OHL Report: Two Spots Remain in the Western Conference Playoff Picture

OHL Report: Two Spots Remain in the Western Conference Playoff Picture

With only one weekend remaining in the OHL’s regular season, almost all of the playoff positions have been taken. The Eastern Conference has all eight seeds clinched, with the Ottawa 67’s winning the Hamilton Spectator Trophy, for regular season champions, for the fourth time. However, out West, there is still opportunity for a small handful of teams. Granted, London and Saginaw have separated themselves for the rest of the pack, but there is still room at the bottom of the standings for a couple more teams to find their way into the playoffs.

Erie Otters Need Some Help

The Otters are long passed the days of Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. Now, they sit on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, currently sitting two points behind the Windsor Spitfires for the eighth and final spot. Since February 1st, the Otters have gone 6-11-1, which on paper may not look impressive, however, they have achieved the exact number of points as Windsor has in the that time span. After missing the playoffs last season after four consecutive appearances, Erie would like to see themselves back in the postseason.

It sure will not be easy, as they will need a bit of luck on their side. It is obvious that Erie needs to sweep the upcoming weekend in order to even have a chance. If they have any hopes of leapfrogging over Windsor, the Spitfires will have to lose one of their two games. With one of those games being against Flint.

Erie will most certainly have their hands full, however. They will be tasked with a home-and-home against the Guelph Storm. The Storm have been one of the league’s best teams after the trade deadline where they acquired players such as Nick Suzuki, Sean Durzi, and Mackenzie Entwistle to name a few. Guelph is strong coming into the weekend as they are winners of nine of their last 11 games, but the Otters have played the Storm close this season. The two losses the Otters have suffered at the hands of Guelph have come in overtime, with Erie winning the other two meetings.

Despite Being In a Tight Race, the Windsor Spitfires Sit Comfortably

Currently holding the eighth spot in the West, the Spitfires are in the stages of a rebuild, and it was made crystal clear when GM Warren Rychel traded star netminder Mickey DiPietro to Ottawa. Since then, the Spitfires have struggled to stay afloat in the West. However, they have played extremely close games over the past month. Yes, the Spits have only won four games since the beginning of February, but five of their 13 losses since have come by way of overtime or shootout. They are riding momentum heading into this weekend after beating the Soo Greyhounds in overtime last Sunday. With being up a pair of points on the Otters, the Spitfires don’t even have to win either of their final two games

Thursday they will take on Flint at home. Despite the Firebirds poor record, they actually have Windsor’s number this season, winning three of the five meetings, including a convincing 4-1 victory just last Saturday. The season series has been a home-dominated series so far, and with the game Thursday night at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, the Spitfires, on paper, have the advantage.

The next night they will travel up and around to Sarnia to take on the team right above them in the standings, the Sting. Sarnia themselves is looking to clinch a spot in the postseason. The Spitfires currently lead that season series, as they are 3-2-1 against Sarnia heading in Friday night.

Sarnia Sting Hold the Cards

Currently seventh in the Western Conference, the Sting are a team that last season that was one of the best in the West. This season, with graduating players and stretches where the team has struggled, they have had to battle for an opportunity to make it to the playoffs. Sarnia currently sits with 59 points, one ahead of Windsor, and three ahead of Erie. The Sting have struggled over the last month or so, as they have only been victorious on three occasions in the team’s last 12 games. What looked like an easy ride to the postseason has now forced Sarnia fans to sit and bite their nails.

What the Sting do have over their two counterparts is that they have a game in hand over both Windsor and Erie. Meaning, they will only need one win to clinch a spot in the postseason. Their next contest will be Friday against Windsor, who will be on a second half of a back-to-back. The Spitfires have won three of the five meetings this season, including winning 7-4 in Sarnia back on February 15th.

Then, the Sting will play a home-and-home against the Flint Firebirds to end the regular season. Flint has been bad to say the least. The Sting have handled the Firebirds at home, winning all three home meetings this season. However, in Flint, the Firebirds have been able to hold their own, winning the last two games against Sarnia on home ice. Flint may hold the advantage, given that the Sting will have to play three nights in a row, while the Firebirds have a day off following their meeting with Windsor on Thursday.

My Pick

Given that the Sting have a game in hand, and have not lost on home ice to Flint this season, they should easily clinch, and including a win over Windsor on Friday, due to the Spits being on the second half of a back-to-back, they will clinch the seventh-seed in the West.

Unfortunately for Otters’ fans they will not have the chance to see their team in playoffs. Being tasked with winning two games against one of the hottest teams in the league in Guelph seems like it is going to be too much. Giving, by default, Windsor the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.

Update: Minutes after publishing this article, Flint defeated Windsor in a shootout. The point moves Windsor into a tie with Sarnia, three points ahead of Erie for the final playoff spot.

stats provided by OHL.com

Looking Ahead At The Top 2020 NHL Draft Prospects

As you may know, I love looking at future drafts and prospects. The 2020 draft has to be one of my favorites in the near future, even though it is still a ways away. So, with that said, I’ll be looking at five players of the best projected players in the 2020 draft.

Alexis Lafrenière

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The projected #1 overall pick in 2020 plays as a left wing for the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL. Lafrenière is very swift on his skates, has an excellent shot and has astonishing hand to eye coordination. Lafrenière is looking like a generational talent and I see no huge problems in his game. He currently has 36 goals and 67 assists for 103 points in 60 games. He also played with Canada at the World Juniors.

Pro Comparison (Not skill based, just similar play styles): Artemi Panarin

Noel Gunler

The Swedish right winger has shot up the 2020 draft rankings. He currently has split time playing for Luleå HF J20 and Luleå HF in the SuperElit and the SHL. Gunler’s best asset is his knack for the net. He has great vision and is able to rush to get rebounds. He might struggle a bit because of his size, but I see no reason why he can’t be a great player in the NHL. He currently has 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 points in 30 games with the Luleå HF J20 team.

Pro Comparison (Not skill based, just similar play styles): Jake Guentzel

Anton Lundell

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The Finnish center, like Noel Gunler, has shot up draft rankings for 2020. He has split time between HIFK U20 and HIFK in the JR. A SM-Liiga and Liiga. He has spent most of his time with HIFK which is quite impressive for a 17 year old. He’s a great playmaker thanks to his passing and his vision. Besides being a great playmaker, Lundell, is a great two way forward. He currently has 8 goals and 9 assists for 17 points in 36 games with HIFK. He also played with Finland at the World Juniors.

Pro Comparison (Not skill based, just similar play styles): Bo Horvat

Quinton Byfield

The Canadian center plays an excellent power game. He currently plays for the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. He was granted Exceptional Status during last year and was drafted 1st overall. He plays with lots of power and strength, yet still has great offensive skills in his passing and his shot. He has a big frame at 6’4″ 214 pounds and should continue to grow. He currently has 29 goals and 32 assists for 61 points in 61 games with the Sudbury Wolves.

Pro Comparison (Not skill based, just similar play styles): Sean Couturier

Jamie Drysdale

The Canadian defenseman plays an excellent puck moving game. He currently plays for the Erie Otters of the OHL. He has outstanding passing and excellent speed. When he’s on his game he is untouchable. He has an amazing work ethic as well. He is not a slouch on defense and always gets back in position thanks to his speed. He currently leads Under-17 defenseman in the OHL in points with 38, 7 goals and 31 assists in 59 games.

Pro Comparison (Not skill based, just similar play styles): Duncan Keith

Just Missed Prospects

Kaiden Guhle (Defenseman, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL)

Alexander Holtz (Winger, Djurgårdens IF J20, SuperElit)

Cole Perfetti (Center, Saginaw Spirit, OHL)

Lucas Raymond (Right Winger, Frölunda HF J20, SuperElit)

Justin Barron (Defenseman, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL)

stats from – Elite Prospects

Special Thanks to Gray Fox at The Upper Bowl for the scouting report on Jake Guentzel