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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OHL Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview

Eight wins down, eight wins to go for four teams in the OHL. The second round saw some shorter and easy series for some, and for others it was tight and exciting series that went deeper than most thought. The teams are so close to the J. Ross Robertson Cup, they each can taste it. Which team will make it through and continue their quest to the Memorial Cup?

Eastern Conference

(1) Ottawa 67’s vs. (3) Oshawa Generals

In a series that expected minimal goal scoring due to the two that manned the nets, the series between Ottawa and Sudbury was anything but. Despite the series only going four games, the 67’s scored 18 goals on the Wolves’ Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Michael DiPietro had an interesting series in net. Thankfully the offencive support was there, as the Canucks prospect allowed 12 goals in the four games, but did earn a shutout in game two. Tye Felhaber, who finished tied for third in league scoring during the regular season, only tallied three assists in their first round series against Hamilton. Against, Sudbury, the Dallas prospect broke out for nine points in the series, including a hat trick in game one, and the series-clinching goal in the third overtime of game four. Kyle Maksimovich has been solid since being suspended for the first two games of the playoffs. After scoring four points in games three and four against the Bulldogs, the Hamilton-native led the 67’s with 10 points in round two.

The Generals make it to the conference finals for the first time since 2015, the year they won the Robertson and Memorial Cup. They did so by upending one of the best offences in the OHL, as Oshawa eliminated the favoured Niagara IceDogs in six games. After the IceDogs won the first two games at home, the Generals reeled off four straight, much thanks to the play of Kyle Keyser in net. After allowing eight goals in games one and two, the Boston prospect only allowed seven the rest of the series. Along with Brandon Saigeon, Kyle MacLean helped lead the offence against Niagara, as he got on the score sheet in five of the six games, with his seven points leading the Generals in the series.

The 67’s are looking extremely confident heading into this series. They dominated the first two series, but they now meet their toughest foe yet. Oshawa, with the help of Keyser, were able to shut down the IceDogs attack. This sets up another goaltender-friendly matchup as Keyser goes up against DiPietro. DiPietro did look shaky at some moments in that second round, but his offence bailed him out. With the momentum Oshawa built against Niagara, DiPietro will have to be at the top of his game, while Keyser will have to be exceptional to stop the outstanding 67’s scoring attack. The 67’s won three of the four games in Oshawa during the regular season, while the teams split the four games in Ottawa. 

My Pick

Generals will make it interesting, but the 67’s will pull it out in the end. Ottawa in seven.

Western Conference

(2) Saginaw Spirit vs. (4) Guelph Storm

The Saginaw Spirit had a rather compelling series against the Soo in the second round. After taking game one, the Spirit lit the Greyhounds up for 10 in game two, followed by a 7-5 barn burner win. After the Greyhounds won games four and five to avoid the sweep and make things interesting, Saginaw settled down to win game six to make it to their first ever conference final. Owen Tippett continued to impress, scoring nine points against the Greyhounds, all in the first three games of the series. Ryan McLeod had a total of six points in the second round, with two goals and two assists in game two of the series.

Guelph comes in after completing an improbable comeback, I’m not just talking about coming from behind in game seven. The Knights went up 3-0 in the series, before Guelph stormed back with three wins. Despite the Knights being up 3-1 in game seven, the Storm never gave up. After Nick Suzuki made it a one-goal game, back-to-back goals from Isaac Ratcliffe gave the Storm a lead they would not relinquish, and would move on to their eighth conference final. Suzuki was incredible in the second round. After being held pointless in the first two games, the Habs prospect exploded for 12 points in the next five. Ratcliffe ended with seven points from the blueline, six in final three games of the series, including the two big tallies in game seven.

This series has offence written all over it. Tippett, McLeod and Brady Gilmour up against Suzuki, Ratcliffe and Nate Schnarr. Ivan Prosvetov and Anthony Popovich are going to look more like shooting targets than goaltenders. The games are going to be fast and wide-open with scoring chances galore. The tough part for these two teams is going to keep their emotions in check. Saginaw have the most penalty minutes of any team in the playoffs. Both teams power plays have not been staggering considering the firepower they possess, with Guelph having a slight advantage with a 21.4% power play compared to Saginaw’s 18.6%. The waves of momentum will be important as well throughout this series, as each team can score in bunches. Saginaw and Guelph split the four games between the two during the regular season, with each earning a win on the road.

My Pick

Guelph has a lot of emotion heading in following the comeback against London, but that emotion will wear them out, Spirit in six.

All statistics and records are from the OHL and Elite Prospects.

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