From the emotional farewell to the Belleville Bulls to some wild series in the QMJHL, the first round of the 2015 playoffs in the Canadian Hockey League have been intriguing, and the matchups in the second rounds in all three leagues may be even better.
As everything gets underway tonight as Sault Ste. Marie takes on Guelph, it’s time once again to take a look back at the teams that were knocked out of the playoffs already and attempt to predict what will happen in the coming weeks. Let’s begin, as always, in the OHL.
Peterborough Petes (26-36-1-5 – 5th in East Division/8th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the Oshawa Generals in five games)
What I Predicted: Following last season’s comeback from 3-0 down in the first round against Kingston, I expect the Petes to build on that momentum to make a second straight trip to the post-season.
What Actually Happened: Even though they traded Nick Ritchie at the deadline the Petes made it to the playoffs again. Even though they lost in five games, they still fared well against the top ranked team in the Eastern Conference.
What Lies Ahead: The forwards aren’t really stellar, but the back-end is very strong with Kyle Jenkins and Matt Spencer on defence and Matthew Mancina in goal. They won’t be a title threat by any means, but the Petes may be in the mix for a home-ice spot if the cards fall right next year.
Saginaw Spirit (29-36-2-1 – 3rd in West Division/8th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in four games)
What I Predicted: If the youngsters get up to speed quickly, this might be a playoff team. If that doesn’t happen though, the rebuilding process in Saginaw may officially begin at the Trade Deadline.
What Actually Happened: A combination of both things actually. The Spirit traded away Jimmy Lodge, Nick Moutrey and Jake Paterson, but their young players filled in the gaps and they made it to the playoffs.
What Lies Ahead: The Spirit were the youngest team in OHL history to make it to the post-season and that should set the stage for a strong campaign next year. Dylan Sadowy, Mitchell Stephens and Tye Felhaber will lead the way up front and goaltender Evan Cormier may prove to be a huge pick-up from the trade with North Bay for Moutrey.
Belleville Bulls (27-33-3-5 – 4th in East Division/7th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the Barrie Colts in four games)
What I Predicted: Even though the Bulls struggled last year, they have a decent core of guys coming back, and they should be able to bounce back into the playoffs this season.
What Actually Happened: The Bulls started off well but faded and almost missed out on the playoffs. The move to Hamilton overshadowed everything in the end however and it was a shame to see them be swept out by Barrie.
What Lies Ahead: The Bulls are headed to the white elephant that is Copps Coliseum (or whatever they call it these days) to become the Hamilton Bulldogs. While everyone is debating what the fan support will be like, the Bulldogs should have a pretty solid team in their first year in Hamilton. It’s a pretty solid roster with some solid young players like Justin Lemcke and Brandon Saiegon, and they may be in the mix for a home playoff spot.
Sarnia Sting (29-32-4-3 – 2nd in West Division/7th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the Erie Otters in five games)
What I Predicted: They won’t be as bad as they were last year, but I suspect it will be another long season in Sarnia, with a few bright spots along the way courtesy of the top players.
What Actually Happened: Well it certainly wasn’t a long year. They traded Anthony DeAngelo and Nikolai Goldobin never came back but they saw a new star develop in Jakob Chyrchurn while Pavel Zacha and Nikita Korostelev led the way up front. They ended up second in a surprisingly lacklustre West Division and they pushed the Erie Otters to the limit in their first round series.
What Lies Ahead: Sarnia made a surprising move on Tuesday as head coach Trevor Letowski was let go and co-owner Derian Hatcher became the new bench boss. It remains to be seen how that will go but right now the Sting look to have a solid young core to build around. The one question mark might be in goal though as Taylor Dupuis has graduated from the junior ranks.
Kingston Frontenacs (32-28-5-3 – 3rd in East Division/6th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the North Bay Battalion in four games)
What I Predicted: The forward core is arguably the best in the Eastern Conference (especially if Sam Bennett doesn’t stick in Calgary), and the defence looks pretty solid, but I have some major question marks about the goaltending.
What Actually Happened: Lucas Pressini proved me wrong in goal and the forwards weren’t super impressive until late in the year when Bennett came back from a lengthy injury. It didn’t matter in the end though as the Frontenacs had another underwhelming playoff run.
What Lies Ahead: The Fronts are in an odd place. I’ll touch on Sam Bennett later on but they still have guys like Lawson Crouse and Roland McKeown around, but their defensive depth worries me a lot. It’s hard to give them an early ranking until after the summer trade season ends.
Kitchener Rangers (32-26-3-7 – 5th in Midwest Division/6th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the London Knights in six games)
What I Predicted: The Rangers should be better than they were a year ago, but they aren’t quite back to a legit Western Conference contender just yet.
What Actually Happened: Getting Jake Paterson was a surprise at the deadline and the Rangers were in the mix for fourth place for a time. However, thanks to Guelph and Owen Sound’s strong finishes, they ended up facing London and saw their season end early.
What Lies Ahead: With a number of 96-born players on forward and defence the Rangers will look to have a big run next season. However, I doubt they will be leaning on Dawson Carty in goal so I suspect that they will either make a trade or bring in one of the three NCAA committed goalies (Chris Birdsall, Hayden Lavigne or Luke Opilka) that they have drafted in the past couple of years.
Owen Sound Attack (35-24-2-7 – 4th in Midwest Division/5th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the Guelph Storm in five games)
What I Predicted: I like the majority of the lineup, especially the NHL prospects that they have, but I’m not convinced that a goaltending pairing of Brandon Hope and Jack Flinn is enough to lead you to the promised land.
What Actually Happened: Brandon Hope got dealt to Niagara early on while both Jack Flinn and Michael McNiven did well in between the pipes. Being stuck in what was arguably the best division in all of the CHL didn’t do them any favours come playoff time though.
What Lies Ahead: I would suspect the Attack are going to drop off quite a bit next year, especially with Zach Nastasiuk, Kyle Platzer and Chris Bigras all moving on. Don’t be surprised if they move off some of their 96’s in order to build for the future in the next couple of months.
Ottawa 67’s (38-25-4-1 – 2nd in East Division/4th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the Niagara IceDogs in six games)
What I Predicted: I’m not quite convinced yet on the goaltending and the overall depth of the roster. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they beat out Mississauga for the eighth and final playoff spot.
What Actually Happened: Liam Herbst showed why he was a first round pick by London a few years ago in goal and the play of Dante Salituro and Travis Konecny helped Ottawa earn home ice for the first round. Even though they lost to Niagara, first year bench boss Jeff Brown did an excellent job.
What Lies Ahead: With Herbst, Salituro and Konecny all back, the 67’s should have another good season. They do have five 95-born defenders on the roster though, so that might be a worrying issue in the weeks ahead.
Before I make my second round predictions, let’s return to Sam Bennett, who may be the most intriguing question mark heading in the 2015/16 OHL season.
A brief recap on the 18-year-old’s year first. After being selected 4th overall by the Calgary Flames in June, Bennett suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery and forced him to the sidelines until February. When he was healthy, he returned to Kingston and put up a staggering 24 points in 11 games, though he was held to just three points in the series sweep by North Bay.
As he currently awaits to make his NHL debut with the Flames, it remains to be seen if Bennett will stick around in the show next fall or return to the OHL. If he does come back to Kingston, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s dealt straight away to a contender like Leon Draisaitl was when Edmonton sent him back to the WHL. It’s a move that may work out well for Kingston as well as they need to load up on picks and players to build their roster up for the next couple of seasons. I mean, Lawson Crouse isn’t going to be around for much longer as well.
OHL Eastern Conference Predictions
1) Oshawa Generals vs. 5) Niagara IceDogs: Oshawa in five (Niagara has enough firepower to maybe steal a game or two from Oshawa, but the Generals seem to be on another level compared to almost everyone else in their conference.)
2) Barrie Colts vs. 3) North Bay Battalion: North Bay in six (Like last year’s second round meeting between these two teams, this is another series that go either way. I’m sure have a slight Northern Ontario bias here but the way North Bay shutdown Kingston’s offence in the first round has me convinced they will do the same, albeit to a lesser extent, to Barrie’s top scorers.)
OHL Western Conference Predictions
1) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. 4) Guelph Storm: Sault Ste. Marie in five (Guelph’s the defending OHL champions and they won’t go quietly into the night, but once again, I expect the Greyhounds’ depth to be too much for their opponents to handle.)
2) Erie Otters vs. 3) London Knights: Erie in seven (For me, this is the best second round series in the entire country and I expect this to be a dandy. The Otters should be able to take care of the Knights, but with Sarnia pushing them to the limit and the combination of Mitch Marner and Max Domi set to run wild, I think this one will go the distance.)
Next up is the QMJHL, where a couple of highly ranked teams saw their seasons come to an end rather early.
Victoriaville Tigres (27-34-3-4 – 6th in East Division/16th in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Rimouski Oceanic in four games)
What I Predicted: I have them fifth in their division, but that may end up being way too low to where they end up when March rolls around.
What Actually Happened: My original assumption ended up being much closer to reality. Having to deal with Rimouski, Quebec and Shawinigan in their division probably had them lower in the standings than they would have hoped.
What Lies Ahead: I would suspect another similar campaign next year, though they probably won’t be at the bottom of the playoff race. There’s a few young pieces to build around here, and Samuel Blais might be a nice deadline day piece to deal to a title contender.
Chicoutimi Sagueneens (29-32-4-3 – 5th in East Division/15th in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Moncton Wildcats in five games)
What I Predicted: It’s a bit of a bummer that Chicoutimi is in the same division as Quebec and Rimouski, because this is quite a good team.
What Actually Happened: Okay I was slightly wrong on that front, Julio Billia was better in goal and the forwards weren’t that bad, but this was a team that ended up being more a middle of the road squad than a sleeper for a lengthy playoff run.
What Lies Ahead: With Nicolas Roy and Frederic Allard both coming back for two more years at least, Chicoutimi will be looking to go on a run in the next couple of seasons. They have a ton of 95’s on their roster right now, however, so you may see some movement to help out with that building process.
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (31-31-3-3 – 5th in Maritimes Division/13th in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Quebec Remparts in seven games)
What I Predicted: Okay, maybe I’m biased because they have two Russian forwards, but they should score a number of goals, and Francois Brassard could prove to be a great pickup in goal.
What Actually Happened: Brassard struggled in Cape Breton and ended up being dealt to Gatineau where he’s helped the Olympiques move on to the second round. Their forward core was strong though and they almost pulled off a stunning result in their series with Quebec as they pushed the Memorial Cup hosts to Game 7.
What Lies Ahead: I’m not sure what they are doing in goal yet (hey look, another team that can benefit from an import netminder, thanks a lot Branch) but their defence looks solid and the Russian duo of Maxim Lazarev and Evgeny Svechnikov will both be back. This might be a team that contends for a division title in 2015/16.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (33-30-4-1 – 4th in West Division/11th in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Val-d’Or Forerus in six games)
What I Predicted: I’m expecting the Huskies to be in the middle of the road again this year, though Alexander Belanger may help to steal a few games in between the pipes.
What Actually Happened: Well Belanger went to Cape Breton at the deadline, but the team was in the middle of the league standings. Part of that had to do with a strong forward core that was led by overage player Mathieu Lemay and Ottawa draft pick Francis Perron.
What Lies Ahead: Since the Huskies will have a lot of players coming back, this might be a sleeper pick to win the QMJHL title next year. The biggest thing that will have to happen though is that Jeremy Belisle and Samuel Harvey will both need to continue to improve in goal.
Saint John Sea Dogs (32-36-4-6 – 3rd in Maritimes Division/10th in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in five games)
What I Predicted: If Nathan Noel increases his scoring output from his rookie year and the newcomers gel, the Sea Dogs should return to the playoffs.
What Actually Happened: Exactly that. There was a bit of a slide after a strong start but the Sea Dogs were a much improved side after having just 19 wins a year ago.
What Lies Ahead: With another high draft pick (they will be picking first overall after getting Drummondville’s first round choice in a trade) joining Noel and Luke Green, the Sea Dogs should have another strong season. Okay, I’m not sure about their goaltending either, but this is a team that is building towards a run for 2017, when they may host the Memorial Cup.
Sherbrooke Phoenix (36-26-2-4 – 3rd in West Division/8th in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Charlottetown Islanders in six games)
What I Predicted: In it’s third year of existence, the Phoenix will finally turn the corner this season in my opinion.
What Actually Happened: It was easily the best season so far for Sherbrooke. They had home ice for the playoffs and Daniel Audette continued his fine play up front. Alas, it didn’t mean much in the post-season as they lost a closely contested series with Charlottetown.
What Lies Ahead: Audette will be back, as well high scoring defenceman Jeremy Roy and goaltenders Alex Bureau and Evan Fitzpatrick. The depth’s a slight concern but the Phoenix may improve yet again in their fourth campaign.
Shawinigan Cataractes (39-26-1-2 – 3rd in East Division/5th in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Halifax Mooseheads in seven games)
What I Predicted: The rebuilding process continues for the 2012 Memorial Cup champions, but they’ll probably remain near the bottom of the QMJHL standings.
What Actually Happened: Well I was dead wrong. The young players on the team ended up developing big-time, with Anthony Beauvillier leading the way. If it wasn’t for a Halifax team that had a couple of overtime winners, they probably would be in the second round right now.
What Lies Ahead: The defence and the goaltending might not be as strong, but the forwards once again look really strong. Like Sherbrooke, this is a team that should get a series win next spring.
Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (41-18-2-7 – 1st in West Division/3rd in QMJHL – Eliminated by the Gatineau Olympiques in six games)
What I Predicted: With so many question marks on the team, and with the overagers probably going to be sold off like many of them were during the off-season, it might be a rough year for this squad.
What Actually Happened: If you had this team finishing in third and winning their division you are clearly lying. Now they did have two 100-point overagers, but it still amazes me that the Armada was one of the top teams in the league all season. It also surprised me that Gatineau knocked them out early, but since I didn’t see any of the series it’s hard for me to say if they got outplayed or not.
What Lies Ahead: The two overage forwards (Nikita Jevpalovs and Danick Martel) are leaving as is overage defender Daniel Walcott. Once again, there seems to be a lot of question marks looking at this Armada roster and I’m expecting a huge drop-off. I’m fully expecting to be wrong on that prediction come next year once again.
Despite winning three straight Memorial Cup titles from 2011-2013, the QMJHL has often been called the weak sister of the three major junior hockey leagues in this country. Whether or not that’s the case can be debated for months, but what they have over the WHL and the OHL at the moment is that the Q was home to the best overall first round series in the CHL this year.
When it came to memorable encounters, you had three of them. There was Gatineau’s stunning upset of the third ranked Armada, a wild Quebec and Cape Breton series that went seven games, and Nikolaj Ehlers’ overtime winner in his Game 7 return to help Halifax upset Shawinigan. Plus, the Val-d’Or and Rouyn-Noranda series was pretty entertaining, as was the Charlottetown and Sherbrooke affair.
If you look at the other two leagues, there wasn’t really much for them to counter with. In the OHL, Ottawa and Niagara wasn’t bad until the IceDogs pulled away, and Kitchener tried to make things interesting against London before being moved aside in six, but that didn’t get the pulse excited. To be fair though, the WHL was probably the closest, as they did have a seven-game series between Calgary and Kootenay, an Everett and Spokane encounter that finished in triple overtime in Game 6, a great battle between Portland and Seattle and a Medicine Hat and Red Deer series that was much tighter than their five games would indicate.
Will this trend continue? I think it’s possible, especially since the conference semi-finals and the league finals went seven games in 2014. Hey maybe that 1 through 16 structure is the way to go. I’m looking at you NHL.
QMJHL Second Round Predictions
1) Rimouski Oceanic vs. 14) Gatineau Olympiques: Rimouski in four (Gatineau has been red-hot as of late but I suspect this is where their run will end. Rimouski is just too strong.)
2) Moncton Wildcats vs. 12) Halifax Mooseheads: Moncton in six (I have this one going a little bit farther than most because of Halifax’s recent success over the last few years. Either way, I think Moncton should advance to the semi-finals, but they may have some trouble dealing with Ehlers like everyone has seemingly had over the last two years.)
4) Quebec Remparts vs. 9) Charlottetown Islanders: Quebec in five (Cape Breton showed that the Memorial Cup hosts are there for the taking, but with Islanders goaltender and Calgary Flames prospect Mason McDonald out of the playoffs with a knee injury, Charlottetown may be in tough.)
6) Val-d’Or Foreurs vs. 7) Baie-Comeau Drakkar: Val-d’Or in six (A rematch of last year’s great QMJHL final? Don’t mind if I do. This one can go either way, but I think Val-d’Or will win this encounter once again.)
As ever, we wrap things up in the WHL, where there was a severe lack of upsets in the first round.
Tri-City Americans (31-38-0-3 – 5th in US Division/8th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the Kelowna Rockets in four games)
What I Predicted: The Americans have a pretty young lineup that may not come to full fruition until next season, but they do have a top-notch goalie in Eric Comrie on their side. If the youngsters hit the ground running, this might be a dark horse for a league championship.
What Actually Happened: Excluding Parker Wotherspoon and Evan Sarthou, the Americans young core didn’t really come out on fire. Injuries to the roster didn’t help matters as well as they ended up having to deal with Kelowna as the second wild card in the West.
What Lies Ahead: Well I was way off on the Americans being a dark horse title threat, but almost everyone is back next year and Tri-City may be a contender to win their division. Losing Comrie to the pro ranks will sting, but Sarthou should transition nicely into a starting role in goal.
Prince George Cougars (31-36-2-3 – 3rd in BC Division/7th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the Victoria Royals in five games)
What I Predicted: It might be a little bit before they are a legit contender, but the Cougars should be right in the mix to make it into the playoffs this season with a fairly exciting forward core.
What Actually Happened: For the first time since 2011 the Cougars made it back to the playoffs thanks to a stellar second half performance. They probably deserved a slightly better fate than a five-game series loss to Victoria, but it was still a great season.
What Lies Ahead: The nice buzz building around Prince George should continue next year as almost all of their top contributors will be back. Depending on how Kelowna and Victoria look next year, a division title isn’t that farfetched.
Spokane Chiefs (34-34-3-1 – 4th in US Division/6th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the Everett Silvertips in six games)
What I Predicted: The Chiefs have some exciting players in the pipeline but this has all the makings of a long season in Spokane.
What Actually Happened: Despiite losing Mike Aviani, Reid Gow and Mitch Holmberg, the Chiefs were able to still have a solid campaign. They weren’t flashy but they got the job done and they almost pulled off an upset against Everett.
What Lies Ahead: The Chiefs will have two young forwards to build around in Kailer Yamamoto and incoming rookie Jaret Anderson-Dolan that will make them a threat in the future. When it comes to next season, however, they will probably in the middle of the road.
Swift Current Broncos (34-33-1-4 – 3rd in East Division/8th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the Regina Pats in four games)
What I Predicted: They might not have the sexiness of the Wheat Kings, but the Broncos are a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
What Actually Happened: I expected the Broncos to be a lot better than they actually were but they were rather underwhelming. A lengthy late-season losing skid almost saw them miss the playoffs entirely, which sort of underlined the underwhelming campaign for the squad.
What Lies Ahead: This is going to be a team that can go one of two ways depending on how the season starts. If they are in the top of the conference standings, I expect them to stand pat. But if the Broncos are struggling, goalie Landon Bow and forward Jake DeBrusk will probably be sold off to title contenders.
Edmonton Oil Kings (34-31-4-3 – 5th in Central Division/7th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games)
What I Predicted: If Curtis Lazar doesn’t come back, then their might be a drop-off and Tristan Jarry may be traded away for future building blocks, though I think the Oil Kings should still make the playoffs if that happens.
What Actually Happened: Lazar ended up staying in Ottawa but Jarry stuck around and the Oil Kings returned to the playoffs. Their three-year run to the league finals would come to a quick hand however against Brandon.
What Lies Ahead: Aaron Irving, Dysin Mayo and Brett Pollock will all be back and that might boost the Oil Kings into a top three spot in their division. The overall depth isn’t the greatest, but Edmonton always seems to pluck out strong players out of nowhere.
Kootenay Ice (37-31-1-3 – 4th in Central Division/6th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the Calgary Hitmen in seven games)
What I Predicted: I expect Jaedon Descheneau will be traded if Sam Reinhart doesn’t come back, which will probably prevent the Ice from making the playoffs.
What Actually Happened: Reinhart ended up coming back from the Buffalo Sabres and was probably the difference for the Ice to return to the playoffs. They almost pulled off a second straight upset of the Calgary Hitmen in round one, until Connor Rankin scored a first period hat-trick in Game 7.
What Lies Ahead: Reinhart will be in Buffalo full-time while Descheneau will more than likely be in the St. Louis Blues system. The signs are there for a full-fledged rebuild to begin with the Ice.
Seattle Thunderbirds (38-25-4-5 – 3rd in US Division/4th in Western Conference – Eliminated by the Portland Winterhawks in six games)
What I Predicted: With forwards such as Ryan Gropp and Matthew Barzal, and a top-notch defender in Shea Theodore, the T-Birds will be fun to watch. I’m not quite convinced on the goaltending though, and that may prove to be the one issue the prevents this team from hosting a playoff series.
What Actually Happened: Tarun Kozun proved me wrong big time in goal as he ended up being one of the best netminders in the league. Injuries and a white-hot Portland squad ended up being what cost Seattle a chance at home-ice, but they gave the Winterhawks all that they could handle in their first round series.
What Lies Ahead: Like the other three teams in the US Division that I talked about earlier, this seems like a middle of the road team. Barzal and Gropp will be back, but losing Theodore and Kozun may be too much to overcome.
Red Deer Rebels (38-23-5-6 – 3rd in Central Division/4th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated by the Medicine Hat Tigers in five games)
What I Predicted: I’m quite convinced that the Rebels will be the host city for the Memorial Cup in 2016 so this will be a year that will be used to help build Red Deer into being a legit title threat.
What Actually Happened: Exactly that. The Rebels will be hosing the Memorial Cup next year and we’re right in the mix to win the Central Division this season. The five game loss to the Tigers wasn’t a real indiction of how close the series was, as it could have gone either way.
What Lies Ahead: The big guns (Connor Bleackley and Haydn Fleury) will both be back and that will be huge. The overall depth isn’t super scary yet for a Memorial Cup host, but I expect that to change over the course of the summer.
I got to pay a visit to the Medicine Hat Arena for Game 5 of the Medicine Hat/Red Deer series last Saturday, and pretty much fell in love with the rink, which the Tigers will be leaving for a new facility next year.
While that new rink is needed, I was very upset that the Tigers will be departing the 4,006 seat arena after going to see a game there, as it’s pretty much what a junior hockey rink should be like.
So I began to think about how many of these true junior hockey rinks are left and not just being shared with NHL teams (such as the Scotiabank Saddledome and Rexall Place), have a capacity over 10,000 (sorry FirstOntario Centre, Colisee Pepsi, Scotiabank Centre, SaskTel Centre, Pacific Coliseum and Veterans Memorial Coliseum) or one that’s been open later than 1990. Here’s what I came up with.
OHL: TD Place Arena (Ottawa 67’s – 1967), Peterborough Memorial Centre (Peterborough Petes – 1956), North Bay Memorial Gardens (North Bay Battalion – 1955), Sudbury Community Arena (Sudbury Wolves – 1951), Erie Insurance Arena (Erie Otters – 1983), Kitchener Memorial Auditorium (Kitchener Rangers – 1951), Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre (Owen Sound Attack – 1983), Perani Arena (Flint Firebirds – 1969), Dow Event Centre (Saginaw Spirit – 1972)
QMJHL: Centre Marcel Dionne (Drummondville Voltigeurs – 1963), Robert Guertin Centre (Gatineau Olympiques – 1973), Arena Iamgold (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies – 1951), Palais des Sports (Sherbrooke Phoenix – 1965), Centre Air Creebec (Val-d’Or Foreurs – 1949), Centre Harry Leonard (Baie-Comeau Drakkar – 1970), Centre Georges Vezina (Chicoutimi Sagueneens – 1949), Colisee Rimouski (Rimouski Oceanic – 1966), Colisee Desjardins (Victoriaville Tigres – 1980), Centre 200 (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles – 1987), Moncton Coliseum (Moncton Wildcats – 1973)
WHL: Keystone Centre (Brandon Wheat Kings – 1973), Art Hauser Centre (Prince Albert Raiders – 1971), Brandt Centre (Regina Pats – 1977), Credit Union iPlex (Swift Current Broncos – 1967), ENMAX Centre (Lethbridge Hurricanes – 1974), Medicine Hat Arena (Medicine Hat Tigers – 1970), Toyota Centre (Tri-City Americans – 1988)
So as you can see, there’s still quite a few of the older barns left. If you’re a junior hockey fan like I am, I highly recommend seeing these rinks before they are replaced.
WHL Eastern Conference Predictions
East Division Final: 1) Brandon Wheat Kings vs. 2) Regina Pats: Brandon in four (Regina is gearing up for the future and facing the Wheat Kings will be a good test for them. With that said, Brandon should have little trouble moving on to the next round.)
Central Division Final: 1) Calgary Hitmen vs. 2) Medicine Hat Tigers: Medicine Hat in seven (These two teams went until the end of the season to win the division and I expect this series to go either way. I ended up going with the Tigers just because of how well they preformed in the series with Red Deer and that they got a little bit of rest while Calgary went the distance with Kootenay.)
WHL Western Conference Predictions
BC Division Final: 1) Kelowna Rockets vs. 2) Victoria Royals: Kelowna in four (The Rockets were 800 points (okay that’s probably not right) ahead of the Royals in the regular season, so a long series between the two teams would be a major surprise.)
US Division Final: 1) Everett Silvertips vs. 2) Portland Winterhawks: Portland in six (I still can’t make heads or tails of Everett, especially after that series with Spokane. This will be a pretty good series, but Portland’s high-octane offence will be the difference maker.)
Well that’s it for now. Between these three leagues, the Frozen Four and the NHL playoffs, this should be an epic couple of weeks if you’re a hockey fan.