The Sarnia Sting traded goaltender Anson Thornton to the Barrie Colts in exchange for three draft picks.

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General manager Dylan Seca joked if the Sarnia Sting were going to trade Anson Thornton, they wanted to send him away.

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The 19-year-old goaltender is out of the OHL’s Western Conference after being dealt Thursday to the Barrie Colts for three draft picks.

“We had a good business partner and we were comfortable with the comeback and comfortable with him for the Eastern Conference,” Seca said. “Also, we feel like we’ve done well with Anson. He deserves the opportunity to play more and it gives him that. It gives us the edge we’re looking for.

“And we don’t need to see him throughout the year because we’re pretty confident he’s going to have a good year,” Seca said with a laugh.

The Sting sent Thornton and a conditional 2026 fifth-round pick to the Colts for the Flint Firebirds’ 2023 second-round pick, the Niagara IceDogs’ 2024 third-round pick and the Colts’ 2026 fifth-round pick.

Thornton made history last October when he signed with the Arizona Coyotes. He became the first player ever selected in the OHL Under-18 Draft to earn an NHL contract.

The six-foot-four native of Maple, Ont., is 8-16-0-0 this season with one shutout, a 4.06 goals-against average and a save percentage of 0.883.

His playing time dwindled as the season progressed, and No. 1 goalie Ben Gaudreau took on a bigger role.

The Sting needs to restock his draft closet, Seca said. The three picks they acquired will come in handy if Sarnia is a buyer at the trade deadline.

“We need to generate assets. This is the truth,” Seca said. “We believe that if we are going to be a team that is going to challenge this year, we need assets and Anson allows us to do that.”

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The Sting was in no rush to trade Thornton this summer, Seca said, but he was too valuable to sit on the bench again as a substitute.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business. We want to win games,” Seca said. “It gives us the edge and we don’t want to have to play against him a whole ton because we know what he’s capable of.

“His numbers were decent. He didn’t play a ton of games in this league. We’re probably the only team that knows what his real value is.

“Barrie, this is a great opportunity for him. I know they will be happy with him. We say that with every exchange, but we wish him good luck. He’s a great boy.”

Thornton was selected third overall in the 2020 Under-18 Draft. He went to Coyotes camp last September as an undrafted free agent in the NHL and signed a three-year entry-level contract before to play a regular season or playoff game above the midget level.

The substitute goalkeeper position is now up for grabs. Suitors include Dylan Grover and Nick Surzycia, who joined the Sting as injury replacements this season, and 2022 fifth-round pick Karsen Chartier.

“We are not going to look elsewhere for the moment. We’re committed to it being someone on the inside,” Seca said. “It’s hope and we’re quite confident.

“Franky Palazzese is an excellent goalkeeper coach. We trust our instincts and judgment, and we’re going to ride with that. I’m pretty sure someone will be able to take the ball.