Hockey is slowly winding down across all levels of the sport. NHL teams have around 10 or 12 games left on the schedule, same with AHL and ECHL teams. NCAA teams are dropping like flies, and many will have their Frozen Four fates decided soon.
By about 4 or 5 p.m., we’ll also know the playoff fates of the Flames’ CHL prospects. Here’s a quick summary on how they’re looking so far, and what we can expect from them in the next hectic few weeks.
I always do this alphabetically, but Bruce also happens to be the easiest to get out of the way because his team is barely clinging to playoff life. The seventh round pick from 2015 saw his North Bay Battalion finish ninth out of 10 in their conference, and third last in the entire OHL. They did not have a good season, and yet are still in contention for the eighth spot in the conference. If they win today and the Niagara Icedogs lose, they will play a tiebreaker game against the Icedogs on Tuesday.
But regardless if whether or not North Bay makes the playoffs, it is unlikely Bruce would suit up. He’s been held out since mid-January with a shoulder injury as a result of a fight. The Troops also lost other first pairing defender Cam Dineen two weeks earlier, so that was kind of the beginning of the end for the team. Even if they make the show, they’ll face first seed Peterborough, who swept the Battalion in regular season play.
Injured or away on international duty for the first few parts of the season, Dube resumed his role as a strong two-way player for the Kelowna Rockets and provided an offensive jolt for the team. A Flames second round pick from the most recent draft, Dube has been turning it up in the weeks leading up to the playoffs with gaudy numbers, once scoring 10 points in four games. He’s also only playing second line minutes, by the way.
The Rockets will face the Kamloops Blazers in the first round, after tragically losing their division last night by a single point to the Prince George Cougars. The two neighbours/rivals met frequently in the regular season, splitting the season series 5-5 in a number of high scoring games. Should be a fun series.
The defending Memorial Cup champ will face a tougher road to the title this time around. Despite his league-best goaltending – first in SV% for goalies above 600 minutes played – the Knights find themselves jockeying for position in a tough Western conference.
The Knights are likely going to be the fourth seed, which will be determined by today’s matinee games. Their competitors for the third seed, Owen Sound, face the second worst team in the league needing only one point. London draws against the division champion Soo Greyhounds. They’d probably rather face the sixth seed Kitchener Rangers, whom the Knights swept, than the fifth seed Windsor Spitfires, a team they split the season series with 3-3.
The pint-sized sixth rounder pretty much single-handedly dragged the Victoria Royals to the playoffs, finishing in the second wild card spot (although they didn’t face much competition on the way – the ninth seed is currently 18 points behind the Royals). Leading his team in goals with 50, and tied for third in the category league wide, Phillips was an offensive dynamo that could rarely be stopped.
Unfortunately for Phillips, he will have to face the Everett Silvertips, one of the WHL’s best teams with the WHL’s best goalie. The Tips swept the Royals in the regular season, including two wins in the final two games of the season. Try he might, but this might be a team too mighty for Phillips to conquer. If it’s any consolation, it means that Stockton can ATO him for a few games at the end of the season.
And now for the flip side.
The big Finn, also a sixth round selection from last year’s draft, was mostly an accessory part for the dominant Silvertips. The team was stacked from top to bottom, and with an injury holding him out for the first few games of the year, Eetu was resigned to third line minutes and PP2 usage. He thrived at parts in the seasons, and struggled during others.
You pretty much got all you needed to know about Everett-Victoria above, except for Eetu. Personally, I think he could be in a Cliff Pu type situation: buried during the regular season, primed to go nuts in the postseason, take the reins next year. I’m optimistic. Everything is possible in this life.