A pair of Calgary Flames prospects will be chasing major junior championships
Photo credit:Brian Liesse/WHL
By Ryan Pike27 days ago
The playoffs in Canada’s three major junior leagues are motoring along, and the championship series in the Western, Ontario and Quebec Major Junior Hockey Leagues begin this coming weekend. A pair of Calgary Flames prospects will be represented, appearing in two of the three series.
Lucas Ciona’s Seattle Thunderbirds will be chasing a WHL championship, while Cameron Whynot’s Halifax Mooseheads are vying for the QMJHL crown. (Though it’s likely we’ll see more of Ciona than Whynot.)
Ciona, the Flames’ sixth-round pick in 2021, signed an entry-level deal in the fall and has served as Seattle’s captain for this entire season after being one of their alternates last season.
Seemingly drafted for his size and rugged playing style, Ciona had a fantastic 2022 playoffs (with 14 points in 24 games) and helped lead the Thunderbirds to a WHL final berth, though they lost to Edmonton. His strong play carried over into this season, where he had 75 points in 63 games in the regular season and has seven points in 14 playoff games thus far.
The Thunderbirds are, as the kids say, a unit. They were the WHL’s second-best team in the regular season and boast a murderer’s row of NHL prospects – in addition to Ciona, they have Nolan Allan (Chicago), Kevin Korchinski (Chicago), Luke Prokop (Nashville), Colton Dach (Chicago), Jared Davidson (Montreal), Dylan Guenther (Arizona), Jordan Gustafson (Vegas), Brad Lambert (Winnipeg) and Reid Schaefer (Nashville). And a handful of highly-touted 2023 NHL Draft prospects (like Gracyn Sawchyn, Nico Myatovic, Sawyer Mynio and goalies Scott Ratzlaff and Thomas Milic). And Tij Iginla, Jarome’s oldest son, draft-eligible in 2024.
Seattle will face the Winnipeg Ice, the only team to finish ahead of them in the WHL standings. It should be a heck of a series.
Meanwhile, in the QMJHL, the Mooseheads will face off against the Quebec Remparts. Whynot’s status for the series is a bit of a question mark. He’s played just four of Halifax’s 15 playoff games. He broke his foot blocking a shot in early March and returned for Game 3 of Halifax’s series with Moncton. He played the last three games of the Moncton series and Game 2 of their next series with Sherbrooke, but has been absent since then – listed as injury/illness on the QMJHL’s game sheets, but with no word regarding severity or specifics.
Whynot played 48 games for Halifax in the regular season, missing the other 20 due to injury and/or illness. Unfortunately, his rotten injury/illness luck has carried over into the playoffs. It’s unclear if we’ll see any of Whynot in the final series.
The QMJHL final is a mirror of the WHL’s: Halifax, the Q’s second-best regular season team, will face Quebec, the Q’s top regular season team. Like the Seattle/Winnipeg clash, it should be a heck of a series.
The OHL final, featuring zero Flames-affiliated players, pits London against Peterborough.
The three league champions will then head to Kamloops, joining the host Blazers in the 2023 Memorial Cup tournament for the richest prize in major junior hockey.
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