The CHL playoffs continue this weekend, with second round action on tap. In the OHL, an import forward and one of the most dynamic players in the league go head-to-head. The QMJHL matchup features two international players with rare hockey backgrounds in an interesting look at teams putting the pieces together. Meanwhile, in the WHL, a slumping power forward is hoping to put a few past an underrated goaltender playing behind a powerful offense. Finally, the USHL playoffs continue as two rivals an interstate apart clash for the first time in four years.
Tobias Lindberg (Oshawa) vs. Josh Ho-Sang (Niagara) – OHL
The Oshawa Generals have been on a tear this season, and as the scene shifts to Niagara, a pivotal moment arrives as the Generals took an easy 2-0 series lead. Oshawa boasts five players with at least four goals already, and a Swedish import has been a big part of their attack. The IceDogs counter with one of the most polarizing players working to dissuade his critics.
In what is proving to be a difficult task, closing time and space on Tobias Lindberg is a rare occurrence. The Stockholm, Sweden native entered the OHL this season and the transition didn’t take long. The Ottawa Senators prospect scored 32 goals and 46 assists in the regular season, blending his size, speed, and smart puck possession skills into a package that opponents have not been able to counter. In the playoffs, Lindberg kicked off Game One against Peterborough with a hat trick and one assist, and the Generals went on to win the series four games to one. Lindberg’s offensive skills, combined with his mobility, makes him a difficult player to contain and one to watch as Oshawa tries to finish the series against Niagara.
One player that has heard it all in regards to his game is Josh Ho-Sang. Critics have talked about his game, mentioning that he’s dynamic with the puck but rarely uses his teammates. Well, it’s not the fairest of assumptions, but from looking at his statistics this season, Ho-Sang has no problems distributing the puck. In 60 regular season games, Ho-Sang scored 17 goals and added 64 assists splitting time between the Windsor Spitfires and the Niagara IceDogs. The New York Islanders prospect has used his speed and vision to create numerous chances in the playoffs, adding one goal and 11 assists through eight games.
Dmytro Timashov (Quebec) vs. Daniel Sprong (Charlottetown) – QMJHL
The Quebec Remparts high-powered offense strolled ahead to a 2-0 series lead thanks in part to a 2015 draft-eligible creative import forward. Charlottetown has looked to veterans to carry play, but the Islanders need a draft-eligible forward of their own to step up if they wish to prevent a sweep.
Originally born in the Ukraine, Dmytro Timashov moved to Sweden at a young age. Timashov played on Djurgarden and MODO’s junior teams, including a short stint in the SHL with MODO’s senior team. He made the move to Quebec this season, where his explosive skating stride and creative playmaking ability resulted in 19 goals and 71 assists. Timashov was named the QMJHL Rookie of the Year, 12 points clear from the next rookie behind him. With Quebec, Timashov elevated those around him, no more so than Adam Erne (TBL), who churned out a career-high 41-goal season. In the playoffs, Timashov leads the Remparts in scoring with three goals and nine assists.
Like Timashov, Daniel Sprong has taken a different route to the QMJHL. Originally born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sprong has risen up draft charts thanks to his shifty stride and dangerous ability with the puck. Sprong led the Charlottetown Islanders in regular season scoring with 39 goals and 49 assists, a 20-point improvement from his rookie season. Sprong has become a fan favorite due to his wizardry with the puck, but questions over his defensive acumen and work ethic tailed him in the playoffs. There, Sprong has four goals and four assists in eight games, but will need to step up against tougher competition if the Islanders are going to continue in the playoffs.
Nikita Scherbak (Everett) vs. Adin Hill (Portland) – WHL
The perennial powerhouse Portland Winterhawks ran into a challenge early in the playoffs when the Seattle Thunderbirds took them to six games. It hasn’t been any easier in the second round, as a feisty Everett Silvertips forward has given them fits. Portland’s offense generally is the talking point, but their goaltender has often kept them afloat.
Montreal Canadiens prospect Niktia Scherbak has the hands and agility to sneak past defenders with ease, but it’s his ability to go through them that has positioned Everett squarely in the playoff race. Blending a nice package of size, strength, and speed, Scherbak put together a quietly successful regular season with 27 goals and 55 assists. In the playoffs, his production has slowed a little bit with only five points in eight games. The Silvertips need Scherbak to return to his regular scoring pace if they stand any chance of getting past Portland.
The Portland Winterhawks boast a deep, scoring-laden lineup with regulars like WHL scoring champion Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ), Paul Bittner (2015) and Winnipeg’s pair of Nic Petan and Chase De Leo. But few people are talking about goaltender Adin Hill (2015), who is ranked fourth among all North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting. In his first full season of competition, Hill finished first in the WHL with a .921 save percentage, fifth in wins with 31, and ninth with a goals-against average of 2.81. Hill has the ability to change a game single-handedly, but playing behind a prolific offense in Portland certainly helps.
Cooper Marody (Sioux Falls) vs. Robert Carpenter (Sioux City) – USHL
In 2011, the Sioux Falls Stampede defeated the Sioux City Musketeers in a first round, best-of-three matchup. The I-29 rivals meet again, and this time, each team looks to a future collegiate commit to push them into the next round of the playoffs.
Playing on a line with Kieffer Bellows (2016) and Logan O’Connor, Cooper Marody led Sioux Falls in scoring this season with 22 goals and 36 assists. The University of Michigan could have used Marody’s offensive skills this season, but before he reports there, Marody is hoping to propel Sioux Falls past their rivals. Marody blends his playmaking ability with a willingness to drive the net and push pucks to his linemates, something that will come in handy come playoff time.
Bobby Carpenter was a hard-working veteran of 1,178 NHL games, and he passed that work ethic down to his son, Robert. With the Sioux City Musketeers, the younger Carpenter has been a reliable, consistent force this season. Carpenter finished with a career-high 35 goals this season, finishing in a three-way tie for first in USHL goal scoring. His willingness to block shots and contribute as a penalty killer has labeled Carpenter as an all-around player.
Jack Eichel (Boston University) vs. Jon Gillies (Providence) – NCAA
The college hockey season came to a conclusion this weekend as Providence College overcame a one-goal deficit heading into the third period to win the NCAA National Championship by a final score of 4-3. The Friars received some help in the game, as Boston University goaltender Matt O’Connor improbably misplayed a puck into his own net, before Brandon Tanev struck just two minutes later to put the Friars ahead for good. Jack Eichel (2015) contributed one assist, finishing his one-and-done season with 26 goals and 45 assists, leading the nation in assists, points, power play points, and plus/minus. Jon Gillies (CGY) turned aside 49 of 52 BU shots, which resulted in Gillies being named as the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
Joe Hicketts (Victoria) vs. Madison Bowey (Kelowna) – WHL
The second round of the WHL playoffs kicked off last weekend, and two former teammates collided in a clash of captains. The Kelowna Rockets proved too much to handle, starting the series off with a dominating 5-0 win. The Victoria Royals had a difficult time getting anything going, and Joe Hicketts (DET) picked up a minor holding penalty for his only appearance on the scoresheet. Meanwhile, the powerhouse Kelowna squad was led by Josh Morrissey (WPG) who had three assists, while Leon Draisaitl (EDM) contributed a pair of assists and draft-eligible Tyson Baillie finished with one goal and one assist. Madison Bowey (WSH) responded with a strong defensive game, and added an assist on the power play, setting up Rourke Chartier (SJS) for his fifth of the playoffs.
Francois Brassard (Gatineau) vs. Chris Clapperton (Rimouski) – QMJHL
There’s a seven hour drive between Gatineau and Rimouski, but the separation between the two QMJHL teams on the ice is much closer. The two teams began their second-round series this weekend, and the Gatineau Olympiques came away with a crucial road victory with a 2-1 win. Tommy Veilleux’s first goal of the playoffs put Gatineau ahead before Francois Brassard took the game over in net. Brassard stopped 26 of 27 shots for the Olympiques, continuing his strong run of play. Chris Clapperton (FLA) responded with a physical game and his fifth goal of the playoffs, the lone marker for the Rimouski Oceanic.
Mike Amadio (North Bay) vs. Kevin Labanc (Barrie) – OHL
The Barrie Colts and North Bay Battalion gave fans exactly what was expected from this series in Game One of their series, a defensive battle and close game. Colts forward Andrew Mangiapane opened the scoring on the power play, before North Bay’s Nick Moutrey (CBJ) answered with a power play goal of his own. The back-and-forth play continued until Joe Blandisi (NJD) scored five minutes into the third period to but Barrie ahead in a 3-2 win. Mike Amadio (LAK) was a -1 and finished without a point, while Kevin Labanc (SJS) picked up an assist on Blandisi’s goal.
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