The race for the Memorial Cup gets underway on Thursday for the New York Islander and New York Ranger prospects. The OHL being the host league for the Memorial Cup will get to send two teams to represent them.
The first team is the easy one as it will be Casey Cizikas ((NYI 2009 4th) and his Mississauga St. Michaels Majors as they are the hosts for the event. They are also the best team that the OHL has this season so they are going to have an impact on who else gets to represent the OHL.
Even if they were not the hosts for the Memorial Cup it is still going to be very hard for someone to knock them off. Defense and special teams are what typically win championships and the Majors have the best of both in the OHL.
The Majors are in the OHL's Eastern Conference where most of the Ranger and Islander prospects play as it is. Because the Rangers and Islanders are represented on 3 of the top 4 teams it means some prospects might not get to go far before they are eliminated.
The Niagara IceDogs which has Jason Wilson (NYR 2009 5th) on it's roster finished with the 2nd best record in the OHL but because they play in the same division as the Majors wound up finishing 3rd in the seedings. The Majors may already have a major advantage over the IceDogs thanks in large part by dominating the season series between the 2 teams.
On paper the IceDogs have just as much talent as the Majors but they are a year away in terms of becoming a legit OHL title contender. They open up against the Brampton Battalion who simply do not have the depth to cause a serious upset.
The Oshawa Generals are the most interesting story for the prospects as no other team has 4 prospects as the Generals do. The Generals have Christian Thomas (NYR 2010 2nd) and Calvin de Haan (NYI 2009 1st) to provide the offensive firepower making them a tough team to defeat.
In Thomas it is not that he scored 54 goals that will scare teams but rather that he can score from any place on the ice under any situation or circumstance. If teams do not stop Thomas then Oshawa is going to make some serious noise in the Eastern Conference.
de Haan is a strong 2 way defender who's passing skills are first rate. Because the forwards have done a bulk of the Oshawa scoring; we have not seen de Haan's scoring skills much but in the playoffs we expect that to change.
The Generals also have Tony DeHart (NYI 2010 5th) who is perhap the best defensive role player among all the prospects. DeHart can be plugged into any role the Generals need and get quality results whether it offense, defense or even a fight or 2.
Dan Maggio (NYR 2009 6th) brings some toughness like DeHart but his job is going to be to shutdown the other team's best offensive weapons. If Maggio and DeHart do their jobs right then it will free de Haan to look for his offense and de Haan is one of the best passing defensemen in the OHL.
Oshawa is mainly a young team but they have a good senior core group and in the last month of the season have shown they can play with anyone. Oh and do not go looking for a fight with them either as Oshawa led the OHL in fighting majors with 105 (Mississauga was 2nd with 96).
Oshawa opens up against the Kingston Frontenacs who will be without Ethan Werek (NYR 2009 2nd) for the first 2 games as he finishes up his 5 game suspension. Here is the thing though as if there ever was a team that underachieved it was the Frontenacs.
Hit hard by injuries for most of the season after loading up for this season; the Frontenacs just have not figured out how to come together as a team. They have offense but it has not jelled and having the 2010 3rd pick in the draft Erik Gudbranson who if not for contract issues would have played in the NHL.
The Frontenacs finished a disappointing 5th in the conference and sadly we just do not see them getting their game together to defeat a very hungry General team. If anything the Rangers might want to see this series last only 4-5 games as it would get Werek to the CT Whale before the AHL regular season ends.
In the OHL's Western Conference, every team in the playoffs is rooting for Mississauga to win the OHL's Eastern Conference. If that happens then the winner of the OHL Eastern Conference gets the automatic 2nd bid to the Memorial Cup regardless of whether they win the OHL finals or not.
The team that has been the biggest surprise has been the Owen Sound Attack as the Attack surprised everybody by winning the OHL's Western Conference title. But they are also the team that has the biggest question mark as to who will play goal for them in the OHL playoffs?
If Scott Stajcer (2009 6th) is healthy enough to play then does he reclaim his starting job that he was forced to give up when he was hurt in Novemeber? Or does the Attack stick with Jordan Binnington who was the youngest goalie in Attack history to win 30 games?
Or do the Attack goal with the playoff veteran overaged goalie Michael Zador? If it was us then we have to go with the goalie who got them where they are right now in Binnington.
It to us would be way too risky a gamble asking a very rusty Stajcer to lead them to the OHL Title. We do think that Owen Sound will go with Binnington and will reach the conference finals.
Andrew Yogan (NYR 2010 3rd) only has a few games under his belt but his Erie Otters have been the surprise team in the OHL's Western Conference. During their 2nd hand run, the Otters have beaten every top team in the league at home but more importantly on the road.
Yogan due to his injury is the 3rd line center but for the Otters that is a huge plus as it gives them some serious depth down the middle and if need be to be shifted around. The biggest problem that we see the Otters facing is their first round opponnent the Windsor Spitfires.
Yes they have a different coach and yes the roster is no way near as loaded as it was in winning back to back Memorial Cups. But there is a reason why you say someone is the champions until someone beats them.
How We See The OHL
(1)Mississauga vs (8)Belleville- Too much everything gives the Majors too much of an advantage. The question here is can Belleville avoid a sweep?
Mississauga in 4 games
(2)Ottawa vs (7) Sudbury- Poor Sudbury has no chance against a Ottawa team that many a person is overlooking.
Ottawa in 4 games
(3)Niagara vs (6)Brampton- 2 of our favorite OHL coaches going head to head Marty Williamson of Niagara vs Stan Butler of Brampton. Niagara is not used to being the top dog so they have to be careful here.
Niagara in 6 games after they stumble a bit
(4) Oshawa vs (5) Kingston- A tale of 2 teams heading in oppositie directions, one (Kingston) thought they would be here while the other (Oshawa) was actually building for next year.
Oshawa in 6 games in what just might be the most explosive of all OHL series both on offense as well as in the penalty box.
(1) Owen Sound vs (8) London- This is the first time Owen Sound is conference champ while London is not used to being the 8th seed. To us the key is who does Owen Sound choose to play in goal and how short a leash does he have?
Owen Sound in 7 games mainly because they shoot themselves in the foot settling on a goalie.
(2) Saginaw Spirit vs (7) Guelph Storm-- The Storm are a mess firing coach and GM at mid-season. The Spirit have th defense needed to win playoff games
Saginaw in 5 games
(3) Kitchener Rangers vs (6) Plymouth Whalers--- Kitchener has the firepower to go up against anyone but their problem is who to play in goal as Brandon Maxwell has struggled all season long
Plymouth in 6 games because Maxwell does not find his game
(4) Windsor vs (5) Erie- You are the champs until someone beats you but since mid-season Erie has beaten just about everyone. Someone has to end the run for Windsor and it will be Erie.
Erie in 6 games as they give their fans something to really cheer about
(1) Mississauga vs (4)Oshawa--- Mississauga in 5 games too much defense
(2) Ottawa vs (3) Niagara-- Ottawa in 7 games because they are much better than people think
(1) Owen Sound vs (6) Plymouth-- Owen Sound in 6 games as they settle on goalie
(2) Saginaw vs (5) Erie-- Saginaw in 6 games because of their goalie
(1) Mississauga vs (2) Ottawa-- Mississauga in 6 games because they are just too deep
(1) Owen Sound vs (2) Saginaw-- Saginaw in 7 games mainly because they will handle the pressure better
Mississauga vs Saginaw-- Mississauga in 5 games but Saginaw will relax knowing they are also going to the Memorial Cup
(Memorial Cup courtesy of the CHL)
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