As mentioned in yesterday’s preview, this is the final weekend of the OHL season. Last night we saw Mitch Marner and the London Knights pull into first place in the Western Conference for the first time all season with a 4-3 win over the Erie Otters. That result sets up tonight’ rematch in Erie as on final showdown for first place and the top seed throughout the OHL playoffs. A regulation win by Travis Dermott and the Otters would pull them into a tie with London but Erie holds the tiebreaker and would gain first place thanks to an extra wins on the season.
Usually games between two teams that are safely in the playoff provide little drama to the final weekend of the season, but after things got a little ugly last night, today’s game promises to be exciting. Things got heated between the two teams as Erie felt Mitch Marner embellished the effects of a post-whistle spear near the end of the first period. The game was at risk of getting out of hand in the third period as the roughness between the two teams culminated when Haydn Hopkins needed to be helped off the ice after taking a blindside elbow to the head from Owen MacDonald. There is a very good chance that the league will review the play and a suspension will keep MacDonald out of tonight’s game, especially given his status as a repeat offender.
The play on the ice had a definite playoff feel to it as both teams relied on their top players. Both teams got production from future first rounders Alex Debrincat (ER), Mathew Tkachuk (LDN) and a beautiful short handed goal from Max Jones (LDN). Jones was able to pick the pocket and then out-skate Leafs prospect Travis Dermott before showing a shot that looks NHL ready.
The highlight of the game came on a powerplay assist from Mitch Marner. He made a beautiful play to set up linemate Christian Dvorak in what tuned out to be Marner’s 300th point in the OHL making him the fourth Knight to accomplish the feat after Max Domi, Rob Schremp and Dylan Hunter.
Mitch Marner made the Erie Otters look silly last night with this sweet set up. Rematch to determine 1st is tonight. pic.twitter.com/oBX6KTDQyR
— The Tank Nation (@TLNdc) March 19, 2016
Tonight’s game promises to be a good one as Erie looks for revenge on home ice. Dylan Strome, who was booed every time he had the puck last night, will look to have a better performance at home after being thrown of his game yesterday thanks to the rough play of London. The extra intensive to win tonight would be a much easier first round matchup with the Sagniaw Spirt, as the loser would draw The Soo Greyhounds to open the playoffs. Last night saw a full contingent of Leafs management as all three of Lamoriello, Shanahan and Mark Hunter were in attendance to keep tabs on Marner, Dermott and Picchinich. It would be safe to assume at least Hunter will be in attendance tonight to get a better look at the draft eligible prospects as well.
I will assume tonight’s lineups will be similar to last night’s with the possible exception of a MacDonald suspension:
What To Watch For
- Can Dylan Strome step up and give Erie what then need and lead by example as he has all season
- With all the hype about Juolevi’s draft stock these days, he was the second best draft eligible defender for the Knights last night. Victor Mete was flying all night long and was impressive on just about every shift.
- Can Marner,Dvorak and Tkachuk continue to dominate, even against the league’s top opposition.
- Max Jones looked great last night and just furthered my desire to have him fall so the Leafs can draft him with Pitt’s first round pick. In the biggest game of their OHL careers to date, watch how Jones and the other draft eligible players fare. (All draft eligible players are previewed here)