The first round of the CHL playoffs continue, with several series already over. I’m happy to report that no Montreal Canadiens prospect was eliminated yet, as they all either won their series or are clinging on in their first-round matchups.
Petrus Palmu continues to dominate, begging the question whether the Montreal Canadiens will make an exception to their current bigger-is-better direction to sign an small, offensively gifted forward.
Ontario Hockey League - Round 1
London Knights vs. Windsor Spitfires (Series tied 3-3)
This is the marquee matchup in the first round for the OHL and for Habs fans as it pits top defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev against another top defensive prospect, Victor Mete. The stat line for these two players is identical at one goal and two assists each.
Should the Knights lose, one can imagine Mete heading over to the St. John’s IceCaps. Should the Spitfires lose, they are still hosting the Memorial Cup, so don’t expect to see Sergachev playing with the pros any time soon.
The real standout of this series, however, has been Jeremiah Addison. Despite earning a two-game suspension for a cross-checking major, he returned for Game Six having not lost a step, scoring a hat trick for the Spirfires in a losing effort. He now has five goals in four games.
Game Seven goes on Tuesday.
Owen Sound Attack vs. Kitchener Rangers (Attack wins 4-1)
The first round matchup was a massacre by Owen Sound, true to their name and grizzly logo. Every game that Owen Sound won was by more than three goals, and it was Petrus Palmu who led the way with six goals and five assists in five games. In addition he registered a ridiculous 34 shots on goalin those five games.
At this point there is very little doubt that Palmu is too strong for the OHL, and he needs to turn towards professional hockey for his next challenge. The Canadiens would be wise to snag this free agent up before the rumours of him playing in the Finnish Liiga next season come true.
Petrus Palmu scored a gorgeous lacrosse goal vs Kitchener Rangers in the OHL Playffs last night... pic.twitter.com/TsaunbeFI5— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) March 30, 2017
And if Palmu’s offence wasn’t enough, there was the goaltending of Michael McNiven to keep the Attack on solid ground. In five starts he has a 1.81 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. He allowed nine goals in these five games, with four of them coming in Game Four. In three of the games he allowed one or less. It’s no wonder he’s been selected as a finalist by the OHL for two awards: best goaltender and most outstanding player.
Hamilton Bulldogs vs. Kingston Frontenacs (Series tied 3-3)
This series has been quite intense. The Bulldogs took the first two games in Kingston, putting the Frontenacs in a big hole headed to Hamilton. But Kingston pulled the trick in Hamilton to even up the series at two wins apiece. Kingston then won the return game in Kingston, and Hamilton stayed alive by winning Game Six at home as well.
Will Bitten has played his usual game, which includes some scoring and some clean hitting. Should the Bulldogs be eliminated it would be interesting to see Bitten play some pro hockey with the IceCaps on an amateur tryout.
The ultimate game will be played on Tuesday in Kingston.
Sudbury Wolves vs. Oshawa Generals (Oshawa is leading 3-2)
Michael Pezzetta is an untamed force who drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2016. He’s already been suspended twice this season for violent conduct, once for four games at the very start of the OHL season for a hit to the head, and again in November for a similar incident that cost him 10 games. Nnot having learned anything from the supplementary discipline, he did the following at the end of Game Five:
Here's the final play. Look at the time remaining. Sanvido takes a huge run at Brassard then Pezzetta cross-checks him in the face pic.twitter.com/ANxXVbCeXM— Generals Live (@GeneralsUpdates) April 1, 2017
This hot-headed gesture earned him a two-game suspension — his third of the year — possibly ending his season.
In the five games that he did play he scored two goals, with 16 shots on goal, and collected 17 minutes in penalties, but his offensive contribution pales when compared to the indiscipline he shows.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League - Round 1
St. John Sea Dogs vs. Rimouski Oceanic (Sea Dogs sweep the series 4-0)
It was a good ol’ fashioned first-round rout for the Sea Dogs, who easily disposed of the Oceanic in four games to advance to the second round. The Sea Dogs were the top team in the Q during the regular season, and continue the dominance into the playoffs.
It was Simon Bourque who sealed the fate of his former team by scoring the series-winning goal in Game Four, breaking a 3-3 tie in the third period to send the Sea Dogs to the next round.
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles vs. Gatineau Olympiques (3-2 for the Screaming Eagles)
What makes this particular series interesting is that it opposes two of the top-five scorers from the Q this past season: Columbus draft pick Vitali Abramov, who finished first in the league with 104 points, and undrafted Giovanni Fiore who finished with 90 points. So far in this series they remain deadlocked at six points apiece, with Abramov’s one goal and five assists and Fiore’s five goals and one assist.
Fiore has remained an offensive force for his team, registering 37 shots in 5 games. Hopefully his resume this season has done enough to convince the Canadiens to take another look at him in the off-season.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs. Halifax Mooseheads (3-2 for the Huskies)
If the Huskies are to advance it will be without Antoine Waked, who suffered an injury in the first game, and has a prognosis of a six-week recovery from his injury, spelling the likely end to his junior career. If we were to understand why the Montreal Canadiens were keeping a close eye on this forward, then the mystery now remains, as more than assuredly Waked will not play again this season as a result of his injury. It remains to be seen if this injury is sufficient to deter the Canadiens from signing the power forward.
Western Hockey League - Round 1
Everett Silvertips vs. Victoria Royals (Silvertips win the series 4-2)
It took five overtime periods, and the longest game in CHL history, but the Everett Silvertips won the series in six games. It was a goal by Noah Juulsen, his first of the playoffs, that sent the game into overtime.
Medicine Hat Tigers vs. Brandon Wheat Kings (Tigers sweep the series 4-0)
The Medicine Hat Tigers made short work of the Wheat Kings. Matt Bradley wasn’t much of a force offensively for the Tigers, and generally didn’t make a convincing argument for getting signed to an entry-level deal by the Canadiens. Hopefully he stands out in the second round.
Calgary Hitmen vs. Regina Pats (Hitmen are swept 4-0)
Michael Zipp, the Calgary captain, saw his Junior career end rather unceremoniously, being swept by the top team in the WHL. Zipp did not help his team offensively, earning no points in the four games. As a stay-at-home defenceman he was charged with keeping the top Pats at bay, but ultimately could not contain the most potent offence in the league.
Will Zipp’s professional career start in the Canadiens organization? He didn’t really impress all that much at development camp and the rookie tournament, but perhaps the Habs have seen enough development to bring him back for another look.
Listen to Andrew weekly on TSN 690 Radio Sundays at 8:05am on Habs Breakfast, part of Weekend Game Plan.