By: Bryan Thiel
The OHL Playoffs are in the books and the Erie Otters are finally OHL Champions.
After four-straight years of making it to at least the Western Conference Final and claiming two Wayne Gretzky Trophies in the process, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and the Otters organization finally did it.
Along the way there were plenty of contributors. Among the top ten playoff scorers, six were Otters. DeBrincat led the way with 38 points, while Strome finished four points behind him. Anthony Cirelli not only played hero once again with the championship-clinching goal in overtime, but tied for the playoff lead in goals with 15. Then there’s Warren Foegele who took home the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as playoff MVP. And that’s not even getting into what the Raddyshes (Raddyshs? Raddi? Taylor and Darren?) did.
What we’re saying is that it would be easy to let Erie sweep all three forward spots and one on the blueline, while handing them some honourable mentions as well. So that’s not what’s going to happen. The Otters have their championship and are headed to Windsor for the Mastercard Memorial Cup. Instead, it’s the Across the OHL Playoff All-Star Team without anyone from the champions.
Michael McLeod, Mississauga Steelheads
GP: 20, G: 11, A: 16, PTS: 27
When five of the top six scorers are Erie Otters, it’s pretty easy to pick out McLeod’s name. His impression this playoffs goes well beyond that though, as he was pretty much dominant up until the OHL Finals (two goals in five games). His 25 points in the 15 games en route to the championship series shows a player that could challenge for a role with the offensively-starved New Jersey Devils; a stretch that included eight multi-point games, and three game-winning goals (he’d add one more against the Otters).
Nick Suzuki, Owen Sound Attack
GP: 17, G: 8, A: 15, PTS: 23
Nick Suzuki took a 96-point draft-eligible season and parlayed it into playoff success. Not bad for a player that only scored two goals in six playoff games the year before. He dominated the Kitchener Rangers in round one with 10 points in five games, and after going scoreless in Owen Sound’s two losses against the Greyhounds, netted three goals and three assists in the four wins that followed. The goal scoring dried up in the Western Conference Final (one goal in six games), but he still flashed with three multi-point efforts. A strong playoff run can only help a prospect’s draft stock, and Suzuki certainly did that this spring.
Jason Robertson, Kingston Frontenacs
GP: 11, G: 5, A: 13, PTS: 18
The Frontenacs only lasted two rounds, but if Jason Robertson was the best kept secret in the ‘O before the playoffs started, it’s safe to say that the secret is out. Coming off a 42-goal regular season, the five goals in 11 games aren’t eye-popping, but there’s something to be said for a guy that is the focal point of a team’s offence and still produces with everyone paying attention to him. Set to hear his name called at the NHL Draft this June, Robertson recorded a point in all ten games after getting blanked in the playoff opener, chipping in with multiple points six times.
Honourable Mention: Spencer Watson, Mississauga Steelheads
GP: GP: 20, G: 15, 10, PTS: 25
The perfect example of saving your best for last, the OA turned Mississauga’s regular season around and carried his offensive dominance over into the playoffs. He tied for the post-season lead with 15 goals, and at one point had scored in six out of seven games. He was relatively quiet over his last six games of the playoffs, but did everything he could to keep the Steelheads’ season alive with a goal and an assist in Game 5.
Vili Saarijarvi, Mississauga Steelheads
GP: 20, G: 5, A: 10, PTS: 15
Moved to Mississauga by Flint in the off-season, Saarijarvi was a stalwart for the Steelheads all year long. A consistent puck-mover who showcased himself as one of the OHL’s best defenders on Mississauga’s run to the final, Saarijarvi finished the playoffs with eight power play points, good for second among defencemen behind Taylor Raddysh.
Santino Centorame, Owen Sound Attack
GP: 17, G: 4, A: 10, PTS: 14
The veteran defender led by example in Owen Sound, playing big minutes in the biggest moments of his career and thriving. Another blueliner charged with doing it at both ends of the ice, Centorame became a name to remember in his final OHL season and carried that momentum with him through Owen Sound’s Western Conference run. He spotted Saarijarvi and Darren Raddysh three and five games respectively in the scoring race, and was one point out of a tie for second.
Honourable Mention: Riley Stillman, Oshawa Generals
GP:11, G: 1, A: 9, PTS: 10
A bit of a streaky performance as he only recorded a point in six games, but in four of those games he came away with two points. The Generals were only around for two rounds, but they were a tougher out than many expected for the Steelheads in round two, and Stillman stepped up on a team that was reloading.
Tyler Parsons, London Knights
7-7, 0.922 SV%, 2.69 GAA
Another player that only lasted two rounds, but when the offence surprisingly faltered in front of Parsons in London, he didn’t bat an eye. If it’s not for him, the Knights don’t push the Otters to seven games. Erie was held to two or fewer goals four times in the playoffs, and Parsons was responsible for three of them, including a shutout in Game 1 of their second round series. His save totals from that series are ridiculous: 46, 27, 33, 26, 33, 44, and 58. It’s really too bad he didn’t have a chance to go up against Owen Sound’s Michael McNiven this year.
Honourable Mention: Luke Opilka, Kitchener Rangers
There’s really no reason for this, other than the fact he faced 70 shots and stopped 64 of them in a game against Owen Sound in round one. And it was in regulation. Not too many people would line up for that.
Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.