The OHL playoffs start Thursday evening, and so in a time-honored tradition, predictions have to be made.
Erie Otters (1) vs. Saginaw Spirit (8): Erie wins in 4
The powerhouse Erie Otters are going to make quick work of the meddling Saginaw Spirit, who finished a whopping 18 points behind seventh-seed Soo Ste. Marie in the stacked Western Conference. Had the Flint Firebirds not been involved in such high drama and had the Guelph Storm not had a nearly record-setting dismal season, the Spirit may not have even seen playoff action this season; they are essentially in the postseason based on luck.
Mitchell Stephens and Artem Artemov may cause the Otters a few problems, but Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and co. – who made it to the OHL Final last spring – will know exactly how to handle their opponents.
Sarnia Sting (2) vs. Soo Ste. Marie Greyhounds (7): Sarnia wins in 5
Bolstered by the arrivals of Matt Mistele and Travis Konecny mid-season, the Sarnia Sting have not been this promising since Alex Galchenyuk and Nail Yakupov wore black, white, and gold. The Greyhounds were the regular-season champions last year, but most of that team’s top players have since graduated to the pros (AHL and NHL).
The exodus has left Soo a shell of its former self, and the rising Sting will capitalize fairly quickly.
London Knights (3) vs. Owen Sound Attack (6): London wins in 4
It came down to the wire between London and Erie for the Western Conference title (and regular-season title), but the latter just narrowly emerged victorious. Since the two are in the same division, it is impossible for them to be the no. 1 and no. 2 seeds, even though their records and point-totals would suggest otherwise.
Being the third seed and facing a better team won’t be an issue for the Knights, though, who have been on a tear as of late. Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak, Olli Juolevi, Matt Tkachuk and other London stars will be too much for the star-less Attack to handle.
Kitchener Rangers (4) vs. Windsor Spitfires (5): Kitchener wins in 6
The top-four in the West are as big a step above the rest as possible, but the Spitfires are their closest contenders. Led by 90-point, 40-goal scorer Christian Fischer as well as high-scoring forwards Logan Brown and Brendan Lemieux and top defender Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor is going to give Kitchener a lot of trouble.
The Rangers will advance, but such a difficult first-round matchup will come back to haunt them as they face even tougher competition later on in the playoffs.
Kingston Frontenacs (1) vs. Oshawa Generals (8): Kingston wins in 5
Michael Dal Colle and Stephen Desrocher will face their former team and defending Memorial Cup-OHL Champion, the Oshawa Generals, with their new club in the first round. Dal Colle struggled mightily with the Generals this season, managing only 25 points in 30 games before he was traded to Kingston (where he has scored 55 in 30 games). Such a disparity in production just goes to show how rough it has been for Oshawa scorers this season, and those struggles will likely continue into the postseason.
There is too much depth on the Frontenacs roster, both up front and on the back-end, for the team to lose to the eighth-seed team in the East.
Barrie Colts (2) vs. Mississauga Steelheads (7): Barrie wins in 7
The Barrie-Mississauga series will be the closest in the first-round to a true upset and also the closest in competition. The Colts get the edge here because they are the deeper, more experienced team (with two 100-point scorers, no less), but the younger Steelheads – led by Michael McLeod, Alexander Nylander and Nathan Bastian – are going to make life difficult for Barrie.
There’s even reason to believe that although they struggled during the regular season, Mississauga will just narrowly come out of the first round, but it’s hard to write Barrie off without seeing how they match-up against each other. Next year, though, look out for the Steelheads.
North Bay Battalion (3) vs. Peterborough Petes (6): Peterborough wins in 7
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but Mike Amadio (one of our ‘players to watch’ in the playoffs) and co. will not be enough to contain the deeper Petes team. Hunter Garlent and Eric Cornel will lead Peterborough up front, while Dominik Masin, Kyle Jenkins and Matt Spencer make up the formidable defense that will keep the Battalion at bay (no pun intended).
Niagara IceDogs (4) vs. Ottawa 67’s (5): Niagara wins in 6
The only first-round re-match from last postseason, the IceDogs will advance to the second-round once again. Without Konecny, Ottawa does not have enough star power to get past a Niagara team with Josh Ho-Sang, Brendan Perlini, Stephen Harper and some other big-name players.