2013 OHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference Preview and Predictions
Photo courtesy of CHL Images
By Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)
Belleville Bulls (1) vs. Mississauga Steelheads (8)
Season series: Tied 2-2
Key players: Alan Quine (Bulls), Brendan Gaunce (Bulls), Jordan Subban (Bulls), Malcolm Subban (Bulls), Riley Brace (Steelheads), Dylan DeMelo (Steelheads), Stuart Percy (Steelheads), Spencer Martin (Steelheads).
X-Factors: Martin will have to out-duel Subban between the pipes for Mississauga to have any chance in this series.
Preview: This series is ultimately going to come down to goaltending and defense. The Bulls have a very balanced offensive attack with the likes of Quine, Gaunce, Danill Zharkov, Tyler Graovac, etc. They have also been getting a fair amount of offensive production from the backend in large part thanks to Subban.
The Steelheads won’t be able to go toe-to-toe offensively with the Bulls. That’s just not going to happen. In order for the Steelheads to have success they’ll need their top defenseman in DeMelo and Percy to not only shutdown the Bulls’ top guns, but they’ll also have to produce offensively and on the power play. The Steelheads don’t have enough depth on defense to completely shut down the Bulls attack so they’ll need Martin to bail them out quite a few times a game. If Martin can put together a strong series and allow the Steelheads to hang around in games, they’ll have a chance, but I don’t think Martin will be able to out-duel a guy like Subban in a seven game series with such a differential in talent filling out the rest of the roster.
Todd Cordell’s prediction: Belleville Bulls in 5
Brendan Ross’ prediction: Belleville Bulls in 4
Barrie Colts (2) vs. Kingston Frontenacs (7)
Season Series: 3-1 Barrie Colts
Key players: Mark Scheifele (Colts), Anthony Camara (Colts), Zach Hall (Colts), Aaron Ekblad (Colts), Ryan Kujawinski (Frontenacs), Cody Alcock (Frontenacs), Sam Bennett (Frontenacs) Michael Moffat (Frontenacs)
X-Factors: Special teams. The Colts are deadly on the power play and loaded with stars. The Frontenacs won’t be able to stay in games if they can’t stay out of the box.
Preview: The Colts are loaded up front with a nice mix of experience, youth, size, skill and grit. Scheifele will lead the way offensively as usual while Camara, Hall, Andreas Athanasiou and Mitch Theoret will be relied upon to produce, as well.
Dylan Corson, son of Shayne, Brendan Lemieux, son of Claude, and Josh MacDonald, among others, will be relied upon to bang some bodies around, get under the oppositions skin, Lemieux especially, provide toughness and energy when the Colts need it.
Draft eligible center, Erik Bradford, and his line will probably go up against opponent’s top offensive guys throughout the playoffs. Bradford is a very good defensive center and is really responsible and smart. He’s shown he can handle tough assignments and while he does have some offense to contribute, he’ll be relied upon more in defensive situations and on the penalty kill than anything else.
On defense, Ekblad, Captain Ryan O’Connor, Jack Dotchin and Alex Lepkowski provide a nice mix of size, skill, and grit to the top-four and will eat a huge chunk of minutes and combine to carry the load all throughout the playoffs. The Colts have some nice depth on defense as they also have second year man, Jonathan Laser, who has played well and will be a regular as well as Michael Webster who adds some grit and physicality to the backend. The Colts also have rookie C.J. Garcia and second year man Alex Yuill who could make play at some point if Head Coach Dale Hawerchuk decides he wants some more offense and skating ability from their defense. Both Garcia and Yuill are known for their puck-moving and skating ability so they’re somewhat interchangeable. Whoever is playing best will likely stay in the lineup.
Overage goaltender Mathias Niederberger, who was fantastic in the playoffs last year and led the league in saves this year, will carry the load in goal for Barrie.
As for Kingston, they don’t have the star power or depth on defense to match Barrie so they won’t be winning the matchup game. What they’ll have to do to have success is play smart, mistake free hockey. The Frontenacs have depth up front so they’ll probably roll four lines and they’ll have to outwork Barrie to have a chance. They’ll also have to win the special teams battle. Barrie will get their fair share of power plays so what Kingston needs to do is stay out of the box and not give Barrie any more chances than they have to.
While the Frontenacs aren’t as deep as Barrie on defense, they do have a few very good defenseman in Warren Steele, Moffat and rookie Roland McKeown. Those three will play huge minutes against the Colts’ top guns and will have to play well.
Todd Cordell’s prediction: Barrie in 5
Brendan Ross’ prediction: Barrie in 7
Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson / OHL Images
Oshawa Generals (3) vs. Niagara IceDogs (6)
Season series: 2-0 Oshawa Generals
Key players: Scott Laughton (Generals), Boone Jenner (Generals), Tyler Biggs (Generals), Daniel Altshuller (Generals), Ryan Strome (IceDogs), Brett Ritchie (IceDogs), Jesse Graham (IceDogs), Chris Festarini (IceDogs)
X-Factors: How will the Strome-Ritchie duo perform against two of the top two-way centerman in the OHL in Laughton and Jenner?
Preview: To me, the IceDogs are a very top heavy team. They have a couple stars up front in Strome and Ritchie but after that there isn’t much after that. Steven Shipley and Carter Verhaeghe are good complementary players and will produce some offense but they’re not even close to the category Strome and Ritchie are in.
With the loss of Dougie Hamilton to the NHL their defense took a big hit, as well. Jesse Graham, Luke Mercer and Shayne Rover are all good defenseman, but none of them are number one or maybe even number two defenseman in the OHL. They’ll be relied upon to shutdown a very potent forward core.
The IceDogs couldn’t pick up enough wins down the stretch to finish 5th and take on what would have been a much easier opponent for them in the Brampton Battalion. Instead, the IceDogs will take on arguably the most deep and talented forward core in the Eastern Conference.
With Biggs, Laughton, Jenner, Lucas Lessio, Scott Sabourin, etc. the Generals have a very nice mix of speed, size, skill and grit. There you have a group that has guys who can and will punish you physically, score goals, and shut you down.
They have nice depth to round out the bottom-6 group and have a solid defense core led by Colin Sullentrop, Matt Petgrave and company. They also have Altshuller between the pipes, who in my opinion is one of the better and more underrated goaltenders in the league. I like Altshuller’s game more than Festarini and think that Festarini will have to play over his head for the IceDogs to have any success.
Niagara will also need Strome and Ritchie to produce and they’ll get a steady dose of the Laughton or Jenner line all throughout the series – both of which will be very tough to play against.
In the end I think Oshawa’s star power up front, depth, and advantage in goal will be too much for Niagara to handle. They’ll steal a game or two, but I can’t see them winning this series.
Todd Cordell’s prediction: Oshawa Generals in 6
Brendan Ross’ prediction: Oshawa Generals in 6
Brampton Battalion (4) vs. Sudbury Wolves (5)
Season series: 5-3 Brampton Battalion
Key players: Braclay Goodrow (Battalion), Francis Menard (Battalion), Dylan Blujus (Battalion), Matej Machovsky (Battalion), Mathew Campagna (Wolves), Nick Baptiste (Wolves), Nathan Pancel (Wolves), Franky Palazzese)
X-Factors: Systematic play: Can the Wolves break through the Battalion’s defensive system?
Preview: While this series isn’t generating much hype, I’m personally pretty excited to see how it plays out. When you look at these two teams, you have two completely different styles. The Wolves aren’t loaded with stars, but they like to push the pace and play a fast, somewhat run-and-gun type game. With the Battalion you have a well coached team, also not loaded with stars, that sticks to the system and simply wins hockey games.
For me, the biggest factor in this series is will the Wolves be able to break through the Battalion’s steady defensive system? At first thought, my answer is no. As I said, the Battalion play a very defensive minded system and wait for you to make mistakes. I don’t think the Wolves have enough scoring power or depth to breakthrough the system and start filling the net and ultimately that’s what I think it will come down to. Sudbury is a good team, but they don’t have the talent or star power to get around the Battlion’s system and make them play the Wolves’ game.
If the Wolves can somehow get the Battalion off their game and open the game up a bit, I like their chances but I don’t see that happening.
Special teams will be very important in this series. One place where the Wolves have a clear advantage is in the speed game. If the Wolves can use their speed to not only generate chances, but to draw some penalties and can turn the series into a special teams battle, they’ll have a good chance in that case as well.
The Battalion have home ice and Head Coach Stan Butler loves playing the matchup game so he’ll undoubtedly use that in his favor.
For me, I think Brampton will be able to stick to their system, play good defense and get timely goals. Matej Machovsky is a good goaltender and will be able to make a few stops if required, but I don’t anticipate him having to face too many shots. I think Goodrow will have a big series and lead the way towards a Battalion series win.
Todd Cordell’s prediction: Brampton Battalion in 7
Brendan Ross’ prediction: Brampton Battalion in 6
You can view Brendan Ross’ Western Conference preview here.