The Hamilton Bulldogs have been one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference for the past few months. In the last few days, they have been able to beat out strong rivals such as the Mississauga Steelheads. But what makes this team so special this year and although they are only fourth in the East, they could be the favorites come April.
If you heard that Anaheim Ducks‘ first-round pick Mason McTavish was on the Bulldogs, there would be no doubt that he would be a major player to the team’s success. The problem is that he has only played three games so far this season with the Bulldogs.
McTavish started his season with the Peterborough Petes and was traded to the Bulldogs in January. He got the opportunity of a lifetime when he was called up to the National Men’s Hockey Team for the Winter Olympics. He left for the Olympics and hasn’t played for the Bulldogs since.
However, even with the little sample size of games played he has shown to be a producer for the team. McTavish currently sits at a goal-per-game and four assists.
The Bulldogs are a dominant team and to see what is probably their best player not be an asset in their success so far means that the team has more opportunity to improve with yet another great player on the team.
The core of the Bulldogs has been showing up for almost every match they’ve had so far. With most of the early-season injuries that were holding the team back finished, they have been flying out of the gate.
Points leader Logan Morrison is on his third season with the Bulldogs and is on a season-high 55 points. The assistant captain of the team sits with 10 more points than his previous record in the 19-20 season that was canceled because of Covid-19. He will be trying to get out of the first round for the first time in his OHL career when the last time he played against the 2018-19 Ottawa 67’s "dream team" that dominated the playoffs until their abrupt defeat in the finals.
Avery Hayes is also having a huge year with the team as the scoring leader of the team. With 27 goals in 40 games, the Westland, Michigan native has scored at least one goal in more than half of the games he has played and one hat trick. Montreal Canadiens draft-pick Jan Mysak has one less goal than his older counterpart but has racked up 46 points so far this season. Amazingly, the Czechia import has only four minutes of penalty minutes which is much less than his counterparts.
The Hamilton defense has been another powerhouse for the team. They have shown up against offensively strong teams like the Steelheads who rarely get outshot by opponents at all but were kept to only two shots in a period a few weeks ago or shutting them out which is a rarity for the fish-themed team.
With players such as Nathan Staios, Gavin White, and Canadiens draft pick Arber Xhekaj, they have been one of the better defensive teams in the league and with a strong offense, it’s sometimes hard to find the appreciation these players should get for the work they have been doing.
The Eastern Conference has strong contenders. The Steelheads are currently 3-3 with the team in a season where they will only play conference teams. Although they haven’t won at all against the North Bay Battalion this season, there is another team that makes the Bulldogs struggle and adapt almost every time they met this season.
Their division rivals Kingston Frontenacs has a 3-2 winning record against the Bulldogs. A team with first-round pick Shane Wright would make anyone struggle, especially since it looks like his game is coming back to normal. The division rivals recently took third place from the Bulldogs and delivered some of their rare losses in 2022. It wouldn’t be a surprise that the Eastern Conference Finals will have both teams battling it out in one of the best matches of the playoffs.
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