There’s nothing quite as exciting as game seven of a playoff series. Win and you move on, lose and you go home.
Tonight, fans of junior hockey are lucky enough to experience three game sevens in the first round of the OHL playoffs. The North Bay vs Peterborough series isn’t much of a surprise as the teams finished fourth and fifth respectively in the Eastern conference.
On the other hand, the other two games feature the potential for big time upsets as the second seed in both conferences have been pushed to the limit by teams that many didn’t give a chance.
Three game 7s tonight to wrap up the opening round of the #OHLPlayoffs:
PBO @ NB
SSM @ SAR
MIS @ BAR
Who do you have?
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) April 5, 2016
Peterborough Petes vs North Bay Battalion
Peterborough and North Bay are two very evenly matched teams that have been going back and forth all series. The Petes fought off elimination Sunday night with a 7-5 win at home and will look to win back to back games for the second time this series.
Peterborough is being led by 2016 draft eligible Jonathan Ang, who has nine points through the first six games of the series and is producing at a rate far greater than his 49 points in 68 regular season games. He’s played very well and is likely opening the eyes of a few scouts that might push him up their draft boards.
North Bay’s offense is being powered as expected, as 2014 draft picks Mike Amadio (Los Angeles Kings) and Kyle Wood (Arizona Coyotes) have been the catalysts for the team.
Predicted Winner: North Bay
Sarnia Sting vs Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The Sarnia Sting entered the OHL playoffs as the second seed in the Western Conference and one of the hottest teams in the league. The Sting made a huge push this year, acquiring star forward Travis Konecny from the Ottawa 67s as part of a blockbuster trade in January. Unfortunately for Sarnia, Konecny reinjured his shoulder in game two of the series and hasn’t played since.
It was a devastating blow for the team as they gave up two players (including 2015 10th overall picks Sasha Chmelevski) as well as 8 future draft picks for Konecny, who was outstanding in the regular season but will likely only ever play two playoff games for them.
The Sting have fought their way back from a 3-1 series deficit on the backs of New Jersey Devils top prospect Pavel Zacha and Matt Mistele, another new addition who won a Memorial Cup with Oshawa last season. For those following the 2016 NHL draft rankings, this series has been huge for Sarnia defender Jakob Chychrun. He has been dominant through much of the series and looks to be solidifying himself as the best defenceman in this year’s draft.
The Greyhounds scoring has dried up over the past two games and they are going to needs veterans Blake Speers and Zachary Senyshyn to step up tonight if they’re going to have any chance of completing the series upset.
Predicted Winner: Sarnia
Big night in #OHLPlayoffs with 3 Game 7 matchups!#BARvsMISS #NBvsPBO #SARvsSSM
PREVIEW: https://t.co/AQDGPm5S83 pic.twitter.com/HhLGiuEWDP
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) April 5, 2016
Mississauga Steelheads vs Barrie Colts
This series epitomizes ‘exciting playoff hockey’. The second-seeded Barrie Colts have been pushed to the limits by a young Mississauga team that could very well be the favorite in the Eastern Conference next season.
With games three and four both needing overtime (Mississauga won game three in double OT), this series is one that neither team deserves to lose. Facing elimination in game 6, the Steelheads came out and dominated Barrie 7-0 at home on Sunday.
As expected, Barrie has been led by the OHLs regular season points leader Kevin Labanc, but is has been 20-year-old forward Justin Scott who has been just as important, contributing seven goals in the first five games of the series. After being one of the league’s top goalies in the regular season, Mackenzie Blackwood has had a poor series thus far and if Barrie has any hopes of winning game seven, he is going to have to drastically improve on his 0.891 save percentage.
Mississauga is a team that is playing with house money. They have been led all season by young players that are only going to get better next season. The trio of Mikey McLeod, Alex Nylander and Nathan Bastian have been the catalyst for the Steeheads all season and all are probable first-round picks this June, with the first two likely to go in the top 10.
On top of the 2016 eligible players, Nick Hague and Owen Tippett are virtual locks to be first round picks in 2017 and the younger brother of Mikey, Ryan McLeod, is a likely top-10 pick in 2018.
While Nylander and the kids have been dominant offensively, Swedish import rookie Daniel Muzito Bagenda has been a revelation in the series providing 6 goals and three assists so far. Add in the re-emergence of Sean Day as an impact defenceman and Mississauga looks like a team that could continue to surprise in these OHL playoffs.
Predicted Winner: Mississauga