With the CHL season coming to an end, Montreal’s junior prospects will be kicking off their postseason runs in the coming days. Here are the matchups to follow from a Canadiens perspective.
Kingston (E4) vs Hamilton (E5)
Will Bitten picked up his play as the season went on and he’ll be one of the go-to players for the Bulldogs in this first round matchup. There’s very little difference between the teams in the standings in terms of points as they finished just one point apart. However, there’s a strong contrast in style as the Frontenacs are built to win tight, low scoring games (they scored the fewest goals in the OHL) while Hamilton has a much better offensive attack.
Owen Sound (W3) vs Kitchener (W6)
Michael McNiven was one of the top goalies in the regular season and was a major factor in the Attack making it to third place in the Western Conference. Their reward is to face the Rangers who finished 27 points behind them in the standings and avoid the ugly 4-5 matchup in the Western Conference (more on that shortly). Assuming McNiven’s healthy and on his game, Owen Sound should be able to get through this round.
London (W4) vs Windsor (W5)
In a battle of Goliath vs Goliath, one of these teams is going to find themselves out of the postseason way earlier than they expected. It’s arguably the most interesting first round matchup country-wide and it happens to be the one that features three Montreal prospects, Victor Mete (London) plus Mikhail Sergachev and Jeremiah Addison (Windsor). The Memorial Cup-host Spitfires will be in tough to get out of the first round which could make them a very rusty team by the time mid-May rolls around.
Sudbury (E6/7) vs TBD
While the regular season schedule is over, the Wolves have a make-up game to play against Mississauga on Tuesday so their playoff seed and matchup won’t be known until then. If the Wolves win and get the #6 seed, they’ll face Oshawa. If they lose, they’ll get the Steelheads in the 2/7 matchup. Regardless of who they face, it’s likely that Michael Pezzetta’s postseason run will be as forgettable as his regular season play and Sudbury likely won’t last long.
Saint John (1) vs Rimouski (16)
The Sea Dogs have been the class of the league for most of the season and loaded up for what they hope will be a lengthy postseason run. Simon Bourque was one of those acquisitions and has settled in nicely to a smaller role than he had when he was with the Oceanic (who snuck into the final spot this weekend) to start the season. This one will be over in a hurry.
Medicine Hat (E2) vs Brandon (E7)
The Tigers were one of two teams to flirt with the five goal per game mark during the regular season and unsurprisingly, Matt Bradley was able to post career highs across the board. There aren’t many Montreal prospects who have more at stake this postseason than Bradley as despite his strong year, he’s probably still a toss-up to be signed which makes his playoff performance that much more important. They should be able to get by the Wheat Kings without much difficulty.
Everett (W1) vs Victoria (W8)
The Silvertips were the stingiest team all season long and Noah Juulsen had a big role in that success. They’ve been among the WHL’s best for a while now and the expectation is that they could have a lengthy postseason run. Meanwhile, the Royals are limping into the playoffs on a seven game losing streak. There won’t be many easy matchups for the ’Tips but they should be able to advance here without too much difficulty.
One team that will be keeping tabs on how things go is the IceCaps. Once junior teams are eliminated from playing, those players can then go to the AHL on amateur tryout deals. If a couple of upsets happen early on, St. John’s may be the beneficiary by getting some intriguing youngsters for their stretch run.