Jake Goldowski, and Bode Wilde; keeping the NCAA option open by competing for the United States National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey Leauge for a few years (2016-18) before signing with the Bulldogs for the 2018-19 season where he put up 7-points (2-goals, 5-assists) with 62-penalty minutes in 50-games in the OHL last year.
It's never easy for a teenager to pack up for a new city after settling in one place, while adapting to new friends and teammates, but King is eager for a new start and looking to make his mark on a talented Spirit team with a very bright future.
“I am very excited about this new opportunity with the Saginaw Spirit,” King said. “I want to thank the Bulldogs for everything. It is sad to leave the great friends I made there, but I am looking forward to meeting my new teammates and getting started in Saginaw.”
With a much younger Spirit backend following the loss of two physical defensemen who had aged out of the league, and another who was traded to make room for over agers on the roster this year; Drinkill feels King is exactly what the Spirit need in order to bolster this defensive group.
“He is a bit of throwback that adds size, character, and edge to our back end,” Drinkill added. “We feel we can help him to develop his offensive side of his game. With the departure of (Justin) Murray, (Reagan) O'Grady, and (Hayden) Davis, the addition of King goes a long way in helping to stabilize our defense core moving forward.”
King will join the rest of his new Spirit teammates when they convene for the commencement of training camp in Saginaw near the end of the month.