With the Marlies playing out the string with an eye towards the playoffs and the Maple Leafs doing nothing but trying to grind out a few wins in the role of a spoiler, the most exciting thing in Leafs Nation could very well be the start of the CHL playoffs. It’s a chance to get to see Mitch Marner, Jeremy Bracco, et al against the top competition in their leagues as the attempt to take their teams on a run toward the Memorial Cup.
The CHL playoffs started this week and as of tonight, each series will have completed at least two games. Just about every Leafs prospect is playing on a team that has a legitimate dream of the Memorial Cup, but through the first weekend of the playoffs both Marner and Andrew Nielsen have had their teams hit a bump in the road.
- After a 6-3 victory Friday night in their opening game against the Regina Pats, Nielsen and his Lethbridge Hurricanes dropped game two last night, The 3-0 loss for the Hurricanes is not a great sign as they are going to have to turn things around and get a road in against a Regina team that shouldn’t have been much trouble for them.
- There could be a major first round upset coming as the Brandon Wheat Kings have dropped their first two games against Edmonton. A first round defeat would be a huge disappointment for a Brandon team that is the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the pick by many to be the favorite to win the WHL.
- Like Lethbridge out west, the London Knights entered their first round series as heavy favorites against the Owen Sound Attack. The Knights have been the hottest team in the CHL over the past month and were expected to steamroll Owen Sound. The Attack had other ideas yesterday as they picked up a huge 2-0 road win last night. in an attempt to even out team scoring, the Knights have moved Mitch Marner to a line with 2016 draft eligible forwards Cliff Pu and Max Jones. The line looked great, carrying London’s offense in game 1 but like the rest of the team, were not able to get much going in game two.
- There has been more early disappointment for Leafs prospects as Nikita Korostelev is going to have to bounce back from a rough opening game in which his Sarnia Sting were upset by the Soo Greyhounds. There is a long way to go in the series but a 6-3 loss is definitely not the way Sarnia wanted to start a playoff run they’ve been gearing up for all season.
- On the bright side of things, Travis Dermott looked incredible in Erie’s 5-1 game one win over Saginaw. The young defender contributed a goal and two assists in what the Otters hope to be a long playoff run. I for one hope Dermott and his team are eliminated early for the simple reason that the new Bieber-inspired blonde hair do’s the team has adopted are simply horrendous. (see below)
- Leafs prospect Stephen Desrocher and his Kingston Frontenac have looked as dominant as expected through two games against the team he won the Memorial Cup with last year. Outscoring Oshawa 13-3 through two games, Kingston looks well on their way to an easy first round victory.
- The one series that people were most excited about was Kingston matching up against Windsor. The series has been far closer than it looks in the standings as Kitchener has won two very close games including an exciting 6-5 overtime win in game one. Jeremy Bracco has had three assists through his first two playoff games in the OHL.
— Mark Scheig (@THWMark) March 26, 2016
- It looks like The Shawinigan Cataractes and Leaf prospect Dmytro Timashov are in store for a grueling first round series. Through the first two games, each team as a hard fought 3-2 victory. Both games could have gone either way and the teams look very evenly matched as the prepare for game three in Sherbrooke. After having four shots on net in game one, Timashov had a goal and an assist in the game two victory and will be looked upon to be an offensive catalyst for Shawinigan.
- Toronto’s other prospect in the QMJHL playoffs is having a much easier go of things as Rouyn-Noranda has dominated the series thus far, outscoring Drummondville 16-0 through the first two games. Martins Dzierkais has contributed two assists for the Huskies.
It’s All Over for the Bulldogs
After a great postseason run that saw a surprising upset victory over the University of North Dakota in NCHC tournament, last night saw the season come to an end for Maple Leafs prospects Tony Cameranesi and Dom Toninato. In the case of Cameranesi, it saw the end of his senior season and his last game at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The question now becomes whether or not the Leafs sign Cameranesi to keep him as part of the organization or if they simply move on from the 22-year old prospect that has no real ties to the current management team. I could see either happening, Cameranesi doesn’t look like a future NHLer but he is a solid hockey player that could help the Marlies down the stretch until the Leafs season is over. On the other hand, this isn’t a prospect that was drafted by the current regime and with all the draft picks coming in the next two season it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team walk away from this kind of former draft pick.
If nothing else, the UMD Bulldogs provided NCAA hockey fans with some incredible excitement on the way to the Frozen Four tournament. The team fought back from a 3-0 deficit last night and almost forced overtime before eventually dropping a 3-2 decision to Boston College in the regional final. This came only days after knocking off the defending national champion Providence Friars in an incredibly thrilling double-overtime win.
(super huge gif)https://t.co/m8kvYyWv4Z
— UMD Hockey gifs (@UMDHockeygifs) March 26, 2016
Over in Sweden
Those hoping to see Swedish forward Andreas Johnson join the Marlies for the stretch run are going to have to wait a little longer. Johnson’s Frolunda HC team made advanced to the second round of the SHL playoffs this week with a 4-1 series win against Djurgarden. Johnson continued to contribute to the team’s success with two goals and an assist in the first five games of the playoffs. There are two trains of thought on this, a deep run in the playoffs is never a bad thing for the psyche of a young prospect, but getting Johnson a taste of North American hockey before next fall could be incredibly valuable to his development.
— SHL Prospect GIFS (@SHLProspectGIFS) March 24, 2016