For the first time since 2019, an OHL team will be crowned the champion. Since the Guelph Storm took it all against the Ottawa 67’s there have been many changes in the league and the teams. Here are the matchups in the Eastern Conference and the predictions for the first round.
Bulldogs vs. Petes
The regular-season champion, Hamilton Bulldogs, will face off against the eighth-seeded team, Peterborough Petes. The Bulldogs are the favourites in the first round as they have been the best-performing team in the league throughout the season. A stacked team with five point-per-game players which doesn’t include first-round Anaheim Ducks pick Mason McTavish.
The team is stacked with every part of the team brimming with talent against the top teams in the CHL. It also includes Marco Costantini who had the best performance as a goalie this season. Although, with a team like what Costantini had in front of him it was easy for him to be the best performing goalie of the season.
The Petes have one of the toughest opponents but have some leverage with talented players such as Emmett Sproule and Tucker Robertson. Even so, the team has struggled defensively for the entire year. The Petes’ best goalie, Michael Simpson, has a save percentage of 0.891 and 3.56 goals on average. It doesn’t tell the whole story but against a team who beat the Erie Otters 10-2 in their last match, it will be a struggle to keep the puck out of the net.
Prediction: 4-0 Bulldogs
Battalion vs. 67’s
The North Bay Battalion has been a hot and cold team throughout the season. Thankfully for them, the cold part seems to have finished and they are back into full strength for the playoffs. The 67”s haven’t had a standout season compared to their last full season which got them into the finals against the Storm.
The Battalion has had a lot of success with players like San Jose draft pick Brandon Coe. They also have Edmonton Oilers draft-pick, Matvey Petrov and Barrie native Mitchell Russell. However, not everything will go as it seems. In the season the record for the teams playing against each other is 3-3 with the Battalion having to win the final two to tie up the regular-season series.
On the 67’s side, one player to look out for is Austrian rookie, Vinzenz Rohrer. In a team that doesn’t have a lot of individual points, Rohrer leads them. He has had a huge out-breaking season and will be someone to talk about in the 2023 NHL draft. Despite the Battalion being the better team, the 67’s seem to be a team that will be able to pull the rug out from under your feet if you are not careful.
Prediction: 4-2 Battalion
Frontenacs vs. Generals
In terms of skills, this will probably be the most interesting series in terms of skills. Both teams have the theme of potential in which the Kingston Frontenacs are dealing with future NHL potential and the Oshawa Generals are dealing with the potential for the future of their team.
The Kingston Frontenacs are stacked with offensive power with expected first-overall 2022 draft pick Shane Wright. Although he has had an off-season, he has still had a season that put him at the top of the league. Despite not being considered a rookie, 21-year-old Lucas Edmonds had a strong break-out season with the Frontenacs being the points leader by scoring 34 goals and 79 assists. Despite the possibility of the team losing many of their big names, there has been a lot of potential with Pickering-native rookie, Paul Ludwinski.
The Generals will have a lot of work. Their biggest hope will be to shut down Wright and his lineup to try to squeak out a win. Their goaltending has been strong for a team that has found themselves in the middle of the pack. The winner of the series will go in how the Generals respond to the Frontenacs’ best line. But that may be easier said than done.
Prediction: 4-1 Frontenacs
Steelheads vs. Colts
In terms of equal skill and the rivalry that comes out between these two teams, this will be the most interesting matchup in the east. The Mississauga Steelheads and Barrie Colts have had a big rivalry since the start of the Steelhead’s tenure in the city since their IceDogs days. Now, the Steelheads are looking to finally beat the Colts after their last two matchups in the playoffs resulted in the Colts going forward.
The Steelheads have had one of their best seasons but close to the end had slowed down tremendously. The team was on top of the Eastern Conference and the league for a good few months in the Winter but suddenly all of that changed. The team was struggling to beat teams that it completely defeated earlier and only near the end did they look like a team that figured things out.
The team has had a lot of offensive power with Owen Beck and James Hardie. Not only that they had one of the goalies in the league, Joe Ranger. The team had overpowered every team offensively for most of the season and if they are able to find their stride it will be a challenge for the Colts to handle it.
However, the Colts have had one of the best seasons a fifth-seeded team can have in the OHL. Despite a lot of the focus being on the top seeds the Colts have held their own in a lot of matchups and can easily be a spoiler if they make it past the first round.
Matteo Lalama, although stats don’t back it up much, has been a show-stopper for the Steelheads in the past and Captain and Los Angeles first-round draft pick Brandt Clarke has been a defensive and offensive star for the team the whole year.
Really it depends on what team the Steelheads bring this playoffs. How they played at the beginning of the season? 4-0. How they played near the end? 0-4. How they played at the end? 4-3. The Steelheads hold a lot of power if they know it or not.
Prediction: 4-3 Steelheads
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