Ottawa 67's Celebrate Goal Terry Wilson

OHL Playoffs Countdown: Sizing up the East

OHL Playoffs Closing In

As the regular season comes to an end, the OHL playoffs are just around the corner for a trip to Kelowna B.C. and chance at a Memorial Cup Championship. While there is still some seeding up for grabs, I preview the playoff picture in the East as the standings stand today also tell you my team to make a run.

Ottawa 67’s vs Kingston Frontenacs

Marco Rossi of Ottawa 67's
2020 NHL Draft Eligible Marco Rossi of Ottawa 67’s

The top seed this season isn’t a surprise to anyone already clinching a playoff berth, the division, and conference/league titles. The Ottawa 67’s are favored to take the OHL playoffs and considered a Memorial Cup favorite. Last season’s playoff heartbreak, where the 67’s swept Hamilton, Sudbury, and Oshawa on their way to the OHL finals before losing to the surging Storm in six games, is still on the minds of the deepest team in the OHL.

Ottawa is led by 2020 NHL draft eligible prospect Marco Rossi topping OHL scoring with 116 points. The 2020 NHL draft-eligible made his way into the top prospects for the NHL draft during the amazing year. Not to be forgotten Jack Quinn, who has 51 goals so far, is also a top NHL prospect. Ottawa is going to be a hard team to eliminate and looking to amend for last year as they power to a J. Ross Robertson Cup.

At the other end of the standings is a 3-way battle for the last spot between Kingston Frontenac’s, Niagara Ice Dogs, and the North Bay Battalion. Kingston and Niagara are both tied at 42 points on the year while ninth-place North Bay is close behind with 38.

Kingston drafted early and heavy this off season bringing in Shane Wright who received exceptional status from the OHL. The potential 1st-overall pick in the 2022 NHL draft has been the story line all season with the Frontenacs. The rookie looks to lead them into the first round of his first OHL playoffs sitting atop team team scoring with 66 points. Wright recently surpassed the All-Time Kingston rookie-goal title (36) by former Kingston jr Bernie Nicholls and passed Connor McDavids’ point totals from his 15-yar-old season in Erie. Kingston’s strong first line with Zayde Wisdom, Martin Chromiak, joining Wright could give Ottawa all kinds of trouble.

The Frontenacs haven’t beat the 67s this season but did twice take them to overtime. We could get a preview of that possible first round matchup on March 15th and 16th when Kingston and Ottawa play back-to-back.

Sudbury Wolves vs Hamilton Bulldogs

Second place in the conference belongs to the Central Division leader, and as of right now, it’s the Sudbury Wolves with 70 points. They still have some competition for the lead with Barrie Colts (62), while the Mississauga Steelheads (59) are further back. For the sake of this article, I’m going to take my chances and say Sudbury wraps up the second seed.

Quinton Byfield in Action for Sudbury Wolves
2020 NHL Draft Eligible and Team Canada World Jr. Member Quinton Byfield of Sudbury Wolves

Sudbury is currently led by the projected number-2 pick in the upcoming NHL draft Quinton Byfield, who currently has 82 points on the year. The big centreman is looking to lead the Wolves to a divisional title and deep playoff run. Sudbury has been blessed this season with the weakest division in the OHL. The 70 points has them lead the Central, but placed in any other division would have them sitting fourth and battling.

The seventh seed is shaping up to also be a battle and one of Barrie, Mississauga, or Hamilton will be there. Right now, Hamilton holds the spot with 56 points. With Mississauga (59), and Barrie’s (62) still in play, let’s slot Hamilton in here to face off against the Central Division leader Sudbury Wolves who hold an 8-point lead over Hamilton in the standings.

Hamilton is led by third year standout Arthur Kaliyev, who fell further then some expected last year at the NHL draft, finally taken by Los Angeles 33rd overall. He has clearly made this year about proving to those who passed on him they made a mistake tearing up the OHL with 98 points and 44 goals on the campaign. The Bulldogs just snapped their 7-game losing streak over the weekend and are also dealing with having their head coach relived of his duties a week ago. Hamilton will need to steady the ship if they hope to have a deep run in these playoffs.

Peterborough Petes vs Mississauga Steelheads

The 3rd seed in the conference is still highly contested with only a 1-point lead separating the Peterborough Pete’s (74) over the Oshawa Generals (73).

OHL Leading Goal Scorer Nick Robertson
50-Goal Scorer Nick Robertson of Peterborough Petes

Peterborough is led by Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick, and first player in the CHL to 50 goals this season Nick Robertson. Not to be forgotten about, the Gold Medal winning Akil Thomas who was traded right after the World Juniors to the Pete’s bringing exactly what they need to make a deep playoff run.

Peterborough are my pick in the OHL playoffs this season. Not only are the Petes sporting a 4-game winning streak (as of Mar 9), they have a 4-2 record against league-leading Ottawa. One of those loses also came in overtime, so look for Peterborough to surprise some people this post-season.

As mentioned, the 6th seed is hotly contested right now, but we’ve slotted in Mississauga for this series as it stands currently. They also have a game-in-hand on Hamilton’s seventh spot heading into Wednesday’s action further solidifying their chances.

The Steelheads don’t have name recognition as other listed teams, but they play well as a team. With a core group like Cole Schwindt, James Hardie, and Thomas Harley, the team started off the New Year on a tear. They sit in the 6-seed separated from the bottom battles but have work to do to remain in their current spot. Harley, taken 18th overall by the Dallas Stars in last summer’s NHL entry draft, sits in top-10 scoring by defencemen in the OHL. To win today’s game you need mobile defensemen who can show up on the score sheet, exactly what Harley brings to the table.

Oshawa Generals vs Barrie Colts

That leaves the most even series on paper every year, the 4th vs the 5th seed. Right now the separation between these two seeds is nine points with the 4th seed Oshawa Generals (73) and the 5th seed Barrie Colts (62). Bearing in mind Mississauga is hot on the heels of the Colts only three points back.

Former Frontenacs Forward Brett Neumann with Oshawa Generals (Photo by Terry Wilson/OHLImages)

Let’s start with the Oshawa Generals. The common denominator between the Pete’s and the Oshawa is the Niagara Ice Dogs. Niagara was nice enough to trade the 2019 NHL 24th overall pick to Oshawa. Dallas Stars prospect Philip Tomasino, who now sits at 100 points for this year’s campaign has boosted the Generals atack. Also helping Oshawa to that 4th seed is former Kingston Frontenac Brett Neumann. Neumann has 83 points in 62 games this season sitting fourth in OHL goals with 45. Neumann and Tomasino, who has 60 assists this season, will be a hard duo to keep under wraps come playoff time.

The current 5th seed Colts are led by Tyson Foerster, who grew up in Barrie’s minor-hockey program before being drafted to the Colts. He’s played his entire OHL career with the Colts maturing into a top NHL prospect for the 2020 Entry Draft. Foerster currently leads the Colts with 80 points.

Barrie has also had to deal with personnel changes earlier in the season but interim bench boss, Todd Miller, has seemed to steady the ship. They also have Arturs Silovs, a Canucks draft pick, to help back stop the team. This is Barrie’s 7th time in 10 years clinching a playoff berth.

The OHL playoffs are an exciting time for fans of the Canadian Hockey League and this year is shaping up to be a great ride!