Playoffs in the CHL are in full swing, as the league finals (OHL, WHL, QMJHL) begin Thursday en route to the Mastercard Memorial Cup, and a trio of Sabres prospects are in the running for the championship.
The OHL’s match-up begins Thursday in London, Ontario as the London Knights face the Niagara Ice Dogs of St. Catharines.
2010 Sabres draft pick Steven Shipley is a member of the Ice Dogs, who finished the season first in their conference with a 47-18-0-3 record and 97 points in 68 games. The team’s 291 goals-for and 169 goals-against were the best in the league during the regular season.
In 63 games, Shipley scored 22 goals and 27 assists for the Ice Dogs. He has five goals, two assists and a +3 rating in this year’s playoffs so far. The 20-year-old is in his second full season with Niagara after being traded from the Owen Sound Attack.
Most recently, Niagara finished off the Ottawa 67’s with a 4-1 series victory in the Eastern Conference Final to secure the Bobby Orr Trophy for Eastern Conference playoffs champion. Prior to that, they swept the Brampton Battalion and defeated the Oshawa Generals four games to two.
London also finished first in their conference. At 49-18-0-1 with 99 points, they were the best team in the OHL during the regular season. In the playoffs, they swept the Windsor Spitfires before defeating the Saginaw Spirit four games to two and proceeding to sweep the Kitchener Rangers to move to the final.
The winner of the series will receive the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
Meanwhile, in the WHL, Mark Pysyk’s Edmonton Oil Kings will battle the Portland Winter Hawks, a match-up that begins Thursday in Edmonton.
The Oil Kings finished the regular season with 107 points and first in the league with a 50-15-3-4 record, while the Winterhawks finished third in the Western Conference. Their 49-19-3-1 record and 102 points put them behind the Tri-City Americans and Kamloops Blazers in the conference.
In 57 regular-season games, Pysyk has six goals and 32 assists. The defenseman ended the season with a +15 rating and 83 penalty minutes. The 20-year-old, who was drafted by the Sabres in 2010, has two goals and five assists in the playoffs so far.
The Oil Kings have just one loss in the postseason, as they swept the Kootenay Ice in the first round and the Brandon Wheat Kings in the second round before beating the Moose Jaw Warriors four games to one.
The Winter Hawks also swept their first round series, finishing off the Kelowna Rockets in just a six-day span. They went on to defeat the Kamloops Blazers in an exciting seven-game series before sweeping the Tri-City Americans to progress to the finals. The winning team will receive the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champion.
Finally, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and the Rimouski Oceanic prepare to face the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL final, which begins Friday.
Rimouski finished the season in seventh place league-wide, with a 40-26-2-0 record and 82 points in 68 games. Meanwhile, Saint John was first in the league with 103 points (50-15-0-3).
Gauthier-Leduc, who was drafted by Buffalo in 2010, had an outstanding 28 goals and 46 assists in 62 regular-season games with Rimouski. His 74 points and +13 rating are particularly impressive when one recalls that he’s a defenseman. The 20-year-old has eight goals and 7 assists in the playoffs to this point.
Rimouski began the postseason with a sweep over Val-d’Or, including two games where the Oceanic scored eight goals per game. The team went on to defeat Blainville Boisbriand in seven games before finishing with Halifax in six games to secure a spot in the QMJHL finals.
Saint John started off the playoffs by defeating Cape Breton. They faced Baie-Comeau in the second round and won in a sweep, scoring 29 goals in four games. (!) Lastly, a five-game series against Chicoutimi led them to the finals.
The winners of each respective series will move on to a four-team round-robin tournament for the Mastercard Memorial Cup, which is the CHL’s final championship. The Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL are this year’s hosts and will be the fourth team in the tournament, which begins May 18.