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2019 NHL Mock Draft: Picks 21-25

Part 5 of my 2019 NHL Mock draft is here, and this will feature picks 21-25. For a quick refresher, click here for part 1, here for part 2, here for part 3, and here for part 4.

 

 

21st Overall Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins select Moritz Seider, Right Handed Defenseman, Adler Mannheim, DEL

The 6’4, 198 pound German from Zell (Mosel), Germany, is one of the rare commodities to come out of the German elite league, DEL. Although German hockey has been on the rise, very few 17/18 year olds have been selected as early as Moritz Seider likely will. His ranking has varied from as early as 10th and as late as 21st, with his average ranking being placed at 16.2.

 

For his size, he moves fast, with a very technically sound stride. He’s not easily knocked off the puck, and doesn’t often get out-worked along the boards or in front of the net, but could still get better with more strength. His transitional game is very strong as well, thanks in part to his handling of the puck, along with his skating. He also has a very good up-ice pass. He has great shooting ability, with an accurate wrist shot, and smart slapshots (low on net for deflections or rebounds).

 

What he isn’t exactly good at and should look to improve is his mobility at the blueline, in order to open up more passing and/or shooting lanes. When the opposing team is moving the puck up ice on his side, he looks to throw big hits, but he doesn’t quite have the awareness to know when he should/shouldn’t step up, often times drawing himself out of position. He isn’t very good in his own end either, as he is not exactly positionally sound, but he has the size to win netfront battles as well as battles in the corner, which gives him a base for defensive coaches to build on at the next level.

 

He did not produce at a high level in the DEL (two goals, four assists for six points in 29 games) but it was his first real test against competition outside of his age group. Where he did shine, however, was at the international stage. He first played on the German U20 World Junior Championship D1-A (one step below the WJC) where he put up a goal and six assists (seven points) in five games, leading the German’s to qualify for next seasons WJC.

 

After that, he cracked the German IIHF World Championship roster, where he faced off against NHL competition, as well as top prospects Kappo Kakko and Jack Hughes. He scored two goals in five games before being injured by Ladislav Nagy of the Slovakian team. It’s important to note that he has had injury problems, mainly being with his shoulder, outside of the concussion he sustained at the IIHF World’s.

 

Pittsburgh hasn’t had a great defensive core for a few years now, and the recent trade involving defenseman Olli Maatta makes their defensive needs jump off the page even more here. Right handed defensemen are hard to find as well, and Seider is a very intriguing selection for them.

 

Future Role: He is a long-term project, according to multiple evaluations on him, but I think otherwise. While his defensive coverage isn’t the most attractive, he was getting a first taste of playing against men, and I believe that next season, he will get his feet set there and stand out. I expect him to be a top-four defenseman, with the offensive abilities to play top powerplay minutes.

 

22nd Overall Pick: Los Angeles Kings select Nils Hoglander, Left Winger, Rogle BK, SHL

Hoglander is another one in the group of undersized skaters, as he stands at just 5’9, and 185 pounds. He has been ranked as early as 19th and as late as 41st, with his average ranking at 28.2.

 

Hoglander is one of my favorite prospects, and here’s why. He is a really, really good skater, burning defenseman time and time again. He also has the edgework to dart wide, and then quickly cut towards the net for a great scoring chance. Despite being undersized, he has strong balance, and can battle along the boards just as good as everyone else, which is a major plus for teams who are looking into him. He can dice up defenders too, as he has great stickhandling abilities. He can make a move while going full speed as well, making him unpredictable and difficult to defend one on one.

 

Because of all that, defenders tend to back off a bit more, as to not get burned wide, which opens passing lanes for him to exploit. And he is a good passer, too. He has a great shot, very accurate, though it does lack the necessary power to find success in the NHL. Beyond that, he is an excellent forechecker, and despite his size, does not shy away from playing physical.

Similar to Torey Krug, he can throw heavy hits at times.

 

He is a hard working player at both ends of the ice, mixing his aggressiveness with his positioning in the defensive zone to create turnovers. Transitionally, he uses his speed to blast into the offensive zone and get to work. But despite all of his great qualities, he lacks offensive production. It astonishes me how a guy who is such a fantastic skater, with a very aggressive play style, along with creative offensive instincts to pair with great passing abilities and an accurate shot, lacks production. Playing against men in the SHL last season, he managed to only put up seven goals and seven assists (14 points) in 50 games. He’s also one of the older guys eligible in the draft, due to his late December birthday.

 

Future Role: His ceiling is becoming a top-six winger at the moment, but he has all the offensive tools, and if he can turn the production up to where he should be with his talent, he could very well be a future elite winger. Why’s that? Because he plays a very complete game, and only needs to mature, fine tune the smaller details, and bulk up. Even if his production remains underwhelming, he has third line capabilities. He’s a safe pick in the late stages of the first round.

 

23rd Overall Pick: New York Islanders select Raphael Lavoie, Right Wing/Center, Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

While Hoglander is one of my favorite prospects, Lavoie is my favorite, outside the top-10, that is. The Chambly, Quebec native has great size (6’4, 198 pounds) with room to grow. He may not have blazing speed, but he can beat defenders wide with his very strong strides, and solid acceleration. He also has arguably the best balance in this draft, as he is very difficult to knock off the puck and beat in board battles, as well as in front of the net.

 

Lavoie is a sniper in the offensive zone. His wrist shot is fantastic, and his slapshot packs a ton of power. Going back to his ability to win positioning in front of the net, he is a master at scoring in tight in those areas, whether it’s off a deflection or he gathers the rebounds. His stickhandling also allows him to make a quick move near the goaltender to beat him and score that way. He is dangerous in the cycle, and when he sees a lane, he takes it. He can also be a playmaker, as he sees the ice well and puts the puck on the tape of a teammate.

 

Before his draft season, Lavoie was known to be a lesser defensive zone player, and looked at as mainly an offense-only forward. However, this season, he showed a nose for the puck, and backchecked with authority to get it on his stick. He battles hard along the boards for the puck, helping defensemen down low. He is willing to block shots, basically anything to help his team win, he’s up for the task. He is an effective transitional player as well. With Halifax, he was able to post 32 goals and 41 assists (73 points) in 62 games played. He has the versatility to play all three forward positions, but is more likely to play wing due to his still questionable defensive capabilities.

 

Future Role: If he can continue to show his improvements in the defensive zone while maintaining and improving upon his offensive skills, he could be a top 6 winger, with the ability to play both powerplay and penalty kill minutes.

 

24th Overall Pick: Nashville Predators select Philip Tomasino, Center, Niagara Ice Dogs, OHL

The 6’0, 180 pound center for the Niagara Ice Dogs, Tomasino was a former fifth overall selection in the Ontario Hockey League draft. Tomasino’s rankings vary, as do many of the late first rounders, and has been ranked as early as 18th and as late as 34th, with his average at 23.7.

 

Similar to Hoglander, Tomasino is an incredible skater, which often leads to defenders backing off and granting him space to either shoot or pass. However, he doesn’t quite have the balance that Hoglander has, and he is more easily knocked off the puck. His stickhandling is superb, and he can make quick plays with his stick and skates to open up a teammate for a pass. He has a more developed shot than Hoglander, but he still has more room to improve with his power. He isn’t afraid to push his way to the front of the net or the corners to battle for a screen or the puck. He is a very effective forechecker, forcing lots of turnovers, but doesn’t play the body too often in those scenarios. He is always moving in the offensive zone, never stopping even for a second. That energy is tangible, and lots of teams would love to have that kind of guy on the ice for their team.

 

However, with that playing style, he frustrates opponents, and if he runs into a Brad Marchand, or a Dustin Byfuglien (dirty player or big, physical player) he could be on the tail end of something awful. He must bulk up, more so than most other prospects.

 

Defensively he struggles. Because he is outmatched physically, he tends to reach for the puck often, which makes it too easy for the opponent to make a move to get by him. He also doesn’t read the play effectively enough, and isn’t always in the right position. However, he does try and support the defense down low, and with that effort, coaches can help him with everything else.

 

The reason why I continued to bring up Hoglander multiple times is because these two players play an eerily similar style, with a near identical skill set. Both are creative offensively, whether it be stickhandling, passing, or shooting. Both are hardworking, and constantly trying to get the puck on their sticks. However, where Hoglander has him beat is in his more physical and aggressive play, looking more for the body and not the puck. That’s why Hoglander is a more effective player in the defensive zone.

 

But, while Hoglander struggles to produce offensively, albeit in a tougher league, Tomasino does not. He put up 34 goals and 38 assists (72 points) in 67 games played. He produces more than Hoglander, which tells me he uses his offensive skills more effectively. But he has more holes in his game, which is why he is a couple spots lower.

 

Future Role: If he bulks up, it should fix a few of his developmental hurdles. He will have to be coached well to be a reliable player on the defensive end, but it’s mainly positioning that is the issue. All minor flaws, meaning he will likely make it, and slot in, at the worst, as a middle six center, with the chance to play first line if needed. Certainly good enough to play on the powerplay once he makes it.

 

25th Overall Selection: Washington Capitals select Thomas Harley, Left-Handed Defenseman, Mississauga Steelheads, OHL

Harley was highly thought of by several other contributors on Puck77, recently being ranked 21st overall by those writers. Overall, the 6’3, 183 pound, Syracuse, New York native Harley has been ranked as early as 18th and as late as 24th, with his average being 20.5. So, why does he drop to 25?

 

Let’s get into it. He gets to his to speed very quickly, due to his strong first steps. He is quick with his edges, allowing him to change from defense to offense with rapid pace. That also makes him effective when moving across the point area, opening up passing and shooting lanes. Harley reads the play very quickly on offense, and he’s able to find teammates with a quick and accurate pass. He keeps his shots low and on net, and has greatly improved his shooting abilities from last season, which widens his potential scoring down the road. He is great in transition, with the ability to make a great first pass. He, at times, acts like a fourth forward on the rush, which also boosts his potential offensive output down the road.

 

But what he is most known for is his defensive game. He is very rarely out of position, and knows where to be at almost all times. He shows good strength despite being just 183 pounds, and tends to win board battles as well as net-front battles. But here is why I have him being selected a bit lower than many expect him to. He struggles against faster, shiftier forwards on the rush, and with the way the game is evolving, he could be left in the dust. His worst nightmare would be facing Johnny Gaudreau, Connor McDavid, Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen, Patrick Kane, etc., the list goes on and on. Even some lesser known guys like Carl Hagelin could make him look bad. He has to improve that area of his game to be effective at the next level.

 

As for his production last season, Harley had 11 goals and 47 assists (58 points) in 68 games for Mississauga. He also played for Team Canada at the U18 WJC, where he posted one goal and three assists (four points) in seven games.

 

Future Role: He is a safe pick in a sense that he will very likely crack an NHL roster down the road. He is a complete player, with maturity and high hockey IQ. His problem is he can’t handle what the game is becoming. At best, he will be a second pair defenseman with powerplay time, but at worst, a third pair journeyman defenseman, still with powerplay time. That being said, if he doesn’t fix that glaring hole in his game, he will really have to milk his offensive abilities to keep an NHL spot.

 

All stats via Eliteprospects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

2019 NHL Draft: What makes Philip Tomasino such an intriguing prospect?

Philip Tomasino is one of the most intriguing prospects in the upcoming National Hockey League entry draft. His stock rose throughout the course of the season and he has the potential to be taken inside the top-15 picks this year.

Tomasino finished off his sophomore season with the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League above a point-per-game pace. He totaled 34 goals, 38 assists, and 72 points in 67 games this season. He finished with four goals, three assists and seven points in 11 games in the OHL playoffs. Niagara’s season ended against the Oshawa Generals in the second round of the OHL playoffs, after they lost in six games.

Skating

Tomasino’s skating is probably the most noticeable part of his game. He can get up to acceleration in just a few steps and is very dangerous on his edges. His high-end edgework helps him make sharp turns to high danger areas and create prime offensive scoring chances. It helps him to be extremely shifty all over the ice. His two-step acceleration is also a very noticeable part of his game.

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Passing

Tomasino is a very good playmaker and passer overall. He will take advantage of any open passing lanes available. He will deliver the puck perfectly to his linemates. His ability to draw defenders to him and deliver the puck to an open linemate is quite underrated

Shot

This is an area where he becomes extremely dangerous in around the low slot. Again, his edgework helps him smoothly transition from forehand to backhand. One thing I think that is very interesting with him is that his ability to find open spaces above a goaltender at such a tight angle. He will take advantage of that and accurately shoot the puck to that open area with the tight angle he has.

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Hockey IQ

Tomasino thinks the game very well. Whether on offense or defense, Tomasino can do just about anything. If he realizes that a defender is caught too high or on the rush, he will transition back to defense and play their position until they get back. Offensively, he is just about as gifted as you can get. We talked about his passing and shooting already, so those are a few things that obviously make him such a smart player.

Defense

Finally, Tomasino is a smart two-way player. He was used on Niagara’s penalty kill throughout the course of the season at center or wing. He also played in a shutdown role at times as well. He will use his quick feet to apply pressure and closes lanes by using a very active stick. Once he creates a turnover, he might be that type of player to transition to offense right away due to an explosive first step.

Potential

Tomasino definitely has the upside to become a top-six center at the NHL level. Think Mathew Barzal style-wise when it comes to him. There is potential that a team might end up drafting a steal depending on where he lands in the draft.

Stats via eliteprospects.com and ontariohockeyleague.com

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

OHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

OHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

As the first round wraps up, there were not too many surprises coming out of the Ontario Hockey League, as all of the higher seeds won their series. This leads to some very interesting matchups between the best teams in their respective conferences. While the upsets in this round may not be as mind-blowing, the lower-seeds in these series could cause a stir, with hopes of making it to the conference finals.

Eastern Conference  

(1) Ottawa 67’s vs. (4) Sudbury Wolves

The 67’s made quick and easy work of the Hamilton Bulldogs, sweeping last year’s J. Ross Robertson Cup Champions in four games. Eight Ottawa players averaged a point a game against Hamilton, including Sasha Chmelevski and Lucas Chiodo, who each led the 67’s with seven points. Graeme Clarke was on fire for Ottawa in their opening round. Despite only scoring 23 goals in the entire regular series, the homegrown talent exploded for five in the first two games of the series, including a hat trick in game two.

The Wolves had similar depth scoring compared to their second round opponents, with six players scoring four points in their first round sweep over Mississauga. Rookie Quinton Byfield picked up right where he left off in the regular season, scoring three goals and four assists in the first round. Nolan Hutcheson was also impressive against the Steelheads. With an assist in each of the final three games of the series, the Kingston-native started the series with a bang, scoring a hat trick in game one.

Despite solid scoring from both teams, this series is all about the goaltenders. In a rematch of the World Junior Championship Quarterfinals, two of the best goaltenders in the entire CHL go head-to-head once again, as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen faces off against Michael DiPietro. DiPietro did not face a whole lot of action against the Bulldogs, facing only 95 shots, while Luukkonen was stellar in his first round, only giving up eight goals on 147 shots. There is no question, which ever goaltender plays the best will help his team win the series.

My Pick

In January, it was Luukkonen who came out on top on Finland’s way to the gold. This time, DiPietro’s club will catch the breaks they need, and the 67’s will win the series in seven. 

(2) Niagara IceDogs vs. (3) Oshawa Generals

The IceDogs’ daunted offence was alive and well in the first round, outscoring North Bay 19-8 in the five-game series. Jack Studnicka was the leader of the attack for Niagara, scoring four goals and four assists in the five games. Philip Tomasino was also impressive, scoring six points against the Battalion. The star of the series was Stephen Dhillon. The Buffalo native gave up four goals in game two in his lone defeat in the series, but that was it. Dhillon had three shutouts in the series, including a 27-save performance in game five.

The Generals come in after a five-game series of their own, as they took care of the Peterborough Petes in round one. Anthony Salinitri was exceptional, leading the Gennies with eight points, including the game-winning goal in game five. Brandon Saigeon was the same playmaker Oshawa fans saw in the regular season, with six assists in the five games. Kyle Keyser played well in net for the Generals, only giving up nine goals on 172 shots in the series.

These two teams have not played often this season, as the two only met twice during the regular season. Each team won the game they hosted, with the Generals winning in overtime back in mid-November. It could be a low-scoring matchup with Keyser and Dhillon manning the crease. With goals hard to come by, power play chances cannot be wasted, and the IceDogs have the better PP heading into the series with a 26.9% success rate. 

My Pick

The offencive weapons on Niagara’s roster will be too much, IceDogs win in six.

Western Conference

(1) London Knights vs. (4) Guelph Storm

The Storm cruised through their first round contests against Kitchener, sweeping the Rangers. Anthony Popovich was solid in net for Guelph, only giving up six goals in his four wins. Eight players all averaged at least one point per game in the series, including the returning Sean Durzi. While his health has been in question heading into the playoffs, the LA prospect was solid on the blueline, with +5 rating and five assists. Nate Schnarr continued to look impressive in the first round, scoring 10 points, second among all forwards. 

London had an easy first round as well, as they waltzed passed Windsor in a four-game sweep. Once again, defencemen Evan Bouchard and Adam Boqvist were offencive catalysts for the Knights. Bouchard’s two goals and eight assists were second among all OHLers in the first round, while Boqvist’s six goals was the most among any player in the first round, four of which coming on the power play. The big story was Alex Formenton’s 11 points in the first round, with nine of them being assists.

This matchup is certain to have a flair for the dramatic. Two very good offencive attacks, with the Knights arguably having the better d-core compared to their counterparts. With the possibility of a high-scoring series, it may come down to the goaltending to determine who wins this series. As stated earlier, Popovich was even keel against the Rangers, while London’s Jordan Kooy faced the least amount of shots in the first round, but gave up eight goals against Windsor. Guelph won four of the six matchups this season, including a pair at the Budweiser Gardens.

My Pick

Despite Guelph having more depth scoring than the Knights, Bouchard and Fromenton are certain game-changers for London. It will be close, but I have the Knights in seven.

(2) Saginaw Spirit vs. (3) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Despite Sarnia making one last stand in game four, the Spirit finished off the Sting in style, with Blade Jenkins scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to complete the four-game sweep. Saginaw made quick work in the first round with help of deadline acquisition of Owen Tippet, whose five goals were the second-most in the first round. Brady Gilmour had an exceptional series against the Sting, with six assists, including two in the series-clinching game.

The Greyhounds were caught off guard in the their opening round series against Owen Sound. The Attack stunned the Soo in game one, winning in overtime. The following four games saw the Greyhounds take their opponent much more seriously, winning the next four games by a 12-goal margin. Morgan Frost was solid, as per usual, scoring nine points. Barrett Hayton led the Greyhounds in the series with 10 points, and Keeghan Howdeshell stepped up, scoring five goals in the four game series.

Looking at the season series, you would think this matchup would be tight, with each team having four wins apiece. However, the games have not been that close, as the Greyhounds win over the Spirit back on March 14th was the only one-goal game between the two this season. The series could go either way, and with it being the playoffs, you could expect the games to be much closer. Neither Ivan Prosvetov nor Matthew Villalta were impressive in net, however one of them will have to step up against these two exceptional offences.

My Pick

In another offencive display, Tippet and the gang will take over the series, Spirit in six.

All statistics and records from the OHL and Elite Prospects.

OHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Preview

OHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Preview

After 68 games, it is time for the toughest part of the season to begin. No more standings watching, it is time to get down to business. The playoffs are here. In the Eastern Conference, the top-four certainly separated themselves from the bottom half of the conference, however that does not mean there may be some tight matchups in the first round.

(1) Ottawa 67’s vs. (8) Hamilton Bulldogs

Last year’s J. Ross Robertson Cup Champs, and Memorial Cup runner-up, the Bulldogs have certainly fell off the top of the mountain this season. With graduating players, and trading away star players such as Mackenzie Entwistle, the Bulldogs finished under. 500 for the first time since 2016. Yet, they worked their way into the playoffs thanks to the help of leading-scorer Arthur Kailyev, whose 102 points were tied for sixth in OHL scoring, and his 51 goals were fourth in the league. 

What is there to say about the 67’s that has not already been said? Very deep team at both ends of the rink. Tye Felhaber finished tied for third in league scoring with 109 points, and second in goals with 59. Defencively this team has been dominant as well, giving up a league-low of 183 goals, and the top-six players in the league in plus/minus are all from Ottawa….it certainly helps that Michael DiPietro and Cedrick Andree have been backstopping the 67’s this season.

Most certainly this matchup on paper does not look in favour of the lower-seeded Bulldogs, especially since the 67’s handled Hamilton all season, winning the six meetings between the two in convincing fashion. Outside of Kailyev and Matthew Strome, the Bulldog offence is extremely shallow, and with Felhaber and Austen Keating leading a four-line offencive attack, Ottawa is very capable of coasting through this series.

My Pick

Hamilton should be able to pick up a win on home ice, but I have the 67’s in five.

(2) Niagara Ice Dogs vs. (7) North Bay Battalion

Another matchup with an extremely offencively gifted club. The Ice Dogs have the deepest offence, not just in the OHL, but in the CHL. Niagara finished the season with three 100+ point players, including Akil Thomas and Ben Jones who each had 102 points. Jason Robertson won the Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy for leading scorer as he put up 117 points this season, more than any other player in the CHL.

North Bay really had to work to earn a spot in the postseason. After losing six-straight at the end of February and early March, the Battalion won three in a row to earn their second straight playoff appearance. There success in thanks in large part to their top gun, Justin Brazeau. Brazeau finished second being Robertson in league scoring with 113 points (fourth in the CHL), and his 61 goals were more than any other player in the CHL. He has been a beast from the start of the season, and ended strong as well, amassing 20 points in the final 10 games of the season.

Despite Brazeau’s impressive numbers, that is all the Batallion have to go on in this series. Niagara just has too much scoring, and a much better goaltender in Stephen Dhillon. With the Ice Dogs having one of the best defence cores in the league as well, it will be extremely tough to see if Brazeau has any time to make plays. North Bay was able to pick up a couple wins over Niagara back in November, which may have led Niagara GM Joey Burke to acquire Robertson just over a week later.

My Pick

Too much offence for one team to handle, Niagara in five.

(3) Oshawa Generals vs. (6) Peterborough Petes

Of the lower seeds in the Eastern Conference, Peterborough may be one of the better teams in this first round. Also, they are one of the hottest teams in the league as well, winning seven of their last 10 games, including a win and overtime loss to Ottawa just last weekend. Jason Robertson’s brother, Nick Robertson has been solid for the Petes this season, as he is the team’s second-leading scorer with 55 points. Ryan Merkely was a big deadline acquisition from Guelph. He brings stability on the blueline, and his playmaking abilities are exceptional. His 71 points leads the team in scoring, and is second among OHL defencemen.

The Generals have been on a run of their own heading into the playoffs. Similar to their first round counterpart, they too won seven out of their final 10 games of the season. GM Roger Hunt made a lot of moves to make this team a contender, including trading to get Brandon Saigeon from Hamilton and Anthony Salinitri from Sarnia. Saigeon has led the charge since coming over from the Bulldogs. His 92 points leads the team, and his 55 assists is tied for 10th in the OHL. Among those 55 assists, a lot of Saigeon’s passes has gone to the tape of Salinitri, as he has lit the lamp 48 times this season, which is tied for seventh among leading goal scorers.

This series will be a tight one, despite Oshawa winning six of the eight meetings this season. Merkley will have to be the leader at both ends of the rink if the Petes want to keep up with Oshawa, and Peterborough will have take advantage when on home ice, as Oshawa has dominated at home, going 21-10-3 at the Tribute Communities Centre. This matchup will be determind by the goaltenders. Hunter Jones has stolen games for the Petes many times this season, but he may have met his match in Kyle Keyser, whose .915 SV% was second-best in the OHL.

My Pick

Low-scoring will be seen throughout the series, but in the end, Keyser will shut the door on the Petes, and Oshawa will take the series in six. 

(4) Sudbury Wolves vs. (5) Mississauga Steelheads

If you like high scoring hockey, turn away because this may not be the series for you. Though Sudbury may not have any 100-point scorers, the scoring is spread throughout the lineup. After being traded to the Wolves from Sarnia, Adam Ruzicka has been a big contributor for Sudbury. Since joining the team, he has scored 41 points in 30 games. Rookie Quinton Byfield has been one of the best newcomers in the OHL. With 61 points in the regular season, the Newmarket, ON native finished third in rookie scoring. The MVP for the Wolves, unquestionably, is Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Arguably the best goaltender in the league, Luukkonen went 38-11-4, with a 2.50 GAA and league-leading .920 SV%.

The Steelheads have really been in a slump in the waning months of the season, which means it will be very important for their leaders to step up. Players such as Thomas Harley and Cole Carter. Carter has been a very balanced player, scoring 35 goals and 33 assists this season, finishing second the team with 68 points. Harley has really helped the offence from the blueline, as his 58 points is eighth among OHL d-men. However, it will be Alan Lyszcarczyk who will really need to play a huge role in this series. Since coming over from Owen Sound early in the season, he has been the go-to guy for Mississauga, leading the team with 82 points.

Mississauga finished the season losing eight of their final 11 games. Sudbury was able to win eight of their final 11. Two teams heading two separate directions heading into the playoffs will make it interesting to see which version of each team will come out in game one. The difference will be Luukknonen, and if the Steelheads can find a way to solve to World Juniors Gold Medalist. 

My Pick

Goaltending will be the biggest factor, and Sudbury has the unanimous advantage, Wolves in five.

All statistics and records found from the OHL and Elite Prospects

OHL Report: Niagara IceDogs Fined for Recruitment Violations

Last Friday, the Ontario Hockey League announced that the Niagara IceDogs will be fined $250,000 and lose their first-round picks in the 2019 and 2021 OHL Drafts.

This is all from the league finding the club in violation of the league’s recruitment policy. This comes in the middle of a big season for the IceDogs who are in the middle of a push towards the postseason. The IceDogs did release a statement immediately following the announcement of the sanctions.

Recruitment controversy is not rare in sports, most notably with collegiate sports. Universities such as Ohio State, Louisville, and Miami are a couple of recent examples of schools that have lured athletes in outside of the NCAA’s guidelines. This has not been the first time, however, that a team in the CHL has been caught for violating rules. Back in the summer of 2012, the OHL fined the Windsor Spitfires for similar violations for a total of $400,000 and five draft picks. The Spitfires did appeal and were able to knock down the penalty to $250,000 and four draft picks.

That Fall, the Portland Winterhawks were found guilty of an illegal recruitment process. The club was fined by the WHL for $200,000 and GM/Head Coach Mike Johnston was suspended for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season.

What Could Have Happened?

The OHL green-lit an investigation on the IceDogs with the law firm, Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb LLP heading the inspection process. The details on the violations have not been released by the league. According to Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino, Niagara will appeal the league’s decision, however there is no time frame for the decision to be made.

It would be wrong to assume what exactly the IceDogs did to break the league’s recruitment rules, however it is worth noting why these rules are in affect for a better understanding.

Back in 2009, the OHL’s Board of Governors created an enforcement program to ensure that teams do not violate the current recruitment policies. The program was built to ensure that all teams are competitive, and no team has a certain advantage over other clubs. Stories through time accused teams of bribing players to come play for their team, including a number of players leaving schools in the NCAA to come play in the OHL. There had always been finger-wagging towards bigger teams, such as Windsor, London, Kitchener, etc. Unfortunately, the Spits (who had just won back-to-back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010) were the first to be caught under the new regime.

To allow some insight in what COULD have happened with the IceDogs, you would have to look at the Portland case. Unlike the OHL in regards to Windsor, the WHL did not hide the violations the Winterhawks had, without giving names of the players. This included fully paid training programs for prospective players, and multiple flights to Portland for seven families of players. Even a cell phone was given to one of the Portland captains.

Once again, the only ones that know of Niagara’s actions are the league and the team’s management. The OHL’s maximum fine for a single action is $250,000, meaning the IceDogs are only being accused of one action. compared to Windsor’s supposed multiple violations.

How Does This Affect the Future?

With the loss of two first round picks, obviously the IceDogs are going to be missing on talent in the early stages of the drafts this summer, and in 2021. Silver lining, this year’s pick will not be the highest, due to the team’s position atop the league’s standings. However, it could result in a more timid recruitment process for the team moving forward, in fear of any more allegations.

In terms of the team’s on-ice success, the team could find some struggles in the next couple of seasons. The Spits, since the 2011-2012, have finished last in the West Division twice, and failed to make it passed the first round every year they have made the playoffs. Even when Windsor won the Memorial Cup, they were knocked out in the first round by London, and only made it to the tournament because they were the host team.

The Winterhawks have fared a little better, as they have made the playoffs in every season since their sanctions. However, they have been unable to make it back to the Memorial Cup since 2013.

For the IceDogs, competing in a league with consistent success from teams such as London, the Soo, Kitchener, and Oshawa, it may be difficult for Niagara to be a legitimate contender. On the bright side, through development and smarter recruitment, the club should have no issue being one of the better teams in the OHL.

Stats and records found from OntarioHockeyLeague.com and WHL.ca