Playoff Preview and Predictions Round Three

Let’s start by looking back at my first two rounds of predictions:

CONFERENCE QUARTER FINALS

EASTERN CONFERENCEPREDICTIONOUTCOME
(1) Hamilton vs (8) PeterboroughHamilton in 4Hamilton wins 4-0
(2) North Bay vs (7) OttawaNorth Bay in 5North Bay wins 4-0
(3) Kingston vs (6) OshawaKingston in 6Kingston wins 4-2
(4) Mississauga vs (5) BarrieMississauga in 7Mississauga wins 4-2
WESTERN CONFERENCEPREDICTIONOUTCOME
(1) Windsor vs (8) SarniaWindsor in 5Windsor wins 4-2
(2) London vs (7) KitchenerLondon in 6Kitchener wins 4-3
(3) Flint vs (6) Owen SoundFlint in 6Flint wins 4-3
(4) Sault Ste Marie vs (5) GuelphSault Ste Marie in 7Sault Ste Marie wins 4-1

CONFERENCE SEMI FINALS                                                                                                                                        

EASTERN CONFERENCEPREDICTIONOUTCOME
(1) Hamilton vs (4) MississaugaHamilton in 5Hamilton wins 4-0
(2) North Bay vs (3) KingstonNorth Bay in 6North Bay wins 4-1
WESTERN CONFERENCEPREDICTIONOUTCOME
(1) Windsor vs (7) KitchenerWindsor in 6Windsor wins 4-1
(3) Flint vs (4) Sault Ste MarieSault Ste Marie in 7Flint wins 4-1

As you can probably guess, not happy about my results when getting two incorrect winners in 12 series and only two correct in the right number of games. I really did try to find a loss for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Conference Semi Finals, but it just didn’t materialize. So, I’ll try again for the Conference Finals!

 HamiltonNorth Bay
Season series2-2-02-2-0
Last 10 games10-0-08-1-1
Powerplay27.6%25.9%
PP vs opponent0.0%15.4%
PP Playoffs37.0%36.7%
Penalty Kill80.9%80.6%
PK vs Opponent84.6%100.0%
PK Playoffs87.9%87.5%
Goals for RS300267
Goals for Playoffs3843
Goals against RS176198
Goals against Playoffs1531
Team PIM / Game RS11.3/game9.1/game
Team PIM / Game Playoffs14.9/game7.0/game
Leading after 1st period34-2-422-2-3
Leading after 2nd period43-2-127-0-2
Trailing after 1st period5-9-13-6-0
Trailing after 2nd period3-9-27-14-2
Outshooting opponents36-5-226-5-4
Outshot by opponents15-7-317-12-2

Not too much to say here. In many ways, Hamilton and North Bay were close in the regular season. And North Bay dominated specialty teams against Hamilton through the season. They even split the season series versus each other. But this is the Hamilton Bulldogs we’re talking about and they were built just for these playoffs. Somehow, my head is saying to find one loss for them and it likely won’t come until the next round. But….

Prediction: Hamilton in 5 games.

 WindsorFlint
Season series7-0-11-5-2
Last 10 games8-1-17-3-0
Powerplay26.1%19.7%
PP vs opponent26.5%10.0%
PP Playoffs13.3%20.0%
Penalty Kill82.6%84.3%
PK vs Opponent90.0%73.5%
PK Playoffs78.0%83.3%
Goals for RS305286
Goals for Playoffs4144
Goals against RS248238
Goals against Playoffs2732
Team PIM / Game RS10.3/game10.4/game
Team PIM / Game Playoffs12.6/game9.5/game
Leading after 1st period23-5-022-4-1
Leading after 2nd period32-0-231-1-3
Trailing after 1st period7-7-28-12-3
Trailing after 2nd period6-14-33-14-2
Outshooting opponents34-12-420-8-1
Outshot by opponents10-4-320-13-4

You know what they say about the playoffs and special teams: Win the special teams battle and you stand a better chance of winning the series. The Spitfires had a far superior powerplay during the regular season. And head-to-head the Spitfires powerplay was two and a half times better than the Firebirds. But to date in the playoffs? The Firebirds have doubled their regular season proficiency while the Spitfires was cut in half.

On the penalty kill, the Firebirds were less than 2 percentage points better than the Spits during the regular season. Through the playoffs, the Firebirds were still above the Spits.

But head-to-head, the Spitfires hold a decisive advantage in both powerplay efficiency and penalty kill. It’s only reasonable to assume that the Spitfires hold a big advantage when it comes to specialty teams in this series.

The Spitfires like to come at you and produce a lot of shots having outshot their opponent’s 70 percent of the time. On the flip side, the Firebirds are outshot more times than not and rely more on their goaltending. And that was slightly better than the Spitfires during the regular season.

Both squads are great at protecting the lead, but the advantage goes to the Spitfires when it comes to coming from behind. I think this series will be tight and the difference will be specialty teams.

Prediction: Windsor in 7 games.

OHL ANNOUNCES WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES SCHEDULE

Toronto, Ont. – The Ontario Hockey League today announced the 2022 OHL Western Conference Championship Series for the Wayne Gretzky Trophy between the Windsor Spitfires and Flint Firebirds beginning Saturday, May 21 in Windsor.

The third round series features a pair of highly familiar West Division rivals. The Spitfires won the West Division with a 44-17-4-3 record during the regular season. They proceeded to eliminate the Sarnia Sting in six games and the Kitchener Rangers in five to reach their first Western Conference Final since 2011. The Firebirds played to a franchise record 42-21-1-4 mark, finishing third in the Western Conference. They bested the Owen Sound Attack in seven games before eliminating the Soo Greyhounds in five contests, reaching the Western Conference Championship Series for the first time in their history.

The Spitfires and Firebirds faced each other eight times during the regular season, with Windsor winning seven of those meetings.

The Western Conference Champion receives the Wayne Gretzky Trophy named in honour of the Hockey Hall of Fame member who played for the Soo Greyhounds in 1977-78.  The Spitfires made three straight appearances in the Western Conference Championship Series from 2009-11, winning consecutive titles in the first two showings. The Firebirds have won their first two playoff rounds in the six-year history of the franchise this year, and look to keep the momentum going when the puck drops on Saturday.

WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES SCHEDULE:

(1) WINDSOR SPITFIRES (44-17-4-3) vs. (3) FLINT FIREBIRDS (42-21-1-4) – #WSRvsFLNT

Game 1, Sat., May 21 at Windsor, 7:05pm
Game 2, Mon., May 23 at Windsor, 7:05pm
Game 3, Wed., May 25 at Flint, 7:00pm
Game 4, Fri., May 27 at Flint, 7:00pm
Game 5, Sun., May 29 at Windsor, 7:05pm*
Game 6, Tues., May 31 at Flint, 7:00pm*
Game 7, Wed., June 1 at Windsor, 7:05pm*
*if necessary 

2022 OHL Playoff Brackets

Don’t miss a second of the 2022 OHL Playoffs. CHL TV playoff packages are on sale now, with complete OHL Playoff passes, round-by-round passes and single day passes available. See a full range of options at watch.chl.ca.


About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.

OHL Playoff Preview and Predictions Round Two

Before we look at the second round series matchups, lets look back and see how poorly I did in round one:

EASTERN CONFERENCEPREDICTIONOUTCOME
(1) Hamilton vs (8) PeterboroughHamilton in 4Hamilton wins 4-0
(2) North Bay vs (7) OttawaNorth Bay in 5North Bay wins 4-0
(3) Kingston vs (6) OshawaKingston in 6Kingston wins 4-2
(4) Mississauga vs (5) BarrieMississauga in 7Mississauga wins 4-2
WESTERN CONFERENCEPREDICTIONOUTCOME
(1) Windsor vs (8) SarniaWindsor in 5Windsor wins 4-2
(2) London vs (7) KitchenerLondon in 6Kitchener win 4-3
(3) Flint vs (6) Owen SoundFlint in 6Flint wins 4-3
(4) Sault Ste Marie vs (5) GuelphSault Ste Marie in 7Sault Ste Marie wins 4-1

So, 7 out of 8 correct winners. The Hockey Gods looked after the Kitchener Rangers after they were robbed of a goal as video review deemed it kicked in when it wasn’t. (The OHL officially came out and said the next day that it was an error). That call quite possibly cost the Rangers game 5. But they bounced back, tied the series and forced a game 7 in London in which they won in overtime to take the series.

But in only two of the series where I picked the correct winner did, I hit on the number of games. The biggest discrepancy was the Soo Greyhounds taking care of business against the Guelph Storm in 5 games where I had predicted it to go the distance. I don’t think anyone predicted the Storm wouldn’t give the Greyhounds a fight.

So, I try again with round two:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Hamilton vs (4) Mississauga

 HamiltonMississauga
Head-to-head5-2-0-13-5-0-0
PP Regular Season27.6%20.9%
PP Playoffs39.4%33.3%
PP vs opponent16.7%14.3%
PK Regular Season80.9%81.3%
PK Playoffs91.3%75.0%
PK vs opponent85.7%83.3%
GF Regular season300229
GF Playoffs2717
GA Regular season176189
GA Playoffs913
PIM /game regular season11.3/game11.5/game
PIM /game playoffs21.5/game9.8/game

I want to say “it’s hard to imagine the Hamilton Bulldogs losing a game in these playoffs” but I can’t because it’s bound to happen at some point. Offensively, the Bulldogs dominated during the regular season and the playoffs. Defensively, the Steelheads were almost as good as Hamilton during the regular season and the playoffs.

Both teams brought their powerplays to new levels during the playoffs. Mississauga’s penalty kill took a hit during the playoffs while Hamilton’s skyrocketed. However, one must take into account their respective opponents. If special teams are going to be a factor in this series, then you have to take into account that Mississauga is taking fewer penalties in the playoffs than the regular season while Hamilton has almost doubled theirs. But I’m not going to overthink this trying to find wins for Mississauga.

Prediction: Hamilton in 5 games.

(2) North Bay vs (3) Kingston

 North BayKingston
Head-to-head4-0-0-00-4-0-0
PP Regular Season25.9%25.3%
PP Playoffs30.0%26.7%
PP vs opponent53.8%13.3%
PK Regular Season80.6%79.8%
PK Playoffs90.0%60.0%
PK vs opponent86.7%46.2%
GF Regular season267285
GF Playoffs1727
GA Regular season198242
GA Playoffs1118
PIM /game regular season9.1/game11.1/game
PIM /game playoffs7.8/game11.5/game

As you can see above, the North Bay Battalion swept the season series against the Kingston Frontenacs. Only 6 points separated the two teams in the regular season. Their powerplays were pretty even as was their penalty kills and their goals for. North Bay had a decisive advantage in the goals against department.

Where North Bay had the big advantage was on specialty teams head-to-head. North Bay’s powerplay clipped along at 53.8% against Kingston while the Fronts could only score on 13.3% of their chances against the Battalion. And in the four games head-to-head during the regular season North Bay outscored Kingston 19-10. If Kingston gets into penalty trouble, this series could be over quickly.

Prediction: North Bay in 6 games.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Windsor vs (7) Kitchener

 WindsorKitchener
Head-to-head4-3-0-14-4-0-0
PP Regular Season26.1%18.3%
PP Playoffs7.4%22.7%
PP vs opponent21.9%16.0%
PK Regular Season82.6%77.4%
PK Playoffs76.0%80.0%
PK vs opponent84.0%78.1%
GF Regular season305236
GF Playoffs1823
GA Regular season248271
GA Playoffs1123
PIM /game regular season10.3/game11.0/game
PIM /game playoffs14.3/game9.3/game

The regular season series between the Kitchener Rangers and Windsor Spitfires was pretty even. The Spits were better team on the powerplay and the penalty kill against each other and the rest of the league. The Spits scored 69 more goals than the Rangers – that’s a goal per game more and also allowed 23 fewer goals against than the Rangers.

But in the playoffs, it was the Rangers who came out on top in the special team’s department while also playing a tougher opponent in the London Knights than Windsor had against the Sarnia Sting. The Spits have some star power for sure but of Rangers goalie Pavel Cajan can play as he did versus the Knights it will be a tight series. Mathias Onuska was no slouch for Windsor in the blue paint either.

Prediction: Windsor in 6 games.  

(3) Flint vs (4) Sault Ste Marie

 FlintSault Ste Marie
Head-to-head2-1-0-23-1-1-0
PP Regular Season19.7%28.4%
PP Playoffs9.7%35.3%
PP vs opponent34.6%17.6%
PK Regular Season84.3%78.7%
PK Playoffs87.5%90.9%
PK vs opponent82.4%65.4%
GF Regular season286295
GF Playoffs2221
GA Regular season238246
GA Playoffs                              2011
PIM /game regular season10.4/game11.5/game
PIM /game playoffs10.9/game15.4/game

The Flint Firebirds and Soo Greyhounds were also very close in the regular season. Only 4 points separated them in the standings. Their offence and defence were also close. The Greyhounds win out in the powerplay department while the Firebirds topped them on the penalty kill. However, head-to-head the Firebirds dominated.

Flint couldn’t get the man advantage to work for them in their first round series against the Owen Sound Attack while the Greyhounds exploded against the Guelph Storm. Unless the Greyhounds can limit the number of penalties, they take the powerplay could be the difference in this series. It could also come down to home ice advantage. For me, this is a flip a coin series.

Prediction: Sault Ste Marie in 7

OHL ANNOUNCES WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL SCHEDULES AND SCENARIOS

**Note: The results are in from the two game sevens and this is the schedule for round two:

Series E: (1) Windsor Spitfires (44-17-4-3) vs. (7) Kitchener Rangers (30-31-5-2) – Scenario #3
Game 1, Sat., May 7 at Windsor, 7:05pm
Game 2, Sun., May 8 at Windsor, 7:05pm
Game 3, Tues., May 10 at Kitchener, 7:00pm
Game 4, Thurs., May 12 at Kitchener, 7:00pm
Game 5, Sat., May 14 at Windsor, 7:05pm*
Game 6, Mon., May 16 at Kitchener, 7:00pm*
Game 7, Tues., May 17 at Windsor, 7:05pm*

Series G: (3) Flint Firebirds (42-21-1-4) vs. (4) Soo Greyhounds (39-22-6-1) – Scenario #1
Game 1, Fri., May 6 at Flint, 7:00pm
Game 2, Sun., May 8 at Flint, 4:00pm
Game 3, Tues., May 10 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07pm
Game 4, Thurs, May 12 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07pm
Game 5, Sat., May 14 at Flint, 7:00pm*
Game 6, Mon., May 16 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07pm*
Game 7, Wed., May 18 at Flint, 7:00pm*

BULLDOGS, SPITFIRES AND BATTALION INCLUDED IN WEEK 25 EDITION OF KIA CHL TOP 10 RANKINGS

Toronto, Ont. – The Canadian Hockey League announced today the Week 25 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings for the 2021-22 season.

All eyes are on the Hamilton Bulldogs. Tabbed as a favourite to hoist the Memorial Cup, the OHL regular season champions enter the postseason following a dominant 2021-22 showing in which the squad set a franchise record of 107 points. Bulldogs’ forward Logan Morrison became the League’s sixth 100-point scorer, overage blueliner Nathan Staios led OHL defencemen in scoring with 66 points (15-51–66), and Marco Costantini set new Bulldogs records with a league-best 2.32 goals-against average and .917 save percentage along with six shutouts. Closing out the campaign on an incredible 15-game span in which the Bulldogs collected 29 of 30 points, the club enters the postseason on a high note in its opening-round set to begin Thursday versus Peterborough.

Coming in at No. 6, the Windsor Spitfires will look to return to their winning ways in the postseason where, following a recent 13-game win streak, the club collected a lone point in its final two outings to close out the 2021-22 regular season. Backed by Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy recipient Wyatt Johnston who headlined the OHL with 124 points in 68 games, the Spitfires are an offensive juggernaut who will put their scoring prowess to the test versus their first round opponent in the Sarnia Sting.

Rounding out recognition from the OHL, the North Bay Battalion picked up five of six points in the final week of the regular season, making it nine-straight games in which the club has gone undefeated in regulation. Finishing tops in the OHL’s Central Division and third league-wide with a 43-18-3-4 showing and 93 points, the Battalion bring a well-rounded offensive attack led by San Jose Sharks up-and-comer Brandon Coe who surpassed the 100-point milestone, becoming the third player in franchise history to do so. On the heels of their best season since relocating to North Bay in 2013-14, the Troops should prove to be a handful for their opening round opponent in Ottawa.

For further analysis on the Week 25 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings, visit CHL.ca.


About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.

BULLDOGS, SPITFIRES AND BATTALION INCLUDED IN WEEK 24 EDITION OF KIA CHL TOP 10 RANKINGS

Toronto, Ont. – The Canadian Hockey League announced today the Week 24 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings for the 2021-22 season.

The Hamilton Bulldogs continue to bring the bite. Picking up a pair of victories on the week highlighted by a 6-0 road win in Ottawa, netminder Marco Costantini recorded 24 saves for his sixth career shutout, the most in a career by a Bulldogs goaltender. The Bulldogs made it 12-straight games without a regulation loss, improving to 48-12-3-2 on the season, good for 101 points. With the achievement, the Bulldogs claimed the Hamilton Spectator Trophy, presented annually to the OHL club with the best regular season record. The Bulldogs have topped the CHL Top 10 Rankings for two straight weeks.

Soaring to No. 4, the Windsor Spitfires continue to rise after piecing together 13-straight victories, with the past week underscored by three wins in three days highlighted by Friday’s 7-1 road triumph in Guelph that saw the Spitfires clinch top spot in the OHL’s West Division. Leading the way for Windsor is Dallas Stars 2021 first-round selection Wyatt Johnston whose current 12-game point streak has helped him climb to first in league scoring with 123 points in 66 games. The Spits look to continue their winning streak as they close out the regular season with a two-game weekend.

Moving up to eighth nationally, the North Bay Battalion continue to impress after adding two more victories on the week to extend their win streak to six. Among the highlights was Thursday’s overtime decision versus Mississauga that saw the Battalion secure two points and top spot in the OHL’s Central Division for the first time since 2014. Backed by a burgeoning offensive attack, among the leaders is San Jose Sharks draftee Brandon Coe who needs one point in the team’s final three games to become the OHL’s fifth triple-digit producer this season. Mitchell Russell also scored his 40th goal of the season on Saturday as the Troops currently have five different players with at least 30 goals in their lineup.

In the honourable mention category, the Kingston Frontenacs found the win column three times in a three-game weekend that saw the squad combine for 26 goals. Continuing to turn heads in Kingston is 2022 NHL Draft favourite Shane Wright who, since returning from the 2022 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, has notched 17 points in nine contests and now sits six shy of the 100-point plateau. Kingston faces Ottawa in back-to-back games before they finish off the regular season in Peterborough on Sunday.

For further analysis on the Week 24 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings, visit CHL.ca.


About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.

BULLDOGS, SPITFIRES AND BATTALION INCLUDED IN WEEK 23 EDITION OF KIA CHL TOP 10 RANKINGS

Toronto, Ont. – The Canadian Hockey League announced today the Week 23 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings for the 2021-22 season.

The Hamilton Bulldogs are into the driver’s seat for the first time all season, topping the Kia CHL Top 10 after a pair of wins over Peterborough and others against Oshawa and Erie last week. The Dogs have won five in a row and 22 of their last 24, leading the OHL standings with a record of 46-12-3-2. The defence has been stingy and the goaltending efficient as Hamilton hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a game since February 13th. On the offensive side, Anaheim Ducks prospect Mason McTavish is the OHL Player of the Week with seven points (4-3–7) while Logan Morrison is seven points shy of 100 on the campaign, leading the team with 93 (32-61–93) in 57 games. This marks the first time the Bulldogs have ever topped the CHL Top 10.

The Windsor Spitfires continue to rattle off the wins and come in at sixth on the list after extending their winning streak to 10 games with defeats of Sarnia, Kitchener and Owen Sound last week. The highest-scoring team in the OHL, Windsor features top scorer Wyatt Johnston, a Dallas Stars first round pick with 119 points (43-76–119) and counting. New York Rangers prospect and 41-goal scorer Will Cuylle has joined veteran wingers Matthew Maggio and Daniel D’Amico to give the Spitfires an abundance of options offensively. Blueliners Louka Henault and Andrew Perrott have consistently found the scoresheet, fuelling Windsor’s fourth-ranked power play.

The North Bay Battalion are in the Top 10 for a third straight week, coming in at ninth riding a four-game winning streak. The Battalion sit five points up on the Mississauga Steelheads with a pair of games in hand and are closing in on a Central Division title. The Troops skated to home wins over Niagara and Barrie last week and prepare for a home date with the Steelheads on Thursday. San Jose Sharks prospect Brandon Coe is three points shy of 100 on the season, hoping to join past teammate Justin Brazeau (113 points, 2018-19) as the second North Bay Battalion player to hit triple digits.

For further analysis on the Week 23 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings, visit CHL.ca.


About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.

BULLDOGS, SPITFIRES AND BATTALION INCLUDED IN WEEK 22 EDITION OF KIA CHL TOP 10 RANKINGS

Toronto, Ont. – The Canadian Hockey League announced today the Week 22 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings for the 2021-22 season.

The Hamilton Bulldogs are back up to number two this week winning three of their last four with one blip in overtime against the Sudbury Wolves on Friday. The Dogs finished a run of eight straight on the road Tuesday in Peterborough, winning six of those contests as Mason McTavish had a goal and an assist in his return to the Electric City. Tuesday’s win was Hamilton’s 43rd of the season, matching a club record set in 2017-18. Marco Costantini sits atop the OHL in both goals-against average (2.42) and shutouts (5) with 13 straight wins dating back to Feb. 16th.

The ninth-ranked Windsor Spitfires are into the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings for the first time this season, surging up the Western Conference standings to first place with a 38-16-3-3 record including wins in seven straight. The League’s highest-scoring team, the Spitfires are led by OHL scoring leader Wyatt Johnston, a first round pick of the Dallas Stars who has 112 points (41-71–112) through 60 games. Other veteran forwards in New York Rangers prospect Will Cuylle (38 goals) and veteran flank Matthew Maggio (35 goals) have also been steady producers while Daniel D’Amico has a goal in each of his last seven games. Windsor scored back-to-back victories in Sault Ste. Marie last weekend and leads the Western Conference by a four-point margin.

The North Bay Battalion hang around in 10th this week, rebounding from a loss against Hamilton on Thursday with road victories over Niagara and Mississauga. The 37-18-3-3 Troops lead the Central Division by three points as San Jose Sharks prospect Brandon Coe continues to lead the way with 91 points (32-59–91) on the campaign while Mitchell Russell (38 goals), Matvey Petrov (34 goals) and Kyle McDonald (34 goals) continue firing on all cylinders.

For further analysis on the Week 22 edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings, visit CHL.ca.


About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.

FRONTENACS, COLTS AND SPITFIRES IN PRE-SEASON EDITION OF KIA CHL TOP 10 RANKINGS

Toronto, Ont. – The Canadian Hockey League announced today the preseason edition of the Kia CHL Top-10 Rankings for the 2021-22 season.

The rankings were selected with input from NHL Central Scouting and come prior to the 2021-22 season opening Thursday as the defending President Cup champion Victoriaville Tigres host the Shawinigan Cataractes. The WHL opens its season Friday while the OHL begins play October 7. Rankings of the CHL’s Top-10 teams will resume on a weekly basis.

The Kingston Frontenacs lead OHL clubs at number four on the first instalment of 2021-22, boasting top 2022 NHL Draft prospect and former CHL Rookie of the Year Shane Wright down the middle. Kingston features added offensive firepower in overage veteran Jordan Frasca, 20-year-old newcomer Lucas Edmonds, Dallas Stars prospect Francesco Arcuri and Philadelphia Flyers draftee Zayde Wisdom who is currently sidelined following offseason surgery. In the crease, the Fronts boast one of the League’s most intriguing netminders in Ottawa Senators third round pick Leevi Merilainen coming out of Finland. Kingston played to a perfect 4-0 pre-season record under first-year head coach Luca Caputi.

The Barrie Colts follow close behind at number five, headlined by Los Angeles Kings first round pick Brandt Clarke, a creative puck-moving defenceman who will be heavily utilized by Colts head coach Marty Williamson. Barrie brings a range of weapons up front in Colorado Avalanche first round selection Oskar Olausson, San Jose Sharks prospect Ethan Cardwell, New York Rangers draftee Evan Vierling and the potential return of Philadelphia Flyers hopeful Tyson Foerster who enjoyed a strong showing in the American Hockey League last season.

The Windsor Spitfires lead OHL Western Conference clubs at eighth on the list as newly named head coach Marc Savard will have plenty to work with in his first OHL assignment. Big 6-foot-4, 210Ib. power winger Will Cuylle leads an offensive cast that also includes newly-signed Dallas Stars first round pick Wyatt Johnston alongside overage shooter Daniel D’Amico and 6-foot-5 winger Kyle McDonald. Colorado Avalanche prospect Jean-Luc Foudy made a good impression with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles last season and would give the Spits one of the League’s fastest skaters should he return.

The ever-competitive London Knights earned an honourable mention on the pre-season edition. The traditionally high-scoring Knights will look to Nashville Predators prospect Luke Evangelista and Dallas Stars selection Antonio Stranges to carry-on that legacy while San Jose Sharks picks Max McCueLiam Gilmartin and 6-foot-2, 204Ib. Stuart Rolofs provide some muscle up front. The Knights are anchored by Brett Brochu in the crease, who enjoyed an outstanding rookie season with London in 2019-20. Expect Ottawa Senators second round choice Ben Roger to see lots of ice on a defence corps that currently features five bodies at 6-foot-2 or taller.

For further analysis on the pre-season edition of the Kia CHL Top 10 Rankings, visit CHL.ca.

Ruben Rafkin – Windsor Spitfires – Player Profile

Height: 6’

Weight: 190 Pounds

Date of birth: January 8, 2002

Hometown: Turku, Finland

Position: Defence

Shoots: Right

OHL Draft: Round 1, 14th overall, 2019 CHL Import Draft

NHL Central Scouting Rankings

Pre-season November Mid-term Final
C Prospect C Prospect 72 N.A. 84 N.A.

We may as well get this tweet by Ruben Rafkin this morning out of the way first:

 

Rafkin signed a two-year deal to play professional hockey with his hometown team TPS in the Finnish Elite League (Liiga as it is known in Finland). The move follows teammate and goaltender Kari Piiroinen’s decision to leave the Spitfires and play for Tappara in their native Finland.

How does this affect Rafkin for the 2020 National Hockey League Draft? Well, there are two trains of thought here. One, you have to like the fact that he will be playing against men in a very good league for the next two years as opposed to Major Junior. Two, there is always some concern that players who sign European contracts at this stage may not always be willing to jump over to the NHL.

Ruben Rafkin of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Ruben Rafkin of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images

Also coming into question is whether Rafkin will be considered drafted from the CHL or from a European League. The importance of that is this: Players drafted out of the CHL are not eligible to play in the AHL unless they are 20 years of age. Hence, it’s the CHL or NHL for them, whereas players drafted out of Europe are eligible for the AHL at any age after the draft. This is important should Rafkin have an out-clause to come back to North America at any time under this contract.

Think back to 2012 when Spitfires’ Alexander Khokhlachev returned home to Russia to play in the KHL. Half way through the season, he wanted to return to North America, but there were only two options available to him because he was drafted out of the OHL: return to the Spitfires or play in the NHL with the Boston Bruins. The latter had virtually no chance of happening, so his only option was the OHL.

Jim Parker of the Windsor Star has this quote from Rafkin:

“I just finished four years of high school in the States and I am ready for (the) men’s game,” the 18-year-old Rafkin said. “Also, (it’s) to be closer to see my little brother (eight-year-old Rafael) grow up and it has always been a dream to play pro in my hometown. I have nothing bad to say about Windsor.”

Rafkin played his Midget hockey in the United States. He put on the blades for the Selects Hockey Academy Under-16 squad during the 2017-2018 season and in 47 games scored 10 goals and assisted on 34. During the season, Rafkin received a tender to play for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League for the 2018-2019 season, which he signed. Rafkin had previously committed to play for the University of Denver for 2019-2020.

Rafkin would play in 38 games for the Storm and score 2 goals and 8 helpers while racking up 90 minutes in penalties.

This season, Rafkin decided to forego his NCAA career and opted to sign with the Spitfires after they selected him 14th overall at the 2019 CHL Import Draft. He appeared in 59 games with the Spitfires scoring 4 goals and assisting on 27.

Rafkin is not a typical Finn that is about skating, passing and scoring goals. He’s a physical defender who, while at 6 feet tall, plays even bigger. In fact, he relishes that type of game and the more physical the game, the better he is. And he’ll be the first player to come to the aid of a teammate.

But he’s not just a physical player as he possesses some intriguing skills. Rafkin is a very smooth skater with excellent agility. He’s not a burner but he’s not slow. He uses his edges very well and he’s quick enough to step up on opponents and deliver a check. He’s strong along the walls, but needs to work on his net front coverage both in terms of positioning and strength.

Rafkin also has some very good vision, and when combined with the superb passing abilities he has, he is a threat at creating offense. He has the ability to quarterback the powerplay with those skills, but we didn’t always see those opportunities granted to him in Windsor.

Rafkin’s defensive abilities suggest he will be an NHL player. And playing against men for two years will further develop those skills. The only real question is whether his offence can improve and how much it translates to the NHL. That’s the million-dollar question for NHL Scouts. And how high do you draft a defensive defenceman.

I’m not suggesting Rafkin is just a defensive defenceman, that’s his strength right now. I’m just not sure how much offence he has for the NHL.

But the risk/reward may just be worth an extra thought.