By: Bryan Thiel
On Sunday night the Canadian Hockey League season wrapped up in dramatic fashion.
The Ontario Hockey League champion Erie Otters and the host Windsor Spitfires were the last two teams standing in the hunt for the MasterCard Memorial Cup. It was the sixth time that the two had met this year, with four of those matchups coming in the OHL’s regular season, and the fifth deciding which of the two would get a bye to the final game.
While there was little doubt after two periods who would come away with that first matchup (Windsor led 3-0 after two), the teams traded goals throughout, entering the third tied 3-3 before Aaron Luchuk scored the clincher five minutes into the final frame.
After the final buzzer, emotions poured out and story-lines started to emerge. There was the obvious elation of the home-town team, bounced after seven hard-fought, first round games in their league’s playoffs redeeming themselves. There was disappointment for the Erie Otters, who surrounded the graduating Dylan Strome, their captain, as the Spitfires celebrated their championship in a heartfelt moment. The Otters also dealt with the ugliness of an emotional, stick-throwing outburst from goaltender Troy Timpano.
And then there was…a conversation. Continue reading
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.
Bold. Continue reading
And then there were four.
After a first round that had very little in terms of surprises, there was a touch more drama in round number two.
In Game 1, it seemed like the Mississauga Steelheads were bound to have trouble with another high-class goalie as Jeremy Brodeur made 50 saves for the Oshawa Generals, backstopping them to a 3-2 win. After that though, it was all Mississauga. They won Game 2 by a 7-3 score and then went on the road for Games 3, 4 and 5, promptly ending Oshawa’s season. Continue reading
The first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs had plenty of drama, but in the end there were no upsets.
That means we ended up going three-for-four on our Western Conference preview (With the right number of games in two of the series) and four-for-four in the Eastern Conference (Nailing the number of games on two other series).
Pretty good, but it only gets tougher from here on out. With all top four seeds moving on it’s tough to say that any of the lower seeds winning would be ‘shocking’. In some cases it would be a bit of a surprise, but these are the best four teams in each conference. They all deserve to be here, and that means there should be some great hockey ahead. Continue reading
Entering the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, the Western Conference looks nearly unstoppable. The top five teams all have a realistic chance at going to the OHL Finals, and one of the top four could end up at the Mastercard Memorial Cup alongside the Windsor Spitfires.
This should be fun.
1) Erie Otters vs 8) Sarnia Sting
Up front: Alex DeBrincat. Dylan Strome. Taylor Raddysh. Anthony Cirelli. That’s not even fair, because that’s only half of the truly dangerous firepower they offer. They were the second-highest scoring team in the CHL and one of just three teams across the nation to score more than 300 goals. Jordan Kyrou had an outstanding season for Sarnia and Drake Rymsha is just shy of a goal-per-game pace since coming over from Ottawa, but it’ll be hard for the Sting to keep up.
On the blueline: Kitchener Rangers Head Coach Jay McKee told me that Erie doesn’t get enough credit for how good they are defensively, and he’s right. Even if you ignore the fact that Darren Raddysh led all defencemen in scoring, they haven’t allowed more than 25 shots in any of their last six games (Which includes two against London, and one against both Peterborough and Windsor). Sarnia struggled to keep the puck out of their own net, finishing with 277 goals against (second-worst in the West). Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
Each year NHL teams hold Development Camps for recently drafted/signed prospects, and to get a good look at some of the players that didn’t get draft but might be worth an entry-level contract.
Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of just who’s going where during the summer, so we’ve broken it down below, going team-by-team through the NHL. As some teams have not released a full roster, this list will be updated as information becomes available. Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
This past weekend saw the dreams of 211 young men come to fruition at the 2016 NHL Draft. Among those 211 players, 48 were selected from the OHL, including nine in the first round.
The 48 players is tied for the most OHL’ers selected in a draft since 1999. Along with that, for just the second time since 1989 three players were selected from one OHL team in the first round (And it actually happened twice on Friday with the Windsor Spitfires and London Knights).
When it comes to those 48 players from the OHL and the 211 members of the draft class, they’re all winners. At the end of the day, they all took a step towards the ultimate goal of playing in the NHL and you can never take that away from them. But, just for fun, here are five players that came away with a little something more from draft weekend. Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
The OHL announced the schedule for all 20 home openers during 2016/17 Opening Week on Tuesday. All 20 teams will play their home openers between Wednesday, September 21st and Saturday, October 1st.
You can see the schedule below:
(*Indicates a playoff matchup from the 2016 playoffs; Home team is in capitals)
Wednesday, September 21st:
SARNIA STING vs London Knights
FLINT FIREBIRDS vs Saginaw Spirit Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
Hockey Canada made a series of announcements on Monday, naming the players who will attend the National Teams’ Summer Showcase.
Overall, 45 Ontario Hockey League prospects were named to the National Under-17 Development Camp, 21 were announced as part of the Men’s Summer U-18 Selection Camp, and 13 will have the opportunity to state their case for a spot on the World Junior team at the National Junior Team Summer Development Camp. Ultimately, 79 OHL’ers made the cut.
While there are some names to pay attention to when it comes to the U-18 camp (Michael DiPietro of Windsor should make a strong case to start while Nick Suzuki’s 38 points would lead this team) and the U-17 Camp (The first five Ontario-born players selected in the most recent OHL Priority Selection all made the cut among many others), the roster for the NJT Summer Development Camp is typically where most of the attention will fall.
Here are the 13 OHL’ers that will attend camp in late July in Toronto. Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
With round one out of the way, it’s time to get to the second round of the OHL playoffs. With just one upset in the entire league, the Erie Otters have to take on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, which leaves us with another installment of the London Knights vs Kitchener Rangers. On the East side, it’s number one Kingston against number four Niagara, and North Bay against Barrie.
1. Erie Otters vs. 7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The Greyhounds are in a tough spot now. After spoiling the hopes and dreams of the Sarnia Sting, they have to do it to one of the CHL’s best in the Erie Otters. Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat have a strong core around them that can shoulder the offensive load if the two big guns get shut down, and I’ve always been a fan of Devin Williams in net. If Brandon Halverson can be as good in the second round as he was in the first, I think the Greyhounds can frustrate the Otters with a balanced attack. Can they pull of a second-straight upset? I don’t think so, but you never know. A team that’s seen to be playing with house money is always dangerous.
Otters in six
3. London Knights vs. 4. Kitchener Rangers
This series is always fun. It doesn’t matter how much time passes and who the stars are, the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers still hate each other. The Knights are one of the deeper teams in the CHL, with talent across the board. Cliff Pu had a good first round, and he’ll need that to continue as a secondary threat behind the Marner/Tkachuk/Dvorak trio with Max Jones out for the series. The Rangers are an interesting team though, in the fact that they’re deep too, and I don’t see a huge drop off in talent. Overall I think the Knights have more talent, but they’re undisciplined. London was shorthanded the third-most times in the first round, and finished with a bleak 65% on the penalty kill while the Rangers clicked on the power play at just under 35%. That’s not to say the Rangers were much better though, as they finished with the worst PK% at 55%, but were shorthanded 12 fewer times (in one fewer game) than the Knights and their 20.8% power play. The Knights won the season series 4-2, but coming out on top here all depends if they can keep their cool.
Rangers in seven
1.Kingston Frontenacs vs. 4. Niagara IceDogs
In the first round I said the Niagara IceDogs had the talent to at least make the Conference Finals. I still believe it, but if they want to do that they’ll have to make their way through the East’s best in the Kingston Frontenacs. Kingston made it through the first round with a high-powered offence lead by Michael Dal Colle and Spencer Watson, but I do wonder what might happen if Niagara can rattle Jeremy Helvig and Lucas Peressini a little bit. It’s one thing to be jumping back and forth between the two against Oshawa, but against Niagara it could be trouble. On the other side the IceDogs have one of the best in Alex Nedeljkovic, in spite of what the first round numbers might say. Josh Ho-Sang seems to have found a friend in Pavel Janys, and I think Niagara has good depth. They didn’t have to rely too much on it for additional offence against Ottawa though, so they’ll need everyone to be on their game from the start.
IceDogs in seven
2. Barrie Colts vs. 3. North Bay Battalion
In a matchup of two teams that had to go the distance in round one, two of the league’s four 50-goal scorers will go head-to-head. Mike Amadio’s goal-scoring prowess has carried over into the post-season, as he had nine goals and 14 points in the first round for North Bay. Andrew Mangipane meanwhile, was quiet by his 51-goal standards with just four in the first round, but two of them were game-winners, including the one that sent the Colts to round two. Kevin Labanc had a great first round with 12 points in seven games (he had a point in every game except a shutout loss in game six), but the hot hand belongs to Justin Scott. Scott scored 10 goals in the first round (one more than Amadio for the playoff lead), and is a huge part of a lethal Barrie attack. North Bay has always played their system well, and have some of their best weapons in years with Amadio, Kyle Wood, Cam Dineen, and Matt Santos. The problem will be what happens if the games open up. North Bay was fine when they were able to limit Peterborough’s offence in round one and let their stars go to work, but they always seemed a goal short when things started to open up against the Petes despite keeping things close. I think this one will be every bit as interesting as both of these teams’ first round series, with the Colts finding a way to move on.
Colts in seven
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 five seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.