Kingston Frontenacs (1) vs Oshawa Generals (8)
Prediction: Kingston in 4
It’s been 18 years since Kingston has won a playoff series, coincidently against the Oshawa Generals back in 1998. The Frontenacs are poised to shake off the shadow looming over the organization, stocked with the most physically impressive forward core in the Eastern Conference. Kingston has plenty of household names, lead by Lawson Crouse and the former Oshawa General Michael Dal Colle. The Generals, the reigning Memorial Cup Champions, are going to need Jeremy Brodeur to stand on his head to have any chance against the Frontenacs. Kingston won the regular season series 7-1, cumulatively outscoring the Generals 33-18.
Barrie Colts (2) vs Mississauga Steelheads (7)
Prediction: Barrie in 7
The Barrie Colts have faced the current Mississauga organization three times in the last 10 years, and hold the advantage in playoff head to heads 2 rounds to 1. This spring’s series will feature plenty of offense, as the both teams have very lethal power play options. Mississauga’s Achilles heel will be their youth, as they are the only OHL team that doesn’t sport a drafted NHL prospect, though that will change come June’s entry draft. If you’re looking for a series that could have an upset, this is the likeliest option, but you should count on Barrie’s strong leadership core to overpower Mississauga’s young talent. Barrie won the regular season series 5-1, outscoring the Mississauga 34-15.
North Bay (3) vs Peterborough Petes (6)
Prediction: North Bay in 6
North Bay certainly surprised a lot of OHL fans this season by securing the home-ice advantage this spring, lead by Mike Amadio, the first Battalion player to score 50 goals in the regular season. There are concerns that North Bay’s offence is a one-trick pony that will lean on their top line, and Peterborough is certainly a team that can grind away their opponents this season. The Petes can’t be underestimated as a 6th seed, as they have plenty of offense in the form of Garlent, Betzold and Cornel. The teams were even during the regular season, with North Bay edging out Peterborough offensively 18-14, thanks to a 9-3 spanking on February 21st in North Bay.
Niagara IceDogs (4) vs Ottawa 67s (5)
Prediction: IceDogs in 6
Niagara has all of the tools to make a very deep run this post-season. On paper, the IceDogs’ should be able to coast by the 67s thanks to their wealth of NHL prospects, but don’t count Ottawa out. Niagara has been widely inconsistent for such veteran team coming down the stretch, collectively trying their best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation. This is a roster with a lot to prove. Many observers assumed that Ottawa had given up on their season by shipping Travis Konecny to Sarnia at the trade deadline, but this is a resilient bunch lead by Dante Salintro. The young man was passed over in the 2015 draft, and left everything on the table offensively this year to prove that all 30 NHL teams made a mistake by not calling his name.
Erie Otters(1) vs Saginaw Spirit(8)
Prediction: Otters in 4
Erie wrapped up the regular season on a high note, edging out the London Knights for first in the Midwest Division to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row. Erie is the powerhouse team in the OHL, boasting an impressive mix of strong performances from their draft eligibles (DeBrincat, Maksimovich, Raddysh) as well as their veteran core (D. Strome, Marchment, Dermont). Saginaw squeaked into the playoffs by riding their starting goalie Evan Cormier throughout the season, who appeared in 58 games. Expect Erie to push to represent the OHL in Red Deer at the Memorial Cup, beginning with a quick finish against their quarter final opponents.
Sarnia Sting (2) vs Sault St. Marie (7)
Prediction: Sarnia in 6
Sarnia’s management targeted 2016 as a year to make a significant push, signalled by the impressive pieces they picked up at the midseason point. Konecny, Studnicka, Mistele and over-age goalie Graham provided the team with the talent to leapfrog divisional rivals, the Windsor Spitfires who were leading the West Division at the time. Sarnia is a balanced team that is capable of a long run this post-season, but they are up against a formidable challenge in the form of the Soo Greyhounds. The Greyhounds made it to the semi-finals last season and have enough veterans on their roster to help guide their deep line-up. Sault St. Marie has a glut of capable draft eligibles who will help push Sarnia. This series has the highest potential for an upset in either conference.
London Knights (3) vs Owen Sound Attack (6)
Prediction: London in 4
The London Knights are the offensive powerhouse that the organization is so well known for being year in, year out. Owen Sound was 14th in goals for during the regular season. They are in deep to outscore the Knights, and will need to rely on their team game. London makes their hay on the power play, and lucky for the Attack they were one of the least penalized teams in the OHL. They’ll need to ensure they stay disciplined to remain competitive against this talented London team. Owen Sound is one of the youngest teams this season, and will use this first round to help their team develop for next year.
Kitchener Rangers (4) vs Windsor Spitfires (5)
Prediction: Windsor in 7
Arguably the most interesting series matchup in the first round, both teams failed to seed higher and avoid the highest level of competition possible thanks to the high degree of talent available in the Western Conference. Both teams are capable of having a deep run this post-season, if they can make it out of the first round. Kitchener is a well balanced team that plays a disciplined system which maintains puck possession. Windsor is young, but is equipped with a roster filled with large players who win the majority of puck battles. Neither team will be giving up space in this series, and whoever they face in the second round will have the advantage of facing a team that truly had to grind out the win.