Wednesday, April 30, 2014

OHL Playoff Predictions: OHL Final

Hard to believe that the season is finally reaching its end. It seems like just yesterday we were talking about the season starting, and here we are at its conclusion. The Guelph Storm are here in the finals like many of us thought they'd be at the start of the season. North Bay, on the other hand, is trying to cap off their Cinderella season. Man, who would have thought that they'd take out Oshawa as easy as they did. As for the predictions, I'm 9-5 through the playoffs so far, let's try to get to 10.

Here's how I see the OHL Final:

Guelph Storm vs. North Bay Battalion
Season Series: 2-0 (Guelph)
My Analysis: North Bay fans better be happy that I keep picking their team to lose. I think I'm their good luck charm (I've had them losing every round so far). The team has bought into Stan Butler's defensive first system at the right time and they're making it incredibly difficult for opposing offenses. This will be their biggest test yet as they face off against the OHL's top offense, an offense which has continued to score at about a 5 goal per game clip during this year's playoffs. North Bay's Jake Smith has been fantastic in net so far and he's going to need to be even better this round. Here's my train of thought. You have to celebrate and respect North Bay's outstanding defensive effort this postseason. I've underestimated them every step of the way. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for North Bay fans if I truly am the good luck charm), I just don't see them being able to stop Guelph. The Storm have been (very consistently) the best team in the league this season and I don't think anything stops them from reaching the Memorial Cup at this time.
Prediction: Guelph in 5

How do you think the OHL final ends?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

OHL Playoff Predictions: Conference Finals

Tomorrow night the Conference finals get under way, so let's preview the match-ups. I'm 8-4 through the first two rounds.


1. Oshawa Generals vs. 2. North Bay Battalion
Season Series: 2-2 (TIE)
My Analysis: Wow, the Battalion just keep on trucking. It ain't pretty but it's working. The veteran leadership core of the team (Goodrow, Thomson, Paul, Blujus, Miller) has been fantastic, as has goaltender Jake Smith. They're going to make this one tough series for Oshawa. Meanwhile, the Generals haven't really been tested thus far and are also riding a big time confidence high. I think the teams are a wash on defense as both teams have terrific veteran leadership on the backend. In net, even though Jake Smith is playing well, I have to give the edge to Daniel Altshuller as the veteran (and he's been fantastic thus far too). At forward, North Bay is stronger than you would think and they are getting the most out of their line-up right now (chemistry is fantastic). However, Oshawa does have more game breakers in their line-up. The one big discrepancy between the two teams is special teams play. Both team's PK units have been terrific in the postseason, however North Bay's powerplay has been pitiful. If they intend to beat an offensive powerhouse like Oshawa, they're going to need to take better advantage, one man up. In the end, I think Oshawa's higher skill level on offense, special teams play, and veteran goaltending edge out North Bay.
Prediction: Oshawa in 6


1. Guelph Storm vs. 3. Erie Otters
Season Series: 4-2 (Guelph)
My Analysis: Erie's goaltending sure wasn't strong in the first round against Saginaw, but it did a complete 180 thanks to Devin Williams against the Greyhounds. The argument could be made that their goaltending is still a situation that could be exploited by a powerful Guelph offense, however Guelph's goaltending is equally inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs (even if Justin Nichols has been terrific this year). Goaltending is a wash for me. Everything else tips in Guelph's favour though. They're the deeper team at forward and the more difficult team to match up against defensively. Guelph's has 3 hot lines right now who are putting the pressure on opposing defenses, where as Erie really only has two (all be it two fantastic ones). I like Guelph's chances here. They would have been my pick to go all the way at the start of the playoffs so there is no changing that now.
Prediction: Guelph in 6

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings for 2014

NHL Central Scouting has released their final rankings for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Below is a breakdown of how OHL players were ranked.


1. Sam Bennett (1)
2. Aaron Ekblad (2)
3. Michael Dal Colle (5)
4. Nick Ritchie (7)
5. Brendan Perlini (8)
6. Jared McCann (10)
7. Anthony DeAngelo (14)
8. Ryan MacInnis (20)
9. Robby Fabbri (21)
10. Josh Ho-Sang (22)
11. Nikolai Goldobin (24)
12. Eric Cornel (25)
13. Roland McKeown (27)
14. Brendan Lemieux (28)
15. Nick Magyar (32)
16. Dylan Sadowy (33)
17. Hunter Smith (39)
18. Connor Chatham (46)
19. Michael Bunting (49)
20. Aaron Haydon (54)
21. Blake Siebenaler (55)
22. Alex Peters (56)
23. Spencer Watson (59)
24. Darby Llewellyn (64)
25. Mike Amadio (68)
26. Kyle Jenkins (69)
27. Christian Dvorak (71)
28. Josh Sterk (84)
29. Matthew Mistele (88)
30. Ryan Foss (91)
31. Josh Wesley (111)
32. Santino Centorame (113)
33. Kevin Lebanc (115)
34. Stefan Leblanc (123)
35. Stephen Desrochers (125)
36. Yannick Rathjeb (129)
37. Blake Clarke (134)
38. Patrick Sanvido (140)
39. Niki Petti (143)
40. Jacob Busch (152)
41. Chandler Yakimowicz (153)
42. Jaden Lindo (154)
43. Kyle Pettit (161)
44. Cordell James (165)
45. Stephen Harper (166)
46. Jacob Middleton (172)
47. Brandon Prophet (174)
48. Frank Hora (176)
49. Zach Bratina (186)
50. Alex Lintuniemi (187)
51. Kyle Wood (191)
52. Alexander Mikulovich (192)
53. Bryan Moore (195)
54. Phil Baltisberger (197)
55. Daniel De Sousa (204)


1. Brent Moran (3)
2. Alex Nedeljkovic (4)
3. Brandon Halverson (6)
4. Matthew Mancina (12)
5. Devin Williams (15)
6. Jack Flinn (25)
7. Ken Appleby (27)

HERE (Skaters & Goalies) are the links to the complete lists.

General thoughts...

- Comparing it to the midterm, some of the biggest "risers" are Nick Magyar (52-32), Dylan Sadowy (89-33), Darby Llewellyn (113-64), Hunter Smith (140-39), Josh Sterk (195-89), Santino Centorame (AB-113), Stephen Desrochers (AB-125), and Patrick Sanvido (AB-140).

- Some of the "fallers" were Roland McKeown (15-27), Aaron Haydon (28-54), Alex Peters (36-56), Matt Mistele (51-88), Brandon Prophet (76-174), Nikita Yazkov (77-AB), Jacob Middleton (87-172), Blake Clarke (93-134), Jaden Lindo (96-154), Alexander Mikulovich (108-192), Cristiano DiGiacinto (117-AB), and Nikita Serebryakov (17-AB).

- Comparing it to my own list (at the moment), Jacob Middleton is the one that really stands out. I don't have him incredibly high, but I do think that he deserves to be higher than where CSS has him ranked. It's tough being the top defenseman (as a young player) on a bottom of the standings team.

- Interesting call for CSS to have Brent Moran leapfrog Nedeljkovic. It'll be interesting to see how they both do at the Under 18's. I see the reasoning behind it (size and improvement), but I still prefer Nedeljkovic.

- In terms of absences, I think the biggest surprise is Cristiano DiGiacinto. The suspension at the end of the season hurt, but he brings a lot of things to the table that could make him an attractive selection for NHL clubs.

- I don't agree with Zach Bratina falling as significantly as he did. I actually expected him to be a riser considering how well he has played since the trade to North Bay.

- Otherwise, there weren't a ton of MASSIVE surprises, just minor gripes. In particular, I thought they did a pretty good job with the top 15-20ish (save maybe not having Fabbri higher, but we all knew that he wanted be ranked high on CSS due to his size).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2014 OHL Playoff Predictions: Round Two

The Conference semi-finals kick off tonight so it's time to preview the second round. I went 6-2 in round one, and was only wrong about the two game sevens (Kingston and Niagara).

Here's the Round Two breakdown:


1. Oshawa Generals vs. 6. Peterborough Petes
Season Series: 5-3 (Oshawa)
My Analysis: This is a dangerous series for Oshawa. They've been off for a while so they could be a bit rusty. Meanwhile, the Petes are riding a major high after that epic comeback against Kingston. These two teams played each other incredibly tough in the second half of the season so this isn't as cut and dry as some people may think. Ultimately, I think this series comes down to offensive depth and goaltending. The Generals are deeper at the forward position and I think that wins them a hard fought series. I also have more faith in Daniel Altshuller, even if Andrew D'Agostini played his arse off in round one. The Gennies take this by winning the majority of their games on home ice, where they dominated the Petes during the regular season.
Prediction: Oshawa in 6

2. North Bay Battalion vs. 4. Barrie Colts
Season Series: 3-3 (TIE)
My Analysis: Another tough one to predict. North Bay clawed their way through a tough first round match up against the Dogs, while the Colts breezed through theirs against the Wolves. Barrie seems to be hitting their stride at the right time (although they did pick apart a disoriented and slumping Sudbury team). Realistically, the Colts are a team who is stronger on paper than they appeared in the standings this year. But they have a huge veteran core and they know what it takes to win. Goaltending is likely a wash between Blackwood/Gibl and Smith. Defense is a wash. So it'll come down to the offense and I think Barrie's veteran group has to be given the advantage there. I look for guys on their OHL swan song, like Athanasiou, Hall, Theoret, to really step up their game and get the Colts back to the Eastern finals.
Prediction: Barrie in 7


1. Guelph Storm vs. 4. London Knights
Season Series: 3-3 (TIE)
My Analysis: I feel bad for London, I really do. I mean, they've already got a Memorial Cup bid secured (as hosts), but no one wants to go in through the back door. Unfortunately that's how I see things unfolding. The Knights will be without Stolarz, Bell, and Austin this series. Those three form a critical component to the team's defense. Jake Patterson's development hasn't been terrific this year and he's going to have to be fantastic to stop Guelph's potent offense. I felt like Guelph was probably the stronger team even before all of those injuries/suspensions, so the recent news only puts the icing on the cake for me.
Prediction: Guelph in 5

2. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. 3. Erie Otters
Season Series: 1-1 (TIE)
My Analysis: I must admit, I'm a bit worried about Erie's goaltending. Their series against Saginaw proved that neither Devin Williams or Oscar Dansk are at the top of their game. The Soo play an up tempo game with a very balanced attack. You won't escape a series against them without solid goaltending. Meanwhile, the Soo have been getting great goaltending all year from Matt Murray and he should be up to the test in stopping the Otters two line attack. This one is so close to call, but I'm leaning towards the Soo. I've underestimated them throughout the year and I really like how their forwards are engaged at both ends of the ice. They'll get better goaltending and I think they play a better team defense than Erie. It'll be tight, but I'm going with my gut instinct here.
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 7

What do you think?