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
The CHL handed out their awards for the 2015/16 season the night before the Mastercard Memorial Cup final, and the Ontario Hockey League was well-represented. Of the ten handed out, three went to OHL’ers.
Sportsnet Player of the Year Award
Mitch Marner, London Knights
Only four players scored more points during their respective regular seasons than Marner’s 116, and one was teammate Christian Dvorak. Add in to that a playoff-leading 44 points, and Marner’s 160 points were the highest combined total in the CHL this season. The fact he went scoreless just once in 18 playoff games (and finished the playoffs on a 16-game point-streak) and mixed in 21 and 13-game point streaks during the regular season just adds to his amazing year. Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
The London Knights have crushed everyone in their path en route to the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup final.
Outside of an early stumble in the first round of the OHL playoffs against the Owen Sound Attack, the Knights have been dominant from start to finish: they’ve now won 16-straight games (13 in the OHL playoffs and three at the Memorial Cup), Mitch Marner is riding a 19-game point streak (44 points in the OHL playoffs and an astonishing 13 at the Memorial Cup), and just two of their last 12 games have been decided by one goal (Games 3 and 4 vs Niagara).
By all accounts, this team has earned every bit of rest they’ve received between the final horn of their 5-2 win over Rouyn-Noranda and the 4:30 puck drop of Sunday’s final (against those same Huskies).
While there’s no real reason to doubt the team that has scored a combined 423 goals this season, there is always one question that pops up whenever a team goes 3-0 in the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup: is the rest really beneficial?
It’s fair to wonder how rest can help or hurt a squad, even if it’s one that has outscored opponents 20-5 and features a player four points away from setting a new tournament record. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the last five OHL teams to go 3-0 in the round robin have fared.
By: Bryan Thiel
After the London Knights dominated the Ontario Hockey League playoffs to the tune of a 16-2 record and 13 straight wins, they’re OHL champions for the third time since 2011 and off to their fourth Mastercard Memorial Cup in that span.
Now, as with any dominating playoff run, there were a number of stars: Mitch Marner was the recipient of the Wayne Gretzky ’99’ Award as playoff MVP, Matthew Tkachuk led the league in goals, Christian Dvorak had a very pedestrian 35 points in 18 games, and Tyler Parsons backstopped the team to all 16 of their wins (which is important, considering 22 different goalies recorded decisions in these playoffs).
If you were to do some more digging, it’d be very easy to find a pair of defencemen to round out an all-London Knights playoff All-Star team. But where’s the fun in that? While the Knights will be well-represented across the first and second All-Star teams, we did our best to gather up a handful of other OHL’ers to round out both squads, for Across the OHL’s (Delayed by an ill-timed vacation) playoff All-Star team.
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.
By: Bryan Thiel
Three game sevens in the OHL last night, meaning we’re officially off to the second round!
Peterborough Petes @ North Bay Battalion
The sixth-seeded Peterborough Petes were trying to play spoiler in North Bay, and they got off to a great start when Josh Maguire scored four minutes in to give the Petes a 1-0 lead. The Battalion would battle back though, as a Kyle Wood one-timer would tie things up and Matthew Santos would snap one home with 1:31 to go in the first to give the Troops a lead they would never relinquish. Michael Amadio would add his eighth and ninth goals of the series in the second and third to wrap up a 4-1 Battalion win. For Amadio, it was a three-point night as he assisted on the game-winner, while Wood finished with two points and Cam Dineen added a pair of helpers. Jake Smith made 27 saves for the series-clinching victory, as he allowed just three goals in North Bay’s four wins over the Petes.
North Bay wins series 4-3
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds @ Sarnia Sting
Sarnia loaded up at the Trade Deadline for a reason, and it wasn’t to be staring at a potential first-round exit thanks to a seven-game series. Five minutes in, Anthony Salinitri calmed the nerves a little bit as his second have the Sting a 1-0 lead. The Greyhounds however, weren’t about to go quietly as Gabe Guertler netted his fourth of the series halfway through the first, and Bobby MacIntyre would put the ‘Hounds ahead 2-1 with his third. Pavel Zach poked in his sixth on a power play in the late second to tie things up headed to the third, where there would be fireworks. 27 seconds in Blake Speers put the Soo up 3-2, and Boris Katchouk would score seven minutes later for a two-goal lead. Not willing to say die, Troy Lajeunesse would cut it to one with just over two to go, but that’s as close as the Sting would get. Brandon Halverson turned aside four shots in the last two minutes and 36 of 39 overall on the night, leading Sault Ste. Marie to a 4-3 win and a spot in the second round. Katchouk and Zach Senyshyn would both finish with two-point efforts, while Lajeunesse had a goal and two assists in the loss. The Soo left the Sting disappointed in the first round once again, as six Greyhounds finished with four or more points in the series.
Sault Ste. Marie wins series 4-3
Mississauga Steelheads @ Barrie Colts
In a series with plenty of twists and turns, the upstart Steelheads were primed for an upset of the Barrie Colts. After a scoreless first in Barrie, draft eligible Michael McLeod put the Steelheads up 1-0 after he backhanded home a rolling puck past MacKenzie Blackwood. Jack Flinn (24 saves through two periods) and the Steelheads would take that lead to the third before the Barrie offence took over….well, Justin Scott took over. Scott scored his eighth four minutes in to the final frame, and five minutes later the Colts got a lead they would never relinquish. Andrew Mangiapane snapped one home from the slot on the power play, and Scott would add two more for the hat-trick to snuff out the Steelheads’ chances. Kevin Labanc would add an empty-netter to wrap up the game with a 5-1 win and the series 4-3. Labanc and Mangiapane would add multi-point efforts for the Colts, as Blackwood made 22 saves for the win.
Barrie wins series 4-3
Kingston Frontenacs vs Oshawa Generals
Bryan said: Kingston wins 4-1
What actually happened: Kingston won 4-1
AtO Series MVP: Spencer Watson: To be honest, I was really leaning towards Warren Foegele and his two game-winning goals for this, but when your team also features the playoffs’ leading scorer (15 points in five games) it’s kind of hard to hand it to someone else.
Barrie Colts vs Mississauga Steelheads
Bryan said: Barrie wins 4-2
What actually happened: Barrie won 4-3
AtO Series MVP: Justin Scott: Who needs assists? Justin Scott apparently doesn’t. The OA finished with 10 goals in the series, and almost all of them came in big spots. He scored four goals in a 6-5 OT win for Barrie in Game 4 (including the game-tying and game-winning goals), and a hat-trick in the series clincher. The Mississauga offence gave Barrie fits at times, but overall the Colts were a little too up-and-down in this series, and hit a snag with MacKenzie Blackwood’s mid-series injury.
North Bay Battalion vs Peterborough Petes
Bryan said: Petes win 4-2
What actually happened: North Bay won 4-3
AtO Series MVP: Jake Smith: Michael Amadio is second in playoff scoring and Kyle Wood leads all defencemen in points, but when Smith was on in this series, he was on. In the three losses he gave up 17 goals, but in his four wins he allowed just one goal each, including a shutout in Game 4.
Niagara IceDogs vs Ottawa 67’s
Bryan said: IceDogs win 4-2
What actually happened: IceDogs won 4-1
AtO Series MVP: Pavel Jenys: Jenys and Josh Ho-Sang were literally connected at the hip this series, as all seven of Jenys’ points (five goals and two assists) involved Ho-Sang (11 points in five games). Jenys stepped up in his first taste of playoff hockey, leading the team in goals and power play goals.
Erie Otters vs Saginaw Spirit
Bryan said: Otters win 4-1
What actually happened: Otters won 4-0
AtO Series MVP: Alex DeBrincat/Dylan Strome: Both DeBrincat and Strome finished with nine points in the series, as Strome tied for the team-lead in goals and DeBrincat tied for the team-lead in assists. DeBrincat also lead the team with six power play points.
Sarnia Sting vs Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Bryan said: Sting win 4-2
What actually happened: Greyhounds won 4-3
AtO Series MVP: Brandon Halverson: Halverson faced a lot of rubber this series, seeing the most shots (261) and stopping the most (236) in the OHL. The 3.36 GAA isn’t an eye-popping number, nor is the 0.904 SV%, but when you consider the offence on the other side even without Travis Konecny, he was the rock that made the upset possible.
London Knights vs Owen Sound Attack
Bryan Said: Knights win 4-1
What actually happened: Knights won 4-2
AtO Series MVP: Matthew Tkachuk: I won’t lie…I’m pretty mad. The whole time I had ‘Knights in six’ written, and a late edit changed it to Knights in five. Tkachuk tied Mitch Marner for the team lead in points, but a bulk of his production came from a four and five point game. Cliff Pu got serious consideration here (five goals, one assist and was in on two GWG) but I don’t think his numbers were quite strong enough.
Kitchener Rangers vs Windsor Spitfires
Bryan Said: Rangers win 4-3
What actually happened: Rangers won 4-1
AtO Series MVP: Brandon Robinson: The veteran forward stepped up in a big way for the Rangers, who lucked out by barely having to deal with Brendan Lemieux en route to a 3-0 series lead. Two game-winning goals for Robinson is a big reason he wins here, but he was huge in other key situations too.
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.