(A quick note from yours truly. I’m posting this on Sunday with all of the playoff series now underway. As such, some of these picks (shoutout to Brandon and Edmonton) are wrong already. However, I decided to keep them in so that this post would be true to when I made the picks, and to laugh at them later on.)
Tuesday’s Tiebreaker game in the Western Hockey League more or less summed up the junior hockey season thus far. We’ve had storied franchises miss out on the post-season, perennial doormats rise from the ashes, and whatever the heck is going on in Flint.
So with the playoffs set to go, it’s time for my annual look back and look ahead for the three branches of the CHL. As always, let’s start things off with the Ontario Hockey League.
Guelph Storm (13-49-4-2 – 5th in Midwest Division/10th in Western Conference – Eliminated on February 28th)
What I Predicted: I would be stunned to see Robby Fabbri and Justin Nichols stay all year with the Storm as the squad needs to rebuild and quickly.
What Actually Happened: Fabbri ended up making the St. Louis Blues and Nichols was finally dealt to Oshawa, but the season was a hot mess without them. Head Coach Bill Stewart left the team early on and the Storm were well out of the playoff mix before the season was even half old.
What Lies Ahead: Quite a lot actually. For starters, the Storm will have the number one pick in the OHL Draft next month, with defencemen Ryan Merkley and Bode Wilde both in the running as being the first overall selection. General Manager Mike Kelly and Head Coach Jarrod Skalde (who came on board around Christmas time) are both expected to be back but there’s still a lot of holes to fill, especially in goal. Plus, the Storm are in negations over their lease at the Sleeman Centre so that could be fun.
Sudbury Wolves (16-46-5-1 – 5th in OHL Central/10th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated on February 28th)
What I Predicted: It can’t go much worse for Sudbury after their struggles last year, but things are looking up for them.
What Actually Happened: Well I was sort of right as they were not the worst team in the league, but they were nowhere near challenging for a playoff spot like I expected. There were nights where they competed but more often than not they were blown out of the water.
What Lies Ahead: The Wolves have a bevy of young players coming into the team next year and with David Levin, Michael Pezzetta and Dmitry Sokolov all coming back they may actually be able to get into that playoff mix. Either way, I expect Kyle Capobianco to be one of the biggest names on the market during the trade deadline.
Flint Firebirds (20-42-4-2 – 5th in West Division/9th in Western Conference – Eliminated on March 12th)
What I Predicted: After getting a billion draft picks for Ryan McLeod, Flint is a team that’s working towards contending in the long-term.
What Actually Happened: A legit tire fire. John Gruden was fired, hired, then fired again as head coach, the league had to take over operations of the club and the city of Flint itself has a water crisis. This was far from your typical expansion season.
What Lies Ahead: Who the heck knows on the ownership side of things so let’s look at the team itself. They will have two top five picks on draft day, which is nice, but who knows how many of those kids will want to report to Flint? Guys like Will Bitten and Vili Saarijarvi are nice pieces to build around, but if the toxic atmosphere around the team is still there how long will they stick around? Personally, they should just move the team to Belleville and bring back the Bulls.
Hamilton Bulldogs (25-35-8-0 – 5th in East Division/9th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated on March 18th)
What I Predicted: I might be slightly early on the Bulldogs hype train but with some good young players and guys that can break out, they may surprise some this season.
What Actually Happened: The exact opposite of that. Injuries to players like Justin Lemcke and Brandon Saigeon didn’t help matters and the expected improvement didn’t happen. I’m sure the people of Belleville didn’t mind though to see the Bulldogs struggle.
What Lies Ahead: A new look for the team to resemble the colours of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is the main difference for the next year and the growth of one of the youngest squads in the league will be interesting to watch, especially with Matthew Strome. If there’s more struggles though, expect major changes.
You may be wondering why I have a photo of the 1991-92 Guelph Storm in this blog post. Well up until this year, this marked the last time that the Storm had failed to make the OHL playoffs.
The Storm’s 23 year streak of making the post-season was the longest active streak in the OHL prior to this season, and it was one of a number of long runs that came to an end this year. In fact, three double-digit streaks came to an end in the Western Hockey League as the Kootenay Ice (17 seasons), Medicine Hat Tigers (13 seasons) and the Tri-City Americans (12 seasons) all missed the playoffs.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Lethbridge Hurricanes ended the longest active playoff futility streak in the CHL as they returned to the post-season for the first time in six years. Another WHL team, the Moose Jaw Warriors, are also back in the playoffs this year after three seasons away.
So who are the longest streaks now for making the playoffs and being on the outside looking in? Well in terms of playoffs appearances, the London Knights now lead the OHL with 16 straight playoff trips while the new WHL leaders are the Everett Silvertips as they have made the playoffs in all 13 years of existence. They are nowhere close to catching the QMJHL leaders though as the Gatineau Olympiques have now made the playoffs for 32 straight years.
As for playoff futility, the Saskatoon Blades lead the way as they have now missed the playoffs for three straight years. The Flint Firebirds, Sudbury Wolves and Vancouver Giants are all behind the Blades after missing the postseason for a second straight season.
OHL Eastern Conference Predictions
1) Kingston Frontenacs vs. 8) Oshawa Generals
Last Playoff Meeting: 2011 (Oshawa won 4-1 in the East Quarter-Finals – Kingston last beat Oshawa 4-3 in the 1998 East Quarter-Finals in what is the team’s last playoff series win to date)
Season Series: Kingston 7-1
Prediction: Kingston in 4 (I feel like I’m tempting fate here by actually picking Kingston to win a playoff round but they are far better than Oshawa in this matchup. The tougher challenges for this star-crossed team lies ahead.)
2) Barrie Colts vs. 7) Mississauga Steelheads
Last Playoff Meeting: 2012 (Barrie won 4-1 in the East Quarter-Finals – Mississauga last beat Barrie 4-1 in the 2009 East Quarter-Finals)
Season Series: Barrie 5-1
Prediction: Barrie in 5 (Mississauga is much a different team than in years past and their weapons might give Barrie some trouble, however the Colts have been here before and should be able to get into the next round with ease.
3) North Bay Battalion vs. 6) Peterborough Petes
Last Playoff Meeting: 2009 (Brampton won 4-0 in the East Quarter-Finals in what is the only playoff meeting with these two teams so far. Just for the heck of it, and because I love them, the North Bay Centennials won their two playoff meetings with the Petes. They swept them in the first round back in 1991 and won a OHL semifinal series in five games a year later.)
Season Series: Split 2-2
Prediction: North Bay in 5 (This has the potential to go longer but the fact that North Bay has been to the league final and the conference final over the last two years should allow them to win this one with ease.)
4) Niagara IceDogs vs. 5) Ottawa 67’s
Last Playoff Meeting: 2015 (Niagara won 4-2 in the East Quarter-Finals – Ottawa last beat Niagara 4-1 in the 2010 East Quarter-Finals)
Season Series: Niagara 3-1
Prediction: Niagara in 5 (Seeing that I had Niagara winning the Eastern Conference this year, I can’t pick against them here. Ottawa’s done a good job after trading Travis Konecny but Niagara has too much depth in this matchup.)
OHL Western Conference Predictions
1) Erie Otters vs. 8) Saginaw Spirit
Last Playoff Meeting: 2014 (Erie won 4-1 in the West Quarter-Finals in the only playoff meeting with the two teams so far.)
Season Series: Split 2-2
Prediction: Erie in 4 (The fact that Saginaw split the season series with Erie is interesting but with how dominant the Otters have been in general this year, I don’t see this one lasting very long.)
2) Sarnia Sting vs. 7) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Last Playoff Meeting: 1996 (Sarnia won 4-0 in the first round in the only playoff matchup so far between the two teams)
Season Series: Sarnia 5-1
Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in 6 (Here comes the hometown bias pick, but hear me out on this one. Yes the Greyhounds aren’t as good as they were last year and the Sting are much stronger with the moves they made, but this is the matchup the Greyhounds wanted. They avoid the Erie and London juggernauts (for now), they’ve been strong on the road as of late and they matchup quite well with the Sting in my opinion. I might be crazy, but I think there’s a good chance of an upset here.)
3) London Knights vs. 6) Owen Sound Attack
Last Playoff Meeting: 2011 (Owen Sound won 4-2 in the West Quarter-Finals – London last beat Owen Sound 4-0 in the 2007 West Quarter-Finals)
Season Series: London 4-2
Prediction: London in 4 (Owen Sound’s a team that will keep you honest and they might take a game from London but I just find it hard to imagine the Mitch Marner and Friends road show coming to an end in the first round.)
4) Kitchener Rangers vs. 5) Windsor Spitfires
Last Playoff Meeting: 2010 (Windsor won 4-3 in the West Final as they erased a 3-0 deficit in the series on their way to a second straight Memorial Cup Title. – Kitchener last beat Windsor 4-3 in 1992 in the first round)
Season Series: Windsor 3-1
Prediction: Kitchener in 6 (This is one of those series that can go either way and it might be the best opening round matchup in the CHL. I think having home ice advantage will be a huge boost to Kitchener, but it will be close.)
So with the OHL done, let’s move on to the QMJHL where only two teams missed the playoffs.
Baie-Comeau Drakkar (14-49-2-3 – 6th in East Division/18th in QMJHL – Eliminated on February 20th)
What I Predicted: After two heartbreaking playoffs losses to Val-d’Or in consecutive seasons, I’m expecting quite a drop-off from Baie-Comeau this year.
What Actually Happened: The drop-off happened and it was massive as Marco Pietroniro was fired as head coach after just eight wins in 55 games. There wasn’t much to be found in the positivity department for the team this year.
What Lies Ahead: Baie-Comeau will be in the draft lottery with Halifax in the next few weeks to get the first overall pick in the 2016 QMJHL Draft, with defenceman Jared McIsaac and Benoit Olivier-Giroux among the top prospects. In fact, the Drakkar have four of the top 20 picks in this year’s draft so they have a chance of turning things around pretty quickly. The first thing on the agenda though is to find a new bench boss.
Halifax Mooseheads (21-39-7-1 – 6th in Maritimes Division/17th in QMJHL – Eliminated on March 11th)
What I Predicted: With Nikolaj Ehlers more than likely going to the NHL this year, the Mooseheads look ready to rebuild and may deal Timo Meier at the deadline.
What Actually Happened: Well Meier got dealt to Rouyn-Noranda and the Mooseheads strong run of teams that made them one of the top teams in the entire QMJHL came to an end as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
What Lies Ahead: Like Baie-Comeau, Halifax has a number of high picks in the draft that will help them rebuild. They have some good talent returning up front in Arnaud Durandeau, Maxime Fortier and Otto Somppi that should allow them to return to the playoffs with ease.
It might be strange to say that the top ranked team in the CHL Top 10 is underrated, but I feel that way about the top-ranked Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, especially since none of their games were televised nationally on Sportsnet during the regular season.
Prior to the start of the season, I was really tempted to pick the Huskies in the final but ended picking Saint John to beat Val-d’Or instead. I had no idea that the Huskies would be this good though. They’ve run through the league with a .831 winning percentage, which is the best since Halifax went on to win the Memorial Cup in 2013 and they enter the playoffs on a 14 game win streak.
Their depth is really strong also. I’ve mentioned Timo Meier earlier but the Huskies also have Francis Perron, Jean-Christophe Beaudin, Martins Dzierkals, Julien Nantel and AJ Greer who can damage up front, along with their high scoring defencemen Nikolas Brouillard and Jeremy Lauzon.
The Huskies have only been to the QMJHL final once as they lost in 2008 to Gatineau but it would be a massive surprise if they didn’t make it there this year, unless they face Val-d’Or in the semis where all heck could break loose.
QMJHL Playoff Predictions
1) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs. 16) Drummondville Voltigeurs
Last Playoff Meeting: 2013 (Rouyn-Noranda won 4-1 in the first round. They also won 4-3 in the quarter-finals in 2007 in their only other playoff meeting)
Season Series: Rouyn-Noranda 4-2
Prediction: Rouyn-Noranda in 4 (Poor Drummondville. Their reward for making the playoffs is to be a lamb to the slaughter against the Huskies. This one might not be close.)
2) Shawinigan Cataractes vs. 15) Sherbrooke Phoenix
Last Playoff Meeting: N/A
Season Series: Shawinigan 4-1
Prediction: Shawinigan in 4 (Okay granted Shawinigan has been an interesting team to watch as of late, including firing their coach in the last few weeks, but Sherbrooke has been a super underwhelming squad this year. They might steal a game or two if everything’s clicking but I’m not sure they have enough to pull off a stunner.)
3) Saint John Sea Dogs vs. 14) Acadie-Bathurst Titan
Last Playoff Meeting: 2007 (Saint John won 4-2 in the Quarter-Final in their only playoff meeting so far.)
Season Series: Saint John 6-3
Prediction: Saint John in 4 (After a slow start, the Sea Dogs really turned things around in the second half. With the mix of youth and experience they have, it might be too much for the Titan to handle.)
4) Val-d’Or Foreurs vs. 13) Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Last Playoff Meeting: 2013 (Blainville-Boisbriand won 4-0 in the Quarter-Finals in their only meeting to date.)
Season Series: Val-d’Or 5-1
Prediction: Val-d’Or in 4 (Like Rouyn-Noranada, Val-d’Or has one of the best offences in the entire country. Expect a few high scoring contests in this series.)
5) Gatineau Olympiques vs. 12) Quebec Remparts
Last Playoff Meeting: 2010 (Gatineau won 4-3 in the Semifinals. The Olympiques also won 4-1 in the 2008 Quarter-Finals in the other playoff meeting between the two sides.)
Season Series: Gatineau 3-1
Prediction: Gatineau in 5 (Like Kingston in the OHL, I was way off base with my pre-season thoughts on Gatineau. Quebec will give them a bit of a challenge but the Olympiques should be fine in the end.)
6) Moncton Wildcats vs. 11) Victoriaville Tigres
Last Playoff Meeting: 2013 (Victoriaville won 4-1 in the First Round – Moncton last beat Victoriaville 4-1 in the 2006 First Round)
Season Series: Split 1-1
Prediction: Moncton in 5 (Victoriaville have a number of good players but it’s hard for me to go against a team that has the QMJHL’s leading scorer in Conor Garland.)
7) Cape Breton Screaming Eagles vs. 10) Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Last Playoff Meeting: 2004 (Chicoutimi won 4-1 in the Quarter-Finals – Cape Breton last beat Chicoutimi 4-3 in the 2001 First Round.)
Season Series: Split 1-1
Prediction: Cape Breton in 5 (This might actually be a pretty even matchup but with the number of strong offensive players that Cape Breton has, I think that will give them an advantage.)
8) Rimouski Oceanic vs. 9) Charlottetown Islanders
Last Playoff Meeting: N/A
Season Series: Split 1-1
Prediction: Charlottetown in 6 (With Daniel Sprong returning from the Pittsburgh Penguins midway through the season, Charlottetown has been much improved. Although I’m picking an upset, don’t expect the defending champions to go quietly into the night.)
To round things out we have the WHL, with six teams that are headed to the golf course early, including one that lost a tiebreaker game for the final playoff spot.
Kootenay Ice (12-53-6-1 – 6th in Central Division/12th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated on February 20th)
What I Predicted: Things are looking pretty dire for the Ice and they might be the worse team in the league.
What Actually Happened: Early injuries to their key players didn’t help matters at all and the Ice were well out of the mix early as they missed the playoffs for the first time since they moved from Edmonton.
What Lies Ahead: Despite low attendance numbers, the team appears to be staying in Cranbrook for one more year. The Ice have won the rights to the top pick in the Bantam Draft and have a number of strong players to choose from with forwards Kirby Dach and Peyton Krebs joined by defenceman Bowen Byram among the top prospects available. They won’t be with the Ice until the 2017-18 season though and it looks like it will be another rough campaign for them next year.
Vancouver Giants (23-40-5-4 – 5th in BC Division/10th in Western Conference – Eliminated on March 2nd)
What I Predicted: The Giants will be without Tyler Benson for the start of the season but they should still have enough to make the playoffs as he won’t be out for long.
What Actually Happened: Benson ended up missing a ton of time this year with injuries, which sort of summed up the year for Vancouver as they missed the playoffs for the second straight year. Lorne Molleken was fired as head coach which means the Giants will have their fifth different bench boss in the last four years, with Mike Johnston widely expected to take over the general manager and head coach roles at the moment.
What Lies Ahead: The Giants may find themselves in a new home next fall as rumours continue to swirl that the club is headed to Langley or possibly Abbotsford. There’s a lot of good young talent on the team, and if Benson can actually stay healthy, a playoff spot isn’t out of the question for the 2016-17 season.
Saskatoon Blades (26-42-4-0 – 6th in East Division/11th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated on March 11th)
What I Predicted: I think the Blades are one year away from being a legit playoff contender after a couple of bad seasons.
What Actually Happened: I still feel that way after this season. The Blades showed signs of improvement throughout the 2015-16 campaign but their will still nights where they would get roughed up by the top teams in the WHL.
What Lies Ahead: Since they aren’t trading their draft picks anymore it seems, the Blades actually have some exciting young talent on the horizon. There will be some growing pains for sure, but a chance at a wild card spot doesn’t seem to be a crazy suggestion for next season.
Swift Current Broncos (24-38-7-3 – 5th in East Division/10th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated on March 13th)
What I Predicted: After struggling just to make the playoffs a year ago, the Broncos look set to start a rebuild. It could be a long winter in Speedy Creek.
What Actually Happened: Although the Broncos did deal away Jake DeBrusk and Landon Bow, the season wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Jon Martin had a breakout campaign after being traded from Kootenay and earned a NHL contract with San Jose, the younger players stepped up their game after the deadline and if it wasn’t for some injuries they could have made the playoffs.
What Lies Ahead: This is an interesting team. With a decent looking defence, goaltender Taz Burman having a strong half-season after coming over from Seattle and some young forwards, the Broncos may be able to contend for a wild card spot. Like the Blades though, it will be tough especially in what could be a very good East Division next year.
Medicine Hat Tigers (30-37-3-2 – 4th in Central Division/9th in Eastern Conference – Eliminated on March 22nd after a 6-4 loss to Edmonton in a Tiebreaker)
What I Predicted: Although the move away from the Medicine Hat Arena will take some getting used to, the Tigers will once again have a solid team.
What Actually Happened: A slow start and injury issues led to a shake-up as top scorers Trevor Cox and Cole Sanford were both traded away. They were 12 points out of the playoffs before a dramatic late season that brought them into a tiebreaker game with Edmonton at home, but they just missed out on completing the comeback.
What Lies Ahead: The Tigers forwards look pretty decent for the future with Max Gerlach and Mason Shaw coming back and sniper Gary Haden playing full-time next year after he was acquired from Regina. The defence and goaltending will have a different look to it but with some of the top teams in the Central dropping off a bit, Medicine Hat should return to the playoffs once again.
Tri-City Americans (35-24-2-1 – 5th in US Division/9th in Western Conference – Eliminated on March 18th)
What I Predicted: This isn’t a roster that looks exciting on paper but Tri-City has a pretty solid squad.
What Actually Happened: It was a pretty decent year for the Americans and they were able to bounce back after a slow start. In the end though, only a scant two points kept Tri-City out of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
What Lies Ahead: Parker Bowles and Brandon Carlo are both moving on and those will be tough holes to fill. At the same time Evan Sarthou and Parker Wotherspoon might be two of the biggest assets on the trade market next January if the Americans are in trouble. With all that said, younger players like Michael Rasmussen, Jusso Valimaki and incoming prospect Carson Focht might allow Tri-City to return to the playoffs.
As the Red Deer Rebels begin their quest to a win a Memorial Cup on home ice, they will do so without veteran forward Conner Bleackley as he’s out for the playoffs after undergoing wrist surgery.
It’s been a star-crossed season for the High River, Alberta native, who had 46 points in 55 games. He was removed ast the Rebels captain in October in favour of Wyatt Johnson, missed a few weeks with a kneecap injury and has his NHL rights dealt to the Arizona Coyotes by the Colorado Avalanche, who took him in the first round in 2014. It’s expected that the Coyotes won’t sign him and he’ll go back into the NHL draft.
It’s a rare occurrence that a first round pick doesn’t get signed by his NHL team, and especially one from the CHL. The most recent example I could find was Philippe Paradis, who was drafted 27th overall by Carolina in 2009 from Shawinigan and had rights dealt to Toronto for Jiri Tlusty a few months later with the Maple Leafs then signing him to a contract. At this point, Paradis has yet to make it to the NHL and is now with the Syracuse Crunch.
The same thing happened to Angelo Esposito, who was thought at one time to be the top pick in the 2007 NHL Draft while he was playing with Quebec. He ended up getting picked 20th overall by Pittsburgh but was dealt to Atlanta for Marian Hossa at the 2008 trade deadline. The Thrashers signed him that summer, but he never played in the NHL and is now playing in Italy.
You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find a junior player who was taken in the first round and went back into the draft two years later. Hull Olympiques import defenceman Martin Vagner was taken 26th overall by Dallas that year but was not signed. He was then taken in the 9th round two years by Carolina but ended up going back to Europe and never played in the NHL. Here’s hoping Bleackley’s future turns out better than that.
WHL East Division Predictions
1) Brandon Wheat Kings vs. Wild Card 2) Edmonton Oil Kings
Last Playoff Meeting: 2015 (Brandon won 4-1 in the East Quarter-Finals – Edmonton last beat Brandon 4-1 in the 2014 East Semifinals)
Season Series: Edmonton 3-1
Prediction: Brandon in 4 (Edmonton barely got into the playoffs through the tiebreaker game while Brandon has been destroying everything in their path as of late. This one might not be close.)
2) Prince Albert Raiders vs. 3) Moose Jaw Warriors
Last Playoff Meeting: 1999 (Prince Albert won 4-1 in the East Semifinals. – Prince Albert also won 4-0 in the East Quarter-Finals back in 1992. – The two clubs also played in East Division playoff round-robin in 1986. Prince Albert and Moose Jaw both advanced to the quarter-finals with 9-1 and 4-6 records respectively.)
Season Series: Moose Jaw 6-2
Prediction: Moose Jaw in 6 (Prince Albert is a hard-working team that doesn’t quit but Moose Jaw has arguably the best one-two tandem on offence in the entire league with Dryden Hunt and Brayden Point. There’s no one on Prince Albert that can match that and that might make the difference.
WHL Central Division Predictions
1) Lethbridge Hurricanes vs. Wild Card 1) Regina Pats
Last Playoff Meeting: 1996 (Regina won 4-0 in the East Quarter-Finals – The Pats won the only other playoff meeting between the two teams 3-1 in the 1993 East Quarter-Finals)
Season Series: Regina 3-1
Playoff Prediction: Lethbridge in 6 (This is quite an interesting matchup, and not just because Regina won a wild 9-8 affair a month ago. With leading scorer Adam Brooks, overage sniper Cole Sanford and draft eligible forward Sam Steel, the Pats have a number of offensive weapons that can find the back of the net. However, the Hurricanes have been expected to fall back to the earth all year long and it would be foolish to bet against them now.)
2) Red Deer Rebels vs. 3) Calgary Hitmen
Last Playoff Meeting: 2013 (Calgary won 4-1 in the East Semifinals – Red Deer last beat Calgary 4-3 in the 2004 East Quarter-Finals)
Season Series: Calgary 4-3
Prediction: Red Deer in 7 (This one’s a toss-up, especially as Red Deer is still without starting netminder Rylan Toth who is out with a high ankle sprain. With that said, I think the additions the Rebels made ahead of this year’s Memorial Cup will allow them to get through in the end. At any rate, this series has to go at least six games so that the Hitmen can host two games at the old Stampede Corral.
WHL BC Division Predictions
1) Victoria Royals vs. Wild Card 2) Spokane Chiefs
Last Playoff Meeting: 2014 (Victoria won 4-0 in the West Quarter-Finals in their own postseason meeting to date – Spokane won 4-1 over the Chilliwack Chiefs in the 2011 West Quarter-Finals. The Chiefs moved to Victoria after the season.)
Season Series: Split 2-2
Prediction: Victoria in 4 (Spokane does have some nice weapons but they are coming off of a long injury crisis. With the speed that Victoria possesses, it might be a rough go for the Chiefs.)
2) Kelowna Rockets vs. 3) Kamloops Blazers
Last Playoff Meeting: 2013 (Kamloops won 4-0 in the West Semifinals – Kelowna last beat Kamloops 4-0 in the 2009 West Quarter-Finals)
Season Series: Kelowna 5-3
Prediction: Kelowna in 6 (With Nick Merkley and Jackson Whistle both out with injuries and the Blazers possessing one of the best goalies in the WHL in Connor Ingram, there’s actually a good chance that Kamloops can pull off the upset. However, with all the experience that Kelowna has, I think they should be able to pull this one out.)
WHL US Division Predictions
1) Seattle Thunderbirds vs. Wild Card 1) Prince George Cougars
Last Playoff Meeting: 2003 (Seattle won 4-1 in the West Quarter-Finals – Prince George last beat Seattle 3-0 in the 2000 West Semifinal)
Season Series: Split 2-2
Prediction: Seattle in 5 (If Prince George is back to their form from earlier this season they might give Seattle a scare. If that isn’t the case, I think Seattle will advance with ease.)
2) Everett Silvertips vs. 3) Portland Winterhawks
Last Playoff Meeting: 2015 (Portland won 4-1 in the West Semifinals – Everett last beat Portland 4-3 in the 2005 West Quarter-Finals)
Season Series: Split 5-5
Prediction: Everett in 5 (The biggest question mark before this series begins is the status of Silvertips goaltender Carter Hart who is out with a lower body injury. With that said, Portland has been so hit or miss this year that it might not make a major difference.)