Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers: Offseason Draft Preview

Easily one of the most interesting parts of the National Hockey League, the entry draft provides teams an opportunity to add the best young players in the world to their rosters, trade picks and players to improve their team, and agree to contracts with some of the most coveted players in the league.

 

Since I already covered some players to target come free agency, I am left to take a look at some upcoming draft eligible talent that I feel would greatly improve the Philadelphia Flyers organization. First, we must take a look at the strengths and weaknesses within the organization.

Centres

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Top NHL Centre: 

Sean Couturier (26 Y/O, 80GP-33G-76P, 53.3 CF% 98.8 PDO)

Weakest NHL Centre:

Jori Lehtera (31 Y/O, 27GP-1G-3P, 46.1 CF% 94.7 PDO) *Leaving*

Top Centre Prospects:

Morgan Frost (19 Y/O, 58GP-109P Ontario Hockey League, Playmaking centre)

Tanner Laczynski (21 Y/O, 27GP-30P NCAA, Two-Way centre)

German Rubtsov (20 Y/O, 14GP-10P American Hockey League, Physical & Well Rounded)

Marcus Westfalt (19 Y/O, 12GP-10P SuperElit Sweden, Two-Way)

General Observation:

The depth at centre starts off very strong but vanishes quickly. Scoring centres are a much-needed commodity.

Wingers (LW/RW)

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Top NHL Winger:

Claude Giroux (31 Y/O, 82GP-22G-85P, 53 CF% 101.1 PDO)

Weakest NHL Winger

Justin Bailey (23 Y/O, 11GP-0G-1P, 44 CF% 102.9 PDO)

Top Winger Prospects

Isaac Ratcliffe (20 Y/O, 65GP-50G-82P OHL, Power forward)

Matthew Strome (20 Y/O, 68GP-28G-79P OHL, Fiesty two-way forward)

David Kase (22 Y/O, 40GP-8G-23P AHL, Speedy playmaker)

Nic Aube-Kubel (22 Y/O, 54GP-16G-30P AHL, Speedy goal scorer)

General Observation: 

NHL depth is lacking, and very top-heavy. The same can be said for prospects. High-quality depth on the wings is a need.

Defense

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Top NHL Defender:

Shayne Gostisbehere (26 Y/O, 78GP-8G-37P, 52.2 CF% 97.1 PDO)

Weakest NHL Defender:

Andrew MacDonald (32 Y/O, 47GP-0G-9P, 47.7 CF% 99.3 PDO)

Top Defensive Prospects:

Philippe Myers (22 Y/O, 54GP-9G-33P AHL, Physical two-way D)

Yegor Zamula (19 Y/O, 61GP-10G-56P Western Hockey League, All offense all the time)

Wyatt Kalynuk (22 Y/O, 37GP-9G-25P NCAA, Solid offensive presence)

Adam Ginning (19 Y/O, 48GP-1G-5P Swedish Hockey League, Physical Shutdown D)

Wyatt Wylie (19 Y/O, 67GP-11G-47P WHL, Solid two-way presence)

General Observation:

NHL depth is a major concern, but there are some solid prospects in the system. High quality, skill-first prospects are a need.

Goaltending

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Top NHL Goaltender:

Carter Hart (20 Y/O, 31GP-16W-2.83 GAA-.917SV%)

Weakest NHL Goaltender:

Michal Neuvirth (31 Y/O, 7GP-1W-4.27 GAA-.859SV%) *Leaving*

Top Goaltending Prospects:

Samuel Ersson (19 Y/O, 36GP-1.95 GAA-.933SV% Allsvenskan)

Felix Sandstrom (22 Y/O, 19GP-2.16 GAA-.911SV% SHL)

Kirill Ustimenko (20 Y/O, 46GP-1.78 GAA-.927SV% MHL)

Ivan Fedotov (22 Y/O, 26GP-1.67 GAA-.929SV% VHL)

General Observation: 

Depth is solid all around, with some really good goalies emerging as late round gems. For the first time in a long time, goaltending is not a major need.

Draft Preview

Round 1-Pick #11

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Personal Favourites at #11: 

Arthur Kaliyev (LW), Victor Soderstrom (D), Cole Caufield (RW)

Personal Selection:

Arthur Kaliyev (17 Y/O, 6’2″ 190 lbs, 67GP-51G-102P OHL, AVG Rank #17)

A Zach Parise type player, Kaliyev is strong scorer who excels at creating (and acting on) high danger scoring chances.

Kaliyev possesses strong shooting ability, offensive instincts, and puck handling skills.

Kaliyev’s main weaknesses are his play in the defensive zone and keeping up with game pace. Both of which are going to improve with age, as Kaliyev is only 17 and dominating the OHL.

Round 2-Pick #41

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Personal Favourites at #41:

Nathan Legare (RW), Graeme Clarke (RW), Jackson LaCombe (D)

Personal Selection:

Jackson LaCombe (18 Y/O, 6’1″172 lbs, 54GP-22G-89P USHS, AVG Rank 46)

LaCombe is an all offense all the time defender that is excellent at rushing the puck. The biggest concern is that LaCombe played in high school this past season, which, judging by his production, is far below his skill set and may cause problems when he struggles to adjust in the NCAA next season.

Strengths include speed, passing ability, and shooting

Jackson’s main weakness is his responsibility in the defensive zone. LaCombe seems to be a very high-risk, high reward pick, but one that would certainly be worth it.

Round 3-Pick #65 (From EDM for Cooper Marody)

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Personal Favourites at #65:

Alexander Campbell (C), Samuel Fagemo (F), Daniil Gutik (LW)

Personal Selection:

Sam Fagemo (19 Y/O, 5’11” 194 lbs, 42GP-14G-25P SHL, AVG Rank 70)

Fagemo excels in all offensive situations, although he is very independent on the ice and tries to do a lot by himself. Fagemo is a very interesting pick because some (such as Jokke Nevalalainen of DobberProspects) believe that the Swedish winger should be closer to a second-round selection.

Fagemo’s strengths include shooting, puck handling, and speed

Fagemo has some injury history and expected defensive issues. Overall a very good bet anywhere in the draft, Fagemo has very high potential.

Round 3-Pick #72

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Personal Favourites at #72:

Alexander Campbell (C), Daniil Gutik (LW), Layton Ahac (D)

Personal Selection:

Alexander Campbell (18 Y/O, 5’10” 148lbs, 53GP-21G-67P BCHL, AVG Rank 71)

A small forward that is able to use an impressive combination of elite stick handling skills and speed to execute plays quickly and effectively. These skills strike me as building-block strengths similar to that of league superstars Connor McDavid and Johnny Gaudreau.

Campbell’s major strengths include speed, puck handling, shooting ability, and passing skills.

To use these skills, something in Campbell’s game must suffer. That something is his defensive play, which is extremely lacking. However, if Campbell can fully realize his already strong potential, the Flyers could be looking at a steal here.

Round 4-Pick 103

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Personal Favourites at #103:

Trevor Janicke (RW), Arseni Gritsyuk (LW), Josh Nodler (C)

Personal Selection:

Josh Nodler (17 Y/O, 6’0″ 196lbs, 54GP-17G-42P USHL, AVG Rank 108.5)

A playmaking centre with fair size, Nodler possesses fantastic offensive sense and skating ability. Nodler is also a very good possession player to my understanding and is very good at finding high-danger passing opportunities.

Strengths include puck-control, passing, and speed

I couldn’t find any specific drawbacks of Nodler’s game. Although I would be concerned about Josh’s adjustment to the NCAA.

Round 5-Pick 134

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Personal Favourites at #134:

Dustin Wolf (G), Nathan Dunkley (C), Danil Antropov (RW)

Personal Selection:

Danil Antropov (18 Y/O, 6’2″ 190lbs, 66GP-15G-52P OHL, AVG Rank #156)

The son of former NHLer Nikolai Antropov, Danil possesses a wide variety of well-rounded skills that make him a very complete player. An above average passer (0.35 primary assists per/GP) and shooter (0.23 G/GP), Antropov’s offensive game is fairly strong and is completed by a James VanRiemsdyk-like net front presence.

Danil’s well-rounded offensive game makes taking a chance on the 18 year-old even more worth it.

The only real issue that I could draw from looking at Danil’s advanced stats was his lack of (expected) shots per game (1.58), and low TOI per game (12:29). Both aspects are confusing but seem to work for Antropov’s game, but leaves the question of possibly better production if he was deployed differently.

Round 6-Pick 165

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Personal Favourites at #165:

Jackson van de Leest (D), Juuso Parssinen (C), Martin Lang (W)

Personal Selection:

Jackson van de Leest (17 Y/O, 6’6″ 223lbs, 67GP-21P WHL, AVG Rank 158)

A true shutdown defender, Jackson van de Leest posses a strong physical and defensive game for a 17 year-old WHL rookie. The left-handed defender logs big minutes for the Calgary Hitmen and provides a stable presence on their backend, which is littered with offensively minded players, like Flyers prospect Yegor Zamula.

van de Leest is strong at most defensive aspects of the game, and provides a mature presence for his age. Offense is coming along, although it’s not a main focus of his game.

Round 6-Pick 169 (From ARI for Jordan Weal)

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Personal Favourites at #169:

Juuso Parssinen (C), Martin Lang (W), Johnathan Yantsis (F)

Personal Selection:

Martin Lang (17 Y/O, 5’11” 172lbs, 65GP-11G-22P WHL, AVG Rank #177.6)

Mainly a playmaking winger, Lang had an impressive rookie season in the WHL on the poor Kamloops Blazers.

While receiving third-line minutes, Lang averaged a poor 0.17 G/GP but a very good 0.18 A2/GP (secondary assists per game). Essentially, this means that Lang is a very good playmaker but his shot needs some work.

Round 7-Pick 196

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Personal favourites at #196:

Ilya Konovalov (G), Kalle Loponen (D),  Ludvig Hedstrom (D)

Personal selection at #196:

Ludvig Hedstrom (18 Y/O, 5’11” 174 lbs, 43GP-2G-12P SuperElit, AVG Rank #198.4)

An offensive defender with excellent passing ability, Hedstrom was a key part of Djurgardens’ success this season. The small defender excels at moving the puck and overall offensive zone play. Defensive holes are expected and very much apparent.

Hedstrom’s strengths include puck control, passing and skating. His weakest attributes are his defensive play and overconfidence.

Round 7-Pick 201

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Personal favourites at #201:

Kalle Loponen (D), Ilya Konovalov (G), Maxence Guenette

Personal favourite:

Ilya Konovalov (20 Y/O, 6’0″ 194lbs, 45GP-1.89GAA-.930SV% KHL)

This is easily the least accurate pick I will make in this mock-draft. Konovalov, a goaltender whom I mentioned in my very first article on Puck77 (KHL free agent targets), is one of the best goaltenders in (arguably) the second-best league in the world. In my opinion, this would make Konovalov a bit of reach in the seventh round, but most scouting reports I saw didn’t even have the Russian being drafted. A low risk, high reward pick, Konovalov has already been excellent against NHL-comparable competition and, if his potential is realized, could be a steal as a seventh rounder.

 

Conclusion

There a wide variety of very talented players available in the deep 2019 NHL Entry Draft that fill the desperate needs of the Flyers.

 

Statistics, information, and analytics retrieved from nhl.com, hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com, draftsite.com, prospect-stats.com, whl.ca, capfriendly.com, sportsforecaster.com, dobberprospects.com, and puck77.com, 

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Avalanche And Calgary Flames Entertain In Game 2

After Game 2, the Colorado Avalanche have a tied the series at 1 against the Calgary Flames.

 

Game Summary

1st Period

In the first, neither the Calgary Flames nor the Colorado Avalanche got a whole lot going offensively. However, both teams had things going for them in other aspects. For Calgary, they did a great job closing the gap on Colorado forwards, doing a solid job in the neutral zone, as well as keeping the puck hemmed in the offensive zone. They just couldn’t get pucks through, and often were passing around looking for space, and not finding it.

Colorado on the other hand, they were dominant in the physical aspect, most notably knocking around Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano. They were also defensively sound, not giving Calgary much room to work with. Due to Calgary’s good gap control, Colorado had a tough time breaking into the offensive zone. When they did however, they got shots through, mostly on the rush. However, you can’t rely on short bursts of offense to win you games. Especially when Mike Smith is playing as good as he has, the Avs are definitely not going to break through. One takeaway, Derick Brassard is hurting Colorado. He took two penalties in the first, both times due to him going after Mike Smith.

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2nd Period

The Avalanche start this period off on the power play, and they took full advantage. Although they didn’t score on the man advantage, they generated a lot of scoring chances. Only one shot got on net, but they were moving the puck really well, but just whiffed on some huge opportunities. Following the power play, Calgary went back to what they were doing in the first. Sustaining offensive zone time. Philipp Grubauer was forced to make quite a few good saves.

Since the 17 minute mark of the second, the Flames held the Avs in their own end for almost a full two minutes. Then at the 14:30 mark, Colorado’s Gabriel Bourque took a hooking penalty, and Calgary’s power play got a chance to break the ice. On several occasions in the first half on the man advantage, Colorado got dangerous looks, including a one timer from Matt Calvert, who got absolutely robbed. But the second half of the Calgary power play, despite several dangerous looks and a flopping Grubauer, Matt Nieto got a breakaway and flicked it over the two pad stack that Smith attempted.That short-handed goal made it 1-0 Colorado. Side note, this was Nieto’s first goal since December 6th, 2018, and what a goal it was.

After the goal, roles switched. Colorado dominated offensively for over a minute in the offensive zone. Smooth puck movement and smart passes. A few moments later, Mike Smith flips the puck over the glass, and takes a delay of game penalty. Now it’s Colorado on the man advantage. An incredibly strong look on the power play, that involved one timer after one timer after one timer for the Avs, they couldn’t find a way. Whether it was blocked or stopped by Smith, it just would not go. Then as the penalty expired, Colorado got awarded a tripping penalty, by, guess who, Derick Brassard. An incredible passing sequence after great puck movement at the point results in Sam Bennett with a perfect pass to a sneaky Rasmus Andersson, and the game was even at 1.

Following the Andersson goal, it was back and forth. At the 4 minute mark, as the Flames were getting set on the faceoff in their own end, Travis Hamonic really took over and was directing the coverages. Future captain? Anyways, right off that same draw, the Avalanche had a great chance that was stopped by Smith. Then again, about 30 seconds later, Alexander Kerfoot put one off the crossbar.  At the 2:30 mark, Colorado got a power play opportunity, thanks to Rasmus Andersson, who received a holding call. But Calgary played very well, keeping the Avs to the outside, and generating two shorthanded looks.

Side notes: Alexander Kerfoot has looked outstanding in the offensive zone, and especially on the power play, but the hockey gods show no mercy, and no matter what he threw at the net, he couldn’t get it home. Also, Nathan MacKinnon has skated with a ton of confidence, and he has done a fantastic job trusting his abilities, and dicing through players and into space. One downside, however, is the physicality has taken a dip. Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov opened the game, using their size and strength, playing the body and keeping the play to the perimeter, but that physicality was not quite evident in the second frame.

As for the Flames, if you didn’t fully get an idea of how the Flames were blocking shots like when they were killing penalties, this should paint a very clear picture;  the Flames totaled 19 total blocked shots in this game. Let’s say those were unblocked, and got on net, the Avalanche would be outshooting Calgary 46-20, and the Avs have only blocked 4 total shots, so that goes to show how vital those blocks really are.

 

3rd Period

Early on, Avalanche applied a lot of pressure. They did a great job holding the line, especially Erik Johnson. Almost 2 minutes they held it in the offensive zone, but the Avs missed the net over and over again. When they did get it on net, Smith stopped and froze it, getting a very important line change. But the Avalanche kept coming, and Smith made more remarkable saves. And another.

Mike Smith has been vintage Mike Smith for the Flames, and if he can keep that going moving forward, then the Flames will be the toughest team to beat in the West. From the 16 minute mark to the 13:30 mark, it was a back and forth affair, with neither team able to sustain puck possession. That’s when Nemeth got a holding penalty on Gaudreau, and Gaudreau got a penalty for embellishment, making it 4 on 4 for two minutes.

To me, I don’t think Gaudreau sold anything. Nemeth is twice his size and tugged him down from behind. Despite the four on four, it went back to the back and forth affair. Right as the 4 on 4 concluded, Zadorov took an interference call, and another power play chance for Calgary. Early on, Calgary was rushing every move, and they needed to settle it down. Colorado took advantage, breaking up the passes and clearing it down the ice.

Second half of the man advantage was far better, much smoother, but the same results. Colorado was getting in the passing lanes and keeping everything on the perimeter. When the power play expired, the fans in Scotia Bank Arena was trying to shift the momentum, getting louder and louder as each second passed. At the 7:33 mark, Sean Monahan found the back of the net, Gaudreau did a fantastic job waiting for an opening. He fired one that was deflected, but it was swatted towards the net by Sam Bennett, which went right into Monahan’s wheelhouse, and he wasn’t going to miss from there.

At the 4 minute mark, Colorado had strong possession of the puck, but it went nowhere. At the 3 minute mark, Colorado had more offensive zone possession, but Mike Smith continued to hold them off. But it isn’t over. Colorado got right back to the offensive zone, got an offensive zone draw, and the Avalanche finally got some puck luck, and JT Compher buried it. Man, what a game. Back and forth action once again, following the Avalanche goal.

The Flames picked up the physical game, which at this point has been nearly completely abandoned. Calgary then got a golden opportunity, after a bad turnover at the blue line. Matthew Tkachuk had a great opportunity, which was stopped, but then on the rebound, Tkachuk was absolutely robbed by the stick of Grubauer. Potentially a game saver. Overtime, here we come.

Overtime Period

Here we go. Both teams have been defensively sound, and advantageous offensively, not to mention solid goaltending both ways. First great chance was for Johnny Gaudreau, denied by Grubauer. Calgary explosive early. About 3 minutes into OT, Ian Cole drills James Neal in the numbers in a dangerous spot. To this point, Colorado has been great on the penalty kill. Power play unsuccessful, but dominant. Colorado quickly moves up the ice, and on the rush, MacKinnon has a good chance denied by Smith.

Colorado swinging the momentum, and it’s MacKinnon doing so. After even more blocks from Calgary skaters, Gaudreau and the Flames get a quick transition, and Grubauer was up to the task of stopping Johnny Gaudreau’s slot shot. Back and forth affair again, with each team generating shots off the rush. The Avalanche stretching the ice, with long passes from their own end to the opposite blue line, but ending in turnovers, and Calgary taking advantage. That’s when Grubauer robs the Flames of a point-blank opportunity, and MacKinnon takes it the other way and wires it past the glove of Mike Smith.

 

Calgary Team Hero

Mike Smith was fantastic, and once again gave them every chance to win. Travis Hamonic and Mark Giordano also blocked a combined 11 shots between each other, taking away quality opportunities from the Avs. The defense in general was sound, and did a fantastic job keeping the Avalanche on the perimeter and taking away space.

 

Calgary Team Villain

Consistency. The Avalanche were a different team in periods two and three, as in the first they were banking on bursts of offense. However, in the next 2 periods, they sustained offensive zone time. Meanwhile, the Flames didn’t really expand their effort. Not that they played poorly, but they weren’t keeping the puck in the offensive zone like they did in the first. They need to raise their play with their opponents, or they’ll see more results like this.

 

Colorado Team Hero

Building on what they started, improving as the game wore on. They got better and better as time ticked down. Philipp Grubauer was also spectacular, with incredible timely saves, most notably the stick save on Tkachuk with the game even at two. He followed that up with an arm save in OT, which was immediately followed by the MacKinnon goal. Nathan MacKinnon took charge offensively as well, and he skated with a confidence and poise, dicing through the Flames defense on several occasions. Alexander Kerfoot as well was working in the offensive zone. He had some remarkable opportunities, but the posts show no mercy, and he came up empty.

 

Colorado Team Villain

Derick Brassard took 3 offensive zone penalties, which is just unacceptable. Add to the fact that one of those turned into a Calgary Flames goal, especially when Colorado was beginning to pick up the pace at that point, it was a killer at the time. Also, puck luck was nowhere to be found for the Avs, up until the late third period and into the OT period, where a couple bounces went their way. Finally, the Scotia Bank goalposts. Poor Kerfoot man, the posts show no mercy as I said earlier.

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My 3 Stars

*Nathan MacKinnon, COL, GWG, controlled the offense for Colorado

**Philipp Grubauer, COL, Timely saves won the Avs this game, great outing for Gruby.

***Travis Hamonic, CGY, He was a puck magnet, he blocked everything

 

Expectation for next game

Both goalies have been x-factors in this series, and it has been a very back and forth series so far. Not surprised if there will be another OT game between these two, in either game 3 or 4 in Colorado. Calgary had a 24-15-2 Road record this season, and Colorado had a 21-14-6 Home record. This is going to be a fun series.

WHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

WHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

While there were not any upsets worth mentioning coming out of the first round of the WHL playoffs, that does not mean there was not any action in the eight series. This can only mean the second round will be even tighter and more exciting to watch. With most of the upper seeds advancing to the next round, only the best of the best is left to see who makes it to the conference finals.

Eastern Conference

East Division Final: (1) Prince Albert Raiders vs. (2) Saskatoon Blades

The Raiders continue their incredible season into the second round after an easy sweep of the Red Deer Rebels. The most interesting part of the series victory was the wide-spread, and depth scoring the Raiders possessed. While leading-scorer Noah Gregor had five points, rookies Aliaksei Protas and Ozzy Wiesblatt were exceptional as well. Protas put up two goals and two assists in the first two games of the series, and Wiesblatt, who only scored 15 goals in the regular season, scored three times against Red Deer.

While Saskatoon was able to slide passed Moose Jaw in four games, it certainly felt like more. Three of the four games were decided by one goal, with two of the them being decided in overtime. Max Gerlach and Kirby Dach led the Blades with five points in the series, with each scoring in the clinching win in game four. Nolan Maier was superb in net, only allowing eight goals against in the entire series.

These two teams are the only ones who made it out of the first round in the minimum number of games. Just goes to show how dominant they were compared to their opponents. Prince Albert handled the Blades during the regular season, winning six of the eight meetings. However, Saskatoon is hot, winning eight of their last night games dating back to the regular season. Their lone defeat was at the hands of the Raiders…the night after the Blades had defeated the them in Saskatoon.

My Pick

This series will be determined by the goaltenders, and Ian Scott is playing extremely well, Raiders in six.

Central Division Final: (1) Edmonton Oil Kings vs. (3) Calgary Hitmen

The Oil Kings had their hands full against Mads Sogaard and the Medicine Hat Tigers, but Edmonton was able to clinch after a come-from-behind overtime win in game six. Trey Fix-Wolansky was his usual self, tied for the team lead in points with seven. He was tied with Vince Loshciavo, who finished second on the team with 62 points during the regular season. Loschciavo scored four goals during the series, including the game-winner in game six to help the Oil Kings advance.

Calgary was not expected to slow down the talented offence that Lethbridge possessed, but with the offencive outbursts from the Hitmen’s own lineup, the Hurricanes were taken down by Calgary in a classic seven game series. Calgary managed to score five or more goals four times in the first round, much thanks to depth scoring, as nine Hitmen had five or more points. Carson Focht, Mark Kastelic, and Dakota Krebs all led the team with seven points in the series. Kastelic scored five goals, despite missing games three and four with a concussion. Focht was the first star in game seven, with two goals, including the game-winner.

It’s the Battle of Alberta in the playoffs, what more could you ask for? The Hitmen know they have it in tough, as they won only one of the eight meetings against their provincial rivals, with the Oil Kings outscoring Calgary by a 19 goal margin. The Hitmen are certainly riding high coming off an upset win, so it will be interesting to see how long they ride the wave of momentum into this series.

My Pick

Despite showing some weakness in round one, the Oil Kings’ confidence is as high as it has been this season, but the Hitmen will keep it close. Edmonton wins in seven.

Western Conference

B.C. Division Final: (1) Vancouver Giants vs. (2) Victoria Royals

Victoria did not have the easiest series against Kamloops in round one. However, despite the Blazers picking up a win on the road and at home, the Royals were able to bunker down and take games five and six convincingly to move on. Rookie Phillip Schultz really stepped up in the series, scoring nine points in the six game series, which was tied for second among playoff scorers. 

Vancouver did not have an easy time either against Seattle in the first round. However, the Giants were able to squeak passed the upstart Thunderbirds in six. Davis Koch led all players with 10 points in the six games, nine of which being assists. Bowen Byram continues to increase his draft stock, with three goals and five assists in the series, including a three-point performance in game three. Jadon Joseph piled on the goals for Vancouver, with six goals in the series, tied for the most among goal scorers. Trent Miner and David Tendeck split time in net during the first round, with Miner playing better than his teammate. Expect Head Coach Michael Dyck to go with Miner for the rest of the Giants’ run.

This series could be quite close, despite the two teams finishing so far apart in the regular season. Vancouver won four of the five meetings at the Langley Events Centre, while Victoria managed three wins on their home ice. With that, home ice advantage favours the Giants. Goaltending will be important, as always, and Miner and Griffen Outhouse are two very equal netminders. Vancouver is looking to avenge the game seven loss at the hands of the Royals in the first round of the playoffs last year.

My Pick

Victoria will give a spirited effort, but Vancouver’s offence will bury the Royals. Giants in six.

U.S. Division Final: (1) Everett Silvertips vs. (2) Spokane Chiefs

Spokane walked over a decimated and depleted Portland lineup. Despite a couple close overtime wins, the Chiefs eliminated the Winterhawks in five games. Riley Woods, who led the Chiefs in scoring during the regular season, led the team in the first round with eight points. Adam Beckman and Jack Finley were solid in their first playoff experiences in the WHL. Beckman scored three goals with a pair of assists, while Finley helped set up the offence with four assists.

Everett had a fairly easy first round against Tri-City, beating the Americans in a five game series. Bryce Kindopp was excellent with five goals and four assists in the series, including a hat trick in game five. Martin Fasko-Rudas only put up 31 points during the regular season, but caught fire in round one, scoring eight points in the five games. Dustin Wolf was consistent in net as he was all season, and was the best goaltender in the first round, with a 1.60 GAA and .937 SV% in the series.

The Chiefs did not have the best luck against the ‘Tips this season, as Everett won six of the eight games, including winning two in Spokane. With how good Wolf has been for the Silvertips this season, Spokane’s Bailey Brkin will have to be outstanding, but it is hard to measure him up against one of the best goaltenders in the CHL. 

My Pick

Persistent offencive pressure and Wolf in net is going to be too much for Spokane, ‘Tips in five.

All statistics and records from the WHL and Elite Prospects.

WHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Preview

WHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Preview

It’s that time again! Everything that happened in the regular season is now in the past, and teams in the WHL’s Eastern Conference can turn the page to  to a new chapter. While some teams may look like they are severely outmatched, there could be some teams that will catch some of the league’s best off guard in the first round.

East Division

(1) Prince Albert Raiders vs. (WC2) Red Deer Rebels

What started out as one what looked like one of the greatest seasons in CHL history, the Raiders sure took a dip in the second half following the New Year. This can be accredited to Team Canada’s Ian Scott and Brett Leason coming back from a World Junior hangover. While Leason still led the team in points with 89, he only scored 25 points in his last 24 games, a far cry from his two-point per game pace he started the first half of the season with. Noah Gregor was able to help pick up the slack offencively while Leason was wearing the Maple Leaf, and finished right behind Leason with 88 points, good for ninth in league scoring. Scott has still been one of the top netminders this season, as he finished second in the league in wins (38), goals-against average (1.83), and save-percentage (.932).

The Rebels really survived the late stages of the regular season to squeak into the final playoff spot in the East. The Rebels enter the postseason on a four-game losing streak, and only won two of their final eight games. The offence lives and dies with Brandon Hagel. The Chicago prospect finished fourth in league scoring with 102 points. The next leading scorer is Cameron Hausinger, who only put up 54 points this season.

The Raiders finished the season winners in five of their final seven games. They will use this series to refocus and retool for a deep run into the postseason. The Raiders just have more scoring throughout the lineup than the Rebels, and Red Deer just does not have the same depth as Prince Albert.

My Pick

While Prince Albert may not be at their peak like they were earlier this season, they are still having better fortunes than the Rebels, Raiders in five.

(2) Saskatoon Blades vs. (3) Moose Jaw Warriors

Moose Jaw, regardless of their record, have loads of scoring on both ends of the rink. Justin Almeida has been incredible down the middle, with his 111 points third in the WHL in scoring. Tristin Langan has become one of the better two-way forwards in the league. While his 113 points is second in the league, Langan is also sixth in plus/minus with a +43. Rookie Brayden Tracey has been pretty good to say the least, with his 81 points leading all freshman. Jett Woo and Josh Brook have been solid on the back end for the Warriors, both responsible in their own end and exceptional in the offencive zone. Brook’s 75 points was tied for the most among all d-men, while Woo’s 66 points is fifth.

The Blades ended the season on an excellent run. Since February 1st, Saskatoon went 16-2-1, including a nine-game winning streak from February 1st to 16th. Much in large part to their big three. Top prospect Kirby Dach was exceptional in his second season in the league, with 73 points in 62 games. He will have to step up in this series if he wants to increase his draft stock. Max Gerlach was impressive, scoring 42 goals and 32 assists, and ending his season on a five-game point streak. Over-ager Dawson Davidson was one of the best blueliners in the WHL this season, and one of the most offencive as well. Davidson scored 75 points, which was tied with the Warrior’s Brook for the most among defencemen.

Saskatoon was one the hottest team’s in the league, while the Warriors were on cruise control, opening the door for the Blades to snatch second place in the East Division. While statistically Moose Jaw may have the better goaltender in Adam Evanoff, the Blades’ Nolan Maier has been consistent throughout the season, winning 36 games, third most in the league. Home ice may not favour the Warriors in this series, as the Blades won all three games at the Mosaic Place.

My Pick

Certainly a close series. Even with the offencive stars with the Warriors, the Blades depth will be what helps them in the long run, as they will win the series in seven.

Central Division

(1) Edmonton Oil Kings vs. (WC1) Medicine Hat Tigers

While Saskatoon was one of the hottest teams in the league, Edmonton was THE hottest team in the WHL. The Oil Kings ended the regular season on an 11 game winning streak, and have only lost once since Valentine’s Day. Much of the credit can go to the incredible season Trey Fix-Wolansky has had. The Columbus draft pick finished the season tied for fourth in league scoring with 102 points, and his 65 assists was second in that category. Another reason the Oil Kings were so good this season was the play of netminder Dyland Myskiw, whose 2.53 GAA was fifth in the league, with a .914 SV% that was ninth.

While Myskiw was the backbone for Edmonton, Medicine Hat’s Mads Sogaard was outstanding this season. No question, he was the best rookie goaltender in the WHL, certainly staking his claim for rookie of the year. Without big-time scoring, the Tigers would not be in the position they are without the play of Danish netminder. That said, goals are needed to win hockey games, and the Tigers will be looking at James Hamblin and Ryan Jevne to produce. Hamblin led the team in goals and assists, with his 77 points a career high. Jevne followed with 68 points in his fourth season with the Tigers.

There were very few signs of the Oil Kings slowing down in the waning days of the regular season. The Tigers had to earn their way into the playoffs, and winning three in a row in the past month helped them achieve that. While Edmonton won five of the six meetings between the two, four of them were decided by one goal, two being decided in overtime and another via shootout.

My Pick

Good hard battles, and Sogaard will make it tough on Fix-Wolansky and the rest of his teammates, but it’s hard to see the Tigers winning at Rogers Place, Oil Kings in six. 

(2) Lethbridge Hurricanes vs. (3) Calgary Hitmen

The Hitmen bounced up and down between a top-three position and Wild Card spot throughout this season. Yet, winning seven out of their last 10 games helped distance themselves from Medicine Hat and Red Deer enough to earn the third seed in the Central Division. Mark Kastelic and James Malm have shared the spotlight in Calgary, both leading the Hitmen with 77 points. Malm lead the team in assists with 43, and Kastelic’s 47 goals third among all WHL goal scorers.

The Hurricanes, despite having a young talent in Dylan Cozens, decided this is a great opportunity to make a run to the Ed Chynoweth Cup Finals, and went out a bought talent. GM Peter Anholt completed a trade with Regina to obtain Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn. The move paid dividends, as Henry went on to lead the team in points, and his 97 points ranked him seventh in league scoring. Leschyshyn has been a very balanced player with 81 points, and Jordy Bellerive has been a consistent presence on the power play with 24 points with the man advantage, second on the team. Probable first-rounder Cozens has also been exceptional heading into this summer’s draft, as he is second on the team in scoring with 84 points. 

While Hitmen ended the season on a high note, the Hurricanes ended the season on a higher note, winning 11 of their last 12 games. Lethbridge is clicking on all cylinders heading into this series, whereas the Hitmen lost three games to the streaking Oil Kings in the final two weeks of the season. The Hurricanes have Calgary’s number this year, winning five of the six meetings this season, including a 7-4 win just two weeks ago.

My Pick

Lethbridge is just too good right now for the Hitmen to handle, ‘Canes in five. 

All stats and records found from the WHL and Elite Prospects.