OHL Eastern Conference Playoff Preview
Eight Eastern Conference teams are set to begin their journey through the 2018 OHL Playoffs. Here’s a look at this year’s first round matchups.
HAMILTON BULLDOGS (1) vs. OTTAWA 67’s (8) – #HAMvsOTT
Fresh off their first ever East Division title, the conference-leading Hamilton Bulldogs are chomping at the bit to drop the puck on playoff hockey.
2018 @BulldogsOHL playoffs begin and we are #Committed! The team will be sporting these custom dog tags for the playoff run. Thanks @MyDogtags ! #Bulldogsassemble #HamOnt. Here’s @5twisty5 @Mstrome16 & @WillBitten14 wearing theirs! @hockeynight pic.twitter.com/lFzBj6P5L0
— Bulldogs Foundation (@BulldogsFDN) March 21, 2018
The Dogs spread the goal-scoring around this season as Matthew Strome (37-31–68), Brandon Saigeon (35-35–70) and rookie Arthur Kaliyev (31-17–48) kept the red light flashing in Steel Town while playmakers Robert Thomas (24-51–75) and Ryan Moore (18-42–60) continue to set their linemates up for success. Thomas enters the series with points in 10 straight games.
While the Bulldogs have their dog tags ready to go for the playoff run, the eighth-seeded Ottawa 67’s have prepared their playoff hairstyles in advance of puckdrop Thursday in Hamilton.
Among the most penalized teams in the league this year, the 67’s will have to stay disciplined and avoid giving Hamilton’s fourth-ranked power play any extra opportunities to run away with things.
— Ottawa 67’s (@Ottawa67sHockey) March 20, 2018
67’s leading scorers Sasha Chmelevski (35-41–76) and Tye Felhaber (31-39–70) both strong finishes to the season, registering identical 15 point (4-11–15) outputs over their last nine games.
Hard-working captain Travis Barron (21-36–57) keeps the 67’s honest, delivering hits and leading the forecheck while other physical competitors in Jacob Cascagnette (17-16–33), Shaw Boomhower (9-7–16) and 6-foot-6 blueliner Kevin Bahl (1-17–18) look to make life difficult on Hamilton’s big shooters.
The Bulldogs think this is their year. With secondary scoring options in Nicholas Caamano (25-32–57), Marian Studenic (20-28–48) and a veteran blue line led by captain Justin Lemcke (9-17–26), Florida Panthers prospect Riley Stillman (5-29–34) and power play quarterback Ben Gleason (9-39–48), the Dogs hope Ottawa is the first stop of several in their march to the OHL Final.
With a number of long-serving veterans though, the 67’s have plenty to play for and won’t be underestimated.
Hamilton won series 5-0-0-0
Oct. 22, 2017 – OTT 0 @ HAM 3 (HAM: Bitten, Entwistle 2A)
Nov. 18, 2017 – HAM 5 @ OTT 2 (HAM: Studenic 1G, 3A)
Nov. 25, 2017 – OTT 2 @ HAM 6 (HAM: Strome 2G, 1A)
Jan. 20, 2018 – HAM 9 @ OTT 3 (HAM: Bitten 3G)
Mar. 2, 2018 – OTT 1 @ HAM 3 (HAM: Thomas 3A)
This marks the first ever meeting between the Bulldogs and 67’s in the OHL Playoffs. The last time the two franchises met, the 67’s eliminated the Belleville Bulls 4-2 in the first round of the 2012 OHL Playoffs.
Game 1, Thurs., March 22 at Hamilton – 7:00p.m.
Game 2, Sun., March 25 at Hamilton – 7:30 p.m.
Game 3, Tues., March 27 at Ottawa – 7:00 p.m.
Game 4, Wed., March 28 at Ottawa – 7:00 p.m.
Game 5, Fri., March 30 at Hamilton – 7:00 p.m.*
Game 6, Sun., April 1 at Ottawa – 2:00 p.m.*
Game 7, Tues., April 3 at Hamilton – 7:00 p.m.*
Total Votes: 384
BARRIE COLTS (2) vs. MISSISSAUGA STEELHEADS (7) – #BARvsMISS
Central Division foes the Barrie Colts and Mississauga Steelheads renew acquaintances in the first round of the 2018 OHL Playoffs, each missing a key cog in the wheel due to suspension from the outset of the series.
The Colts will be without top 2o18 NHL Draft prospect Andrei Svechnikov (40-32–72) while Mississauga will do without the services of veteran sparkplug Mathieu Foget (22-39–61) as each is serving a four-game suspension resulting from actions during the last weekend of the regular season.
#OHL Top Scorer:
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 19, 2018
Head coaches Dale Hawerchuk and James Richmond will adjust their depth charts accordingly and get down to business on Thursday at the Barrie Molson Centre as the Colts try and solve a Steelheads squad that has given them trouble this season.
Mississauga took four of the six meetings on the season series, scoring four goals or more in all of those victories. Big Steelheads blueliner Nicolas Hague comes off a franchise-best 78-point season that included 35 goals and enters play on an 11-game point streak.
The defending Eastern Conference champion Trout have a number of returning pieces from their run last spring, headlined by brothers Michael (16-28–44) and Ryan McLeod (26-44–70) along with goal-scoring winger Owen Tippett (36-39–75).
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 19, 2018
The Colts will counter with a prolific scorer of their own in Minnesota Wild prospect Dmitry Sokolov (50-46–96) who led the league in power play goals with 18 and carries a 16-game point streak into the playoffs.
Barrie was led offensively in the second half of the season by OHL scoring champion Aaron Luchuk (50-65–115), an Ottawa Senators prospect who won a Mastercard Memorial Cup title with the Windsor Spitfires last spring.
Barrie’s 297 goals for were the most in the Eastern Conference this year, but if there’s a chink in the Colts’ armour heading into this series it’s their 834 penalty minutes, the most of any team in the OHL this season. They’ll be up against Mississauga’s second-ranked 25.5% power play, so mistakes could prove costly.
In Mississauga’s camp, the Steelheads were strong at home this season, but away from the Hershey Centre they played to a 11-21-1-1 record with three of those wins coming in Barrie.
The high-powered Colts enter action on Thursday with wins in eight of their last 10 but Mississauga’s wealth of high-end talent makes this second vs. seventh-seed matchup one to keep an eye on.
Mississauga won season series 4-2-0-0
Oct. 28, 2017 – MISS 4 @ BAR 2 (MISS: Ingham 26 SV)
Nov. 30, 2017 – MISS 3 @ BAR 6 (BAR: Hawerchuk 2G)
Dec. 8, 2018 – BAR 3 @ MISS 2 (BAR: Edmonds 32 SV)
Jan. 19, 2018 – MISS 5 @ BAR 2 (MISS: R. McLeod 2G, 1A)
Feb. 9, 2018 – BAR 4 @ MISS 6 (MISS: Hague 2G)
Feb. 22, 2018 – MISS 7 @ BAR 4 (Foget 1G, 3A)
This will be Barrie and Mississauga/Toronto’s seventh meeting in the OHL Playoffs. The Colts have won five of the six past encounters.
– 2016 BAR def. MISS 4-3 – 1st round / 2012 BAR def. MISS 4-2 – 1st round / 2010 BAR def. MISS 4-1 – Eastern Conference Finals / 2009 MISS def. BAR 4-1 – 1st round / 2006 BAR def. TOR 4-0 – 1st round / 2002 BAR def. TOR 4-0 – Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 1, Thurs., March 22 at Barrie – 7:30 p.m.
Game 2, Mon., March 26 at Barrie – 7:30 p.m.
Game 3, Tues., March 27 at Mississauga – 7:00 p.m.
Game 4, Thurs., March 29 at Mississauga – 7:00 p.m.
Game 5, Sat., March 31 at Barrie – 7:30 p.m.*
Game 6, Sun., April 1 at Mississauga – 2:00 p.m.*
Game 7, Tues., April 3 at Barrie – 7:30 p.m.*
Total Votes: 463
KINGSTON FRONTENACS (3) vs. NORTH BAY BATTALION (6) – #KGNvsNB
The Kingston Frontenacs took a decisive step at the midway point of the season, adding talented names in Gabriel Vilardi, Sean Day, Cliff Pu and Max Jones to their lineup as general manager Darren Keily and his staff sensed a window of opportunity opening up in the Eastern Conference.
The Fronts finished with 36 wins, beating some good teams along the way to lock down the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re tasked with taking on the North Bay Battalion in first round action beginning Friday in Kingston.
— Kingston Frontenacs (@KingstonFronts) March 19, 2018
Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson (41-46–87) hit the 40-goal and 300-shot mark once again this season, becoming the first Frontenac since Mike Zigomanis in 2000 & 2001 to reach 40 in back-to-back seasons. Trailing close behind him, Finnish forward Linus Nyman (39-46–85) set out to show NHL teams what he’s capable of after being passed over in last year’s draft and finished with 35 more points than he did last season.
Vilardi has been essentially automatic with his production since joining his hometown Frontenacs back in early January, closing out the season with 22 goals, 36 assists and 58 points in 32 games.
In goal, franchise wins leader Jeremy Helvig continues to be a steady presence in the Kingston crease, finishing his overage season with a 31-16-6-3 record with a 2.68 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
Across the ice, Stan Butler’s North Bay Battalion have made the most of the season, turning things around after at one point looking as though they might be on the outside looking in. The Troops had a solid second half, returning from the Christmas break to play to a 9-2-0-1 record in January and climb in the Eastern Conference standings.
Brazeau bolstered offence
— North Bay Battalion (@OHLBattalion) March 21, 2018
Big power winger Justin Brazeau (39-36–75) was a valuable piece this season, scoring 16 power play goals while leading the club with 265 shots on goal. Joining him has been energetic winger Luke Burghardt (28-43–71) while mid-season addition Matthew Struthers (23-22–45) registered 27 points (14-13–27) in 30 games with the Battalion.
Blueliner Adam Thilander (12-30–42) picked up the slack after fan favourite Cam Dineen joined the Sarnia Sting in January, finishing the year with a league-leading four shootout goals while being a regular presence on the power play.
Kingston has won three straight against North Bay, taking a pair of close victories in the past few weeks.
The Frontenacs and their potent offence appear superior in this matchup, but Butler and the Battalion always have a battle plan.
Kingston won season series 3-1-0-0
Oct. 22, 2017 – KGN 2 @ NB 8 (NB: Walker 2G, 1A)
Feb. 11, 2018 – NB 2 @ KGN 3 (KGN: Cranford 1G, 1A)
Mar. 4, 2018 – KGN 4 @ NB 3 SO (KGN: Vilardi 2G, 1A)
Mar. 16, 2018 – NB 3 @ KGN 5 (KGN: Nyman 1G, 2A)
This will be Kingston and North Bay/Brampton’s third meeting in the OHL Playoffs.
– 2015 NB def. KGN 4-0 – 1st round / 2010 BRA def. KGN 4-3 – 1st round
Game 1, Fri., March 23 at Kingston – 7:00 p.m.
Game 2, Sun., March 25 at Kingston – 6:00 p.m.
Game 3, Tues., March 27 at North Bay (in Sudbury) – 7:00 p.m.
Game 4, Thurs., March 29 at North Bay – 7:00 p.m.
Game 5, Sat., March 31 at Kingston – 7:00 p.m.*
Game 6, Sun., April 1 at North Bay – 7:00 p.m.*
Game 7, Tues., April 3 at Kingston – 7:00 p.m.*
Total Votes: 401
NIAGARA ICEDOGS (4) vs. OSHAWA GENERALS (5) – #NIAGvsOSH
Home ice advantage was in question in the Eastern Conference right up until the final week of the season before the Niagara IceDogs exploded for seven straight wins to secure opening night at the Meridian Centre on Friday.
The Dogs have been streaky this season, but they’re hitting their stride at the right time as Edmonton Oilers prospect Kirill Maksimov has heated up for 16 points (4-12–16) over his last nine games while sure-handed centreman Ben Jones has also been productive with 14 points (10-4–14) in that span.
2018 #OHLPlayoffs Schedule:
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 18, 2018
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Sam Miletic (36-56–92) joined the club mid-season and made an immediate impact, recording 20 goals, 18 assists and 38 points in 28 games with the IceDogs. Highly touted 2018 NHL Draft prospect Akil Thomas has been effective too, putting up 59 assists over 68 games, leading to a total of 81 points as a sophomore.
The Generals have some highly-ranked prospects of their own including big 6-foot-5 power forward Serron Noel (28-25–53) and playmaking sophomore Allan McShane (20-45–65) fuelling their attack.
Boston Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka (22-50–72) wears the ‘C’ in Oshawa and led the club in points while overage veteran and 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup champion holdover Kenny Huether (30-24–54) led the club in goal-scoring.
The Gennies also heavily rely upon Vancouver Canucks prospect Matt Brassard on the back end. The 19-year-old finished the season with 16 goals, 35 assists and 51 points from the blue line.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of this matchup is that the two teams haven’t seen each other since all the way back in October.
The Generals and IceDogs haven’t been strangers in the OHL Playoffs as they’ll square off for the sixth time in the past 10 years in a matchup that could really go either way.
This will be Niagara and Oshawa’s sixth meeting in the OHL Playoffs. Additionally, the Mississauga IceDogs eliminated Oshawa 4-3 in the first round of the 2004 OHL Playoffs.
– 2015 OSH def. NIAG 4-1 – 2nd round / 2013 OSH def. NIAG 4-1 – 1st round / 2012 NIAG def. OSH 4-2 – 1st round / 2011 NIAG def. OSH 4-1 – 2nd round / 2008 OSH def. NIAG 4-2 – 2nd round.
Game 1, Fri., March 23 at Niagara – 7:00 p.m.
Game 2, Sun., March 25 at Niagara – 2:00 p.m.
Game 3, Tues., March 27 at Oshawa – 7:05 p.m.
Game 4, Thurs., March 29 at Oshawa – 7:05 p.m.
Game 5, Sat., March 31 at Niagara – 7:00 p.m.*
Game 6, Sun., April 1 at Oshawa – 6:05 p.m.*
Game 7, Tues., April 3 at Niagara – 7:00 p.m.*
Total Votes: 382