Smith: OHL preview

Hockey Prospectus OHL analyst Craig Smith previews the upcoming OHL playoffs first round, before the puck drops this Thursday.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Oshawa Generals (1) VS Peterborough Petes (8)

Season Series: Oshawa 6-2

Players to Watch

Oshawa Generals : Michael Dal Colle (2014 Rd 1 Pick 5, Islanders)

Peterborough Petes : Matthew Spencer (Eligible 2015)

A Petes team looking to rebuild against the number one ranked team in the CHL. Every aspect of this series points towards a quick series. These two teams took different approaches at the trade deadline. The Generals upgraded an already loaded roster that is back-stopped by one of the best goalies in the OHL in Ken Appleby. After trading Connor Borland and Nick Ritchie, plus some late season injuries, the Petes will be hard pressed to keep up and somehow shut down the Generals attack. The Generals finished first in the OHL in Est. Fenwick Close (58.9%) and third in goals scored (292). The Petes positioned themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum, finishing 17th (out of 20) in Est. Fenwick Close (46.6%) and allowed the fourth most goals (268).

Prediction: Generals in Four

Barrie Colts (2) VS Bellville Bulls (7)

Season Series: Barrie 2-0

Players to Watch

Barrie Colts: Andrew Mangiapane (2015 Eligible)

Bellville Bulls: Jordan Subban (2014 Rd 4 Pick 115, Canucks)

The big story in this series won’t be the players, score, coaches, or officials. The recent news of the Bellville Bulls moving to Hamilton next season will be the topic of both pre- and post-game press conferences. Expect the Bulls to try and use the added emotion of the fans at Yardman Arena to try to steal some games. The Colts roster boasts three 100 point players up front. The Bulls top scorer is Vancouver prospect Jordan Subban, who plays defence. If that wasn’t enough, Mackenzie Blackwood, expected to be the first goalie selected in 2015, will be stopping the pucks for the Colts. When looking at shots for and against per game these two teams are actually much closer than expected. Don’t sleep on a possible upset, but after the Bulls moved Remi Elie to Erie they just don’t have the weapons to keep up.

Prediction: Colts in Five

North Bay Battalion (3) VS Kingston Frontenacs (6)

Season Series: North Bay 3-1

Players to Watch

North Bay Battalion: Nick Paul (2013 Rd 4 Pick 101, Stars, traded to Senators)

Kingston Frontenacs: Lawson Crouse (2015 Eligible)

The Frontenacs recently welcomed back their best player in Sam Bennett. Bennett with Spencer Watson, and Lawson Crouse with Juho Lammikko give the Frontenacs two formidable lines. The Battalion lack top end scoring but make up for it in their style of play. Stan Butler’s coaching has the Battalion playing a structured game that is difficult for opposing teams. The Frontenacs goaltending provided a .907 save percentage this season, good for third best in the OHL. The Battalion goalies were not nearly as helpful only stopping .893 percent of shots. Expect the revived Frontenacs to show their true potential in the first round upset.

Prediction: Frontenacs in Six

Ottawa 67s (4) VS Niagara IceDogs (5)

Season Series: Ottawa 3-1

Players to Watch

Ottawa 67’s: Travis Konecny (2015 Eligible)

Niagara IceDogs: Josh Ho-Sang (Rd 1 Pick 28, Islanders)

A late season injury to Travis Konecny is a big question mark for the 67’s right now. The 67’s say Konecny is healthy and ready to go. He will need to be if the 67’s have any hopes of moving on to the second round. The IceDogs added a major piece in Josh Ho-Sang around the mid-point of the season. Brandon Perlini was injured to start the season and is now rolling. The stats to look toward are shots and shooting percentage. The 67’s put the third fewest amount of shots at opposing goalies this year, at only 29.8 per game. On the other hand, they scored on 11.6% of those shots. The IceDogs put the third most pucks on net at a rate of 36.78 per game while scoring on 10.81% of those shots. Don’t be surprised to see those extra shots be the difference in a mediocre goaltending matchup.

Prediction: Niagara in Seven

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (1) VS Saginaw Spirit (8)

Season Series: Sault Ste. Marie 5-3

Players to Watch

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds:  Anthony DeAngelo (Rd 1 Pick 19, Lightning)

Saginaw Spirit: Dylan Sadowy (Rd 3 Pick 81, Sharks) 

This series is almost unfair. The Greyhounds picked up four top level talents before the deadline to tell the CHL they are expecting a visit to Quebec City in May. Anthony DeAngelo, Darnell Nurse, and Connor Boland make up a rear guard that is unmatched in the OHL and that will neutralize the Spirit’s only significant threat in Dylan Sadowy. This will act as a warm up for the Greyhounds going forward in the playoffs. These teams are on opposite spectrums of all statistical categories. There is not a single statistical or strategic advantage for the Spirit to hang their hopes on.

Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in Four

Erie Otters (2) VS Sarnia Sting (7)

Season Series: Erie 3-1

Players to Watch

Erie Otters: Connor McDavid (2015 Eligible)

Sarnia Sting: Nikita Korostelev (2015 Eligible)

This series will be an exhibition of high end talent. Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome, the current superstars, versus the future in Jakob Chychrun. It will be more interesting to see how the top players compete against one another as these two teams create yet another first round mismatch. Erie finished as the fifth ranked team in the CHL. The Sting finished a staggering 39 points behind the Otters in the final standings. The one thing that the Sting can look back and rely on is their surprising 51.03% Est. Fenwick Close. If Sarnia is to win they are going to need timely scoring from Nikita Korostelev and a hopeful regression of the Otters 13.77% shooting.

Prediction: Erie in Four

London Knights (3) VS Kitchener Rangers (6)

Season Series: Even 3-3

Players to Watch

London Knights: Mitch Marner (2015 Eligible)

Kitchener Rangers: Ryan MacInnis (2014 Rd 2 Pick 43, Coyotes) 

As the season series dictated, these teams are more evenly matched than the paper may show.  The Rangers and new goalie Jake Paterson will need to bring down the Knights shooting percentage (12.65%) and raise their own (8.94%). They have a 1 shot per game advantage over the Knights. It will not be easy as the 100 point trio will not be easy to stop. The Knights have not hesitated to play Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner, and Max Domi on three separate lines throughout the season which would eliminate any matchup advantages for the Rangers at 5v5. The Rangers will need to stay out of the box. The Knights possess the second best powerplay in the league. Staying on the ice and keeping the 100 point trio off the ice will be of the utmost importance for the Rangers.

Prediction: London in Six

Guelph Storm (4) VS Owen Sound Attack (5)

Season Series: Guelph 5-3

Players to Watch

Guelph Storm: Robby Fabbri (2014 Rd 1 Pick 21, Blues)

Owen Sound Attack: Zach Nastasiuk (2013 Rd 2 Pick 48, Red Wings

These two teams are as even as it comes in shots for and against, shooting percentage and penalty killing which are all within fractions of one another. There is a special team advantage for the Attack on the powerplay producing at 24.6%. The Storm are only producing at 18.5%.  Both teams have elite trigger men and are the players to watch in this series. Given that the Storm have two players with over 40 goals (Tyler Bertuzzi, Pius Suter) in addition to Robby Fabbri’s 25 goals in 30 games, it’s strange to see such an inefficient power play. If it wasn’t for the seven shootout losses the Storm may have been the third seed.

Prediction: Storm in Six

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