Puck77

National Hockey League Mock Draft Part One: Picks 1-5

With the National Hockey League entry draft right around the corner, and several other Puck77 contributors coming together to put out monthly rankings, I decided to follow up my prospect deep dive from over a week ago.

 

I have studied the National Hockey League prospects more and more, I have looked deeper into team needs, and I did my own individual mock draft, using team needs and their current situations to determine picks. I’ve also read into the few rumors swirling around the draft, which I will touch on within the first three picks. I even included one trade, which I will get to here in part one.

 

First Overall Pick, New Jersey Devils select Kappo Kaako, RW, TPS, Liiga

Ah, yes. Already I have gone against what many of you readers likely would have guessed. But I have said Kakko was going to go first overall ever since I watched the New Jersey Devils win the draft lottery.

Two years ago, when the Devils had to choose between the consensus number one pick at the time, Nolan Patrick, or the guy closing the gap for the first pick, Nico Hischier, they went with Hischier.

Hischier played in the QMJHL in his draft year and dominated, while Nolan Patrick played in the WHL and had injury concerns, so it’s a much different scenario. Jack Hughes does not have injury concerns like Patrick did, but Kakko played in a much more competitive league, against men in Liiga, unlike Hischier.

Kakko broke a record previously held by Aleksander Barkov for goals with 22 for an under-18 player in Liiga history while playing in eight less games. He has not only found success against grown men in Liiga, but he has dominated against the highest skilled players in the world, winning not one, not two, but three international gold medals with Finland, putting up a combined 37 points in 63 games. Most recently, he won gold with Finland at the IIHF World Championships, recording six goals and one assist in 10 games.

Kakko has a track record of winning, and his success against men at the club level in Finland and the international levels with Finland, it’s a no-brainer he would go number one overall in any other draft class.

But Hughes is an unreal prospect and has been highly regarded for over a year now for the first overall selection. But I think Kakko will have a higher impact immediately at the NHL level, on a line featuring Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and himself. That is just daunting. Not to mention, he is four inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Hughes.

This is what Devils general manager Ray Shero had to say about the type of player they were going for in the upcoming draft, per SportsNet’s Rory Boylen. “You gotta be a self starter, competitive. You have to have grit. You have to be a team-first player.” While Hughes is a team-first player, Kakko has the size advantage by a drastic amount, and while that is not entirely important anymore, Shero did point it out, and that has to count for something.

 

Next Year’s Role: 1st/2nd line RW with power play time with the Devils

 

Second Overall Pick, New York Rangers select Jack Hughes, Center, USNTDP

Hughes at two is a steal, and Kakko at two would also be a steal. Think about it, if these two guys were in separate draft classes, chances are, they both go first overall. Hughes is the best skater in the draft, and also arguably has the highest upside as well, though there are a couple others that challenge him.

But what separates Hughes, and same goes with Kakko, is his NHL readiness. He is not going to make as big of an impact as Kakko within the first season or two, but he will certainly be in the NHL next season, barring an injury.

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He absolutely dominated with the USNTDP teams, totalling 160 points in 74 games. He had an unreal Under-18 World Junior Championship with team USA with 20 points in seven games. He played really well at the U-20 World Juniors, with four assists in as many games, but obviously not as dominant. Then, at the IIHF World Championships, Hughes only put up three assists in seven games.

The concern I have is, he is less dominant against tougher competition. He dominated in the USNTDP, which is his age group, he dominated at the U-18’s and was a point per game player at the U-20’s, which is basically still in his age group. But at the IIHF World’s he struggled, while Kakko rose to the occasion and led the underdog Finn’s to the Gold medal. That’s why I have him dropping to two.

 

Next Year’s Role: 2nd/3rd line with 2nd Unit PP time with Rangers

 

Third Overall Pick: Chicago Blackhawks select Cole Caufield, Center/Right Wing, USNTDP

When I was initially planning out this mock draft, this was not my pick for Chicago. But then the rumors happened, and it seemingly appears as though the Blackhawks will select the 5’7”, Wisconsin native Caufield.

While Caufield is not a bad selection, the rumors suggest a Jesperi Kotkaniemi-esque selection, where the player has an intriguing skillset and great upside, but ranked either at the end of the top 10, or just outside. That selection has turned out to be less of a reach, and more of a great selection, in hindsight.

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For the Blackhawks, they have a player by the name of Alex DeBrincat, who is also undersized, but very talented, and coming off a 41-goal campaign. Caufield brings that goal scoring touch, as he is the best pure sniper in the draft, scoring 29 goals, along with 12 assists (41 points) in 28 games. He added another 72 goals and 28 assists (100 points) in 64 games with US National U-18 team, which is absolutely insane. But he played with the USNTDP Juniors, rather than the USNTDP club with Hughes, and that tells me he still has a few years before being in the NHL.

He also played internationally, but for only the U-18 World Juniors, where he put up 14 goals and four assists (18 points) in seven games played. It’s very clear to see he is a goal scorer, as in total (counting international games) he scored 115 goals in just 99 games. He has committed to the University of Wisconsin for the following season, where he will look to add to his resumé of being the third overall selection.

If he can score at a goal per game pace in the NCAA, he will prove exactly why the Hawks took him so early. If he even comes close, it will be super impressive, because the NCAA is a tough league to score in at the pace he has, so next season will be very telling.

 

Next Year’s Role: NCAA time with Wisconsin, maybe joins NHL late in season, like Charlie McAvoy for Boston in 2016.

 

Fourth Overall Pick: Colorado Avalanche select Alex Turcotte, Center, USNTDP

Turcotte was my initial third overall pick, but again, rumors changed that. Turcotte is my favorite prospect, and I think he has the most upside in the entire draft.

Split between the USNTDP juniors and the USNTDP club, Turcotte combined for 96 points in 53 games, with 39 of the 96 points being goals. He added another four goals and five assists (nine points) in seven international games in the U-18 World Junior Championships.

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He is a well-balanced, 200-foot player, with the skill-set to put up big numbers at all levels of hockey. He immediately helps the Avalanche’s lack of scoring depth, but unfortunately he has already committed to the University of Wisconsin to join Caufield for next season. To me, he could absolutely step into the NHL on a third line role, but he will not be there, as noted.

 

Next Year’s Role: NCAA time with Wisconsin, high chance he joins the Avalanche late in the season.

 

Fifth Overall Pick: Los Angeles Kings select Bowen Byram, Defenseman, Vancouver Giants, WHL

Something that could potentially hurt the 6’0″, 194-pound, left-shot defenseman is the fact that he did not play any level of international hockey with Team Canada. But, he is still far and away the best defenseman in this draft.

He has great size, and is also incredible offensively. He put up 26 goals and 45 assists (71 points) in 67 games played. For a defenseman, that is great. He is a complete defenseman, excelling in the transitional game with his elite skating and puck-handling abilities.

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Anticipated to be the fourth overall pick (and maybe even third overall by some draft analysts), he falls to fifth thanks to the Blackhawks taking Caufield.

The Kings could absolutely use Byram, as they have Drew Doughty, Dion Phaneuf and Alec Martinez all 29 years of age and up, and top end defensive prospect Sean Durzi, who is right handed. The defensive prospect in general is bare, but seeing that Byram does fill a need, this pick is a no-brainer. It’s also entirely possible he makes the team out of camp, but he’d need a strong camp to get a good look, and beat out Durzi, who has a higher chance due to being older, as well as Derek Forbort and Paul LaDue, both seasoned veterans. Odds are certainly stacked against him, but the talent is there, and it would not surprise me that much.

 

Next Year’s Role: Potential bottom pair minutes with power play time in Los Angeles, but likely will stay with Vancouver in the WHL until that season ends, and then join the Kings late in the season if needed. Most likely will get time with the Ontario Reign of the AHL after the WHL season concludes.

 

All stats via eliteprospects

Rankings inspired by the Puck77 crew

Memorial Cup Preview and Predictions

This is it…

After nine months of grueling work, four teams remain in the 2018-19 CHL season. In Halifax, the Mooseheads will host the three champions from the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL as the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Guelph Storm, and Prince Albert Raiders look to capture junior hockey glory. The tournament will see teams with vastly different styles clash, and teams who never have met will become instant rivals. Big names are given the opportunity to cement their legacy before they move up to the professional ranks, while unknowns have the chance to become legendary. With a lot of stories coming into this tournament, the 101st Memorial Cup is setting up to be quite entertaining.

Halifax at Home

This will be only the second time the Mooseheads will host the Memorial Cup. The first tournament they hosted was back in 2000, where the Mooseheads lost in the semifinals to the controversial “Brampton Boys”-led Barrie Colts. This year’s team looks to do one better, and repeat the success the team Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin led to the 2013 Memorial Cup title. Playing at Scotiabank Centre, the Mooseheads have clear home-ice advantage, and there is substance to back that up. Halifax went 25-5-4 at home during the regular season, and finished 8-3-1 on home ice during the QMJHL Playoffs. Despite not winning the President’s Cup, the Mooseheads have a great opportunity to redeem themselves in the Memorial Cup.

Raiders in Unfamiliar Territory

It was one of the most incredible seasons in the CHL. While the Prince Albert Raiders have been a competitive team for the majority of their history in the WHL, it has been a long time since they have been a contender for a championship. The last time the Raiders won the WHL Championship was back in 1985, the same year they went on to win the Memorial Cup. The Raiders had not even made it to the Ed Chynoweth Cup Finals since then, until this year. 

The Raiders started the season with an amazing 26-1 start through the beginning of December. While the Raiders cooled off by the end of the regular season, Prince Albert still finished as the best team in the WHL. With the play of Noah Gregor, Brett Leason, and goaltender Ian Scott, the Raiders were able to win their second WHL Championship. With none of the players on this roster having played at this stage of the season, you could expect some jitters early on from this team.

Huskies’ Second Chance

May 29th, 2016. Rouyn-Noranda met the London Knights in the Memorial Cup Final. The Huskies were less than five minutes away from their first ever Memorial Cup, but a goal from Christian Dvorak sent the game into overtime, where Matthew Tkachuk scored to give the London Knights their second Memorial Cup. Gilles Bouchard was behind the bench for that game, and Jacob Neveu, Peter Abbandonato, and Samuel Harvey were on that roster.

While the core of this year’s team has changed since that day three years ago, the few that remember the disappointment of losing in the championship game, look to change their fate this time around. The Huskies finished with the most points in the entire CHL, and have shown why throughout the playoffs. With arguably one of the best goaltenders coming into the tournament with Samuel Harvey, and a solid offence led by Joel Teasdale, Noah Dobson, and Abbandonato, Rouyn-Noranda has a good chance to get back to the Memorial Cup Final.

Cinderella Storm

The Guelph Storm were not picked by many to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup, even when they made it to the OHL Finals. Despite having the talents of Nick Suzuki, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Sean Durzi, the Storm were in tough throughout the postseason. In round two, Guelph trailed the top-seed in the West, the London Knights, 3-0. Yet, the Storm were resilient, and somehow reeled off four straight to move on to the Western Conference Finals. Going up against the third-best team in the OHL, the Saginaw Spirit, the Storm found themselves down 3-1 in the series. Once against Guelph rallied and came from behind to win the series in seven. They then trailed the best team in entire league 2-0, but came back and won the OHL Championship by winning four straight against the Ottawa 67’s, a team that had not lost all postseason.

The biggest question is can they take the “comeback kids” mentality in this tournament? They cannot allow themselves to trail, because of the round-robin format. They have three games to prove themselves. If they fall behind at all in the Memorial Cup, the clock might strike midnight on the Storm. 

Round-Robin

With the round-robin portion of the tournament only lasting five days, the schedule is important in deciding how this tournament how could pan out. The opening night on Friday sees Halifax kick things off against Prince Albert, a game that the Mooseheads have the advantage given that it is their home barn and the Raiders will not take well to the loud Halifax crowd. 

The next game will have Rouyn-Noranda play Guelph, which there could easily be 10 goals scored between the two teams. However, for the Storm, they will have to come back the next night against the rested Moosheads. That could spell trouble for Guelph following what could be a long game against the Huskies.

The Raiders will take on the Huskies on the following game. That one will be a treat as the world will get to see two of the best goaltenders in the CHL, as Scott and Harvey go head-to-head. Huskies may have a deeper offencive attack than the Raiders, but don’t think that Scott could easily steal the show that night. 

Guelph will meet a tired Prince Albert team the next night, with Halifax closing out the round-robin with a President’s Cup rematch against Rouyn-Noranda.

My Picks

The teams that may have the easiest time in their three games are the Huskies and Mooseheads, as neither have to play on back-to-back nights. That said, both will lose at least one game, as Rouyn-Noranda will beat Halifax in the final game of the round-robin, sending the Huskies directly to the final.

This would force a tiebreaker between Guelph and Prince Albert. The Storm may have played outstanding over the last month or so, but the Raiders will come away to move onto a semifinal meeting with the Mooseheads.

Halifax will come out strong, looking to take advantage of the tired Raiders. Prince Albert will give a valiant effort, but the Mooseheads will come away with the victory, and force a rematch, once again, against the Huskies.

With a day off in between the semifinal and championship game, there will be no excuse of fatigue for Halifax. It will be another tight battle as it was in the President’s Cup Finals, and just like that series, the Huskies will come away with the win, and earn the franchise’s first Memorial Cup.

All statistics and records are from the CHL, QMJHL, OHL, WHL, and Elite Prospects

Memorial Cup Team Preview: Guelph Storm

Out of the four teams…

on their way to Halifax for the 101st Memorial Cup, not many would have predicted the Guelph Storm to be making travel plans to the Maritimes. While this team was all-in to make a deep postseason run, nobody believed they were actually going to make it this far, given their path to the OHL Championship. However, against all odds, the Storm were able to win their fourth J. Ross Robertson Cup to earn a spot in the Memorial Cup for the fifth time in the franchise’s history. The last time they made it to the tournament was back in 2014, where they lost in the finals to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Let’s take a deep look at this underdog club.

The Gamble Paid Off

Guelph had a roster filled with a lot of talented players that were of the 1999 birth year at the start of the 2018-19 season. With the players such as Dmitri Samorukov, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Nate Schnarr to name a few, the Storm looked like a team that could have some success come Spring time. With the team sitting fourth in the Western Conference at the Holiday Break, General Manager George Burnett knew that Guelph needed more depth if they wanted to be a contender against the best in the West. Burnett made big moves acquiring the likes of MacKenzie Entwistle and Nick Suzuki up front, and were able to get Sean Durzi and Markus Phillips to help bolster the back end. It looked risky at the time, as the Storm lost a lot of draft picks and prospects, and still only finished fourth in the West. Yet, they were able to mesh at the right time, and the pickups at the deadline proved to be well worth the risk.

Blueline Depth

Defencively, Guelph became a lot stronger down the stretch and in these playoffs. Samorukov, who has played all of his three seasons with the Storm, had career-best numbers. He finished the regular season with 45 points, and a plus/minus of +36. In the postseason, the Edmonton prospect put up 28 points, and finished with a +18 rating. The two pickups at the trade deadline, Phillips and Durzi, played key veteran roles for the Storm. Durzi, despite being hurt for the latter of the regular season, played big minutes in the playoffs. He played in all 24 playoff games, and finished tied for the third-best plus/minus in the playoffs with a +16. The Los Angeles prospect also helped set up the offence from the back end. Of the 27 points Durzi produced this postseason, 24 of which were assists, second among all OHLers behind Nick Suzuki. Now that you mention it…

Suzuki’s Swan Song

Nick Suzuki has been arguably the biggest trade deadline acquisition in the entire CHL. A first-round pick that is primed to play for the Montreal Canadiens next season, Suzuki scored 45 points in the first 30 games of the season with Owen Sound. After being traded to the Storm, the London native stayed consistent, scoring 49 points in the final 29 games of the regular season. The playoffs saw the best of Suzuki. In 24 games this postseason, he was only held off the score sheet three times, twice in the Storm’s second round series against his hometown London Knights. That series against the Knights was where Suzuki cemented his junior legacy, scoring 13 points against the number one seed in the Western Conference. While Suzuki was consistent in scratching his name on the score sheet, he was also as consistent in putting up multiple points night-in and night-out, as he amassed 12 multi-point games for Guelph en route to the OHL Championship.

What Pressure?

There is no team coming into this Memorial Cup that has been through what the Storm have been through in these playoffs. Sure, they walked passed Kitchener in four games of the first round, but that was as easy it got for Guelph. The second round they met the second best team in the OHL in London. The Storm quickly found themselves down 3-0 to the Knights, and looked to be done like dinner. Yet, the Storm refused to lose, and won four straight to upset the Knights. They then met the Saginaw Spirit in the conference finals, the third-best team in the OHL. Once again, the Storm saw themselves on the brink of elimination, this time down 3-1. The Storm shut down the Spirit’s top guns, Samorukov and Ratcliffe scored some big goals, and they were able to win three straight to make it to the finals where they met the best team in the OHL, the Ottawa 67’s. Despite being down 2-0 to a team that had not lost all postseason, the Storm staked their claim as giant killers, as they handled the 67’s the remainder of the series, and won the J. Ross Robertson Cup in six games (Yes, DiPietro got hurt in game two, but regardless). 

This team has gone up against the best in the OHL for the majority of the playoffs, have faced adversity, and thrived on it. They will now go up against the best in the country. The experience this team has, as a whole, will help them going into this tournament. It does not matter how badly they are outmatched, they will not back down from the challenge, which could give them the opportunity to win the Memorial Cup.

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

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Right Handed Defensive Options In The 2nd Round

At this year’s NHL Draft in Vancouver, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to wait until Day 2 of the Draft before they make a selection. But, they’ll still be able to strike gold on Day 2.

Unless the Maple Leafs make a trade for a 1st round pick, they currently don’t have one. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas dealt the 1st round pick to the Los Angeles Kings along with Sean Durzi and Carl Grundstrom for Jake Muzzin back in January.  As of right now, the Maple Leafs will be drafting with a pick somewhere between #51 – #54 and with the team’s need for right shooting defensemen, I’ve selected the two prospects I believe best fit that need.

Kaedan Korczak, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

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After reading the various scouting reports about Korczak, I’ve came to the conclusion that the Yorkton, Saskatchewan native would be a great fit in Toronto. 

Korczak is currently listed as 6’3″ and weighs 192 Lbs, but at only 18 years of age, he still has time get a bit bigger and to better fill in to his frame. 

Scouts have listed him as a good solid defensive defenseman.  You’ll likely never see him on the power play, but most scouts see him as a reliable penalty killer and a player coaches would want to put out on the ice late in a game to defend a one goal lead.  Korczak has also been described as having good mobility. He’s great when passing the puck out of his zone. Zone exits are crucial and Korczak can be trusted to get the puck out of his zone without mistake. In addition, he doesn’t panic under pressure or get caught out of position.

Korczak is currently projected to be a 2nd pair defenseman, but that could all change depending on how he develops.

Antti Tuomisto, Ässät U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)

Born in Pori, Finland, this 6’4″ 190 Lbs right shooting defenseman is seen as a power play quarterback, who looks for the simple and safe pass with less risk of a turnover. 

Although his acceleration and straight line speed are a bit slow, his lateral movement is better and his ability to anticipate plays helps him avoid getting caught out of position too often.

Just like Korczak, Tuomisto has a big body with room to fill out and is known for using his big body to rub out opponents along the boards.  Just like other big men in hockey, Tuomisto uses his big stick to his advantage to cover passing and shooting lanes.

He’s got a hard shot and good accuracy which is what makes him a good quarterback for the power play.

The biggest thing that Tuomisto needs to work on is his foot speed, but he still has plenty of time for that.

Who I’d Lean Towards

Although both of these players would be a nice addition to the future of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I would select Kaedan Korczak with the Leafs’ 2nd round pick as he is the better defender and has more of what the Maple Leafs need. 

We’ll have to wait until Day 2 of the NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 22nd to find out if either of these players becomes a Maple Leaf.

Stats and Scouting reports found on thehockeynews.com and finnprospects.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

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.