Prospect Faceoff: Familiar Hockey East foes meet, 2016 hopefuls Laberge and Dineen in CHL action, Drouin returns to Syracuse

By David Hahn
C.J. Smith - UMass Lowell; Danny O'Regan - Boston University - Prospect Faceoff for 3/10/16

Photo: UMass Lowell forward C.J. Smith, and Boston University forward and San Jose Sharks prospect Danny O’Regan renew the rivalry between their two schools this weekend in the Hockey East Tournament (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)



The Hockey East quarterfinals are underway this weekend, and two familiar faces re-ignite a rivalry as Boston University and UMass Lowell meet in the Hockey East playoffs again just one year removed from meeting in the finals. The CHL’s regular season is winding down, and all three leagues are in action again as two top 2016 draft-eligibles get another last chance to impress before the draft. Finally, Jonathan Drouin’s infamous story will have a new chapter written in Syracuse as the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect is back in the AHL after an attempted trade request, finishing off a stacked edition of Prospect Faceoff.

Danny O’Regan (Boston University) vs. C.J. Smith (UMass Lowell) – Hockey East

In this week’s Feature Faceoff, the past two Hockey East champions will meet in the conference quarterfinals when ninth-ranked Boston University travels to 11th-ranked UMass Lowell in a best-of-three series.

Danny O’Regan leads Boston University in just about every statistical category, and is pursuing back-to-back championships in the midst of their Hockey East Tournament win streak of six straight games. In his final year in collegiate hockey, O’Regan has meant the world to the Terriers, who have counted on him in a variety of situations throughout the season. He has been productive this season with 16 goals and 26 assists, good production for the San Jose Sharks product. He recently became the 18th player in program history to record 150 career points, and is hoping to beat UMass Lowell in the tournament one last time before heading to the professional ranks.

Like O’Regan, UMass Lowell forward C.J. Smith has been an emotional leader this season for the River Hawks. You’ll find his name on the scoresheet just as often, too, as Smith leads the team in points with 14 goals and 19 assists. He plays a chippy game, and isn’t afraid to crash the net or dig in the corners to pay the price necessary to make a play. His calling card is an effective forechecking game, one based on aggression and a structured system under Head Coach Norm Bazin. Smith didn’t register a point in the regular season against Boston University, but when he scores a goal this year, UMass Lowell is 8-1-2.

Travis Sanheim (Calgary) vs. Brett Pollock (Edmonton) – WHL

With Shayne Gostisbehere in the news recently thanks to his record-setting point streak, and Ivan Provorov doing great things in Brandon, the next in line for the Philadelphia Flyers could very well be Travis Sanheim. With at least one point in 12 of his last 15 games, Sanheim’s consistent productivity has been a catalyst for the Calgary Hitmen. Despite missing a handful of games, he is currently first in WHL points-per-game by a defenseman and sixth overall in scoring among defenders. Perhaps Sanheim’s best trait is his skating ability in transition, something that helps guide the Hitmen’s eighth-best power play unit.

The Edmonton Oil Kings are just two years removed from a WHL championship, and with a motivated and consistent Brett Pollock leading the team in many categories, they are hoping to earn another playoff berth in what many would consider to be a rebuilding year. Pollock has improved his point totals in three consecutive years now, in what should be his final campaign in Edmonton before joining the Calgary Flames organization. Recently involved in the Kris Russell trade, Pollock is second on the Oil Kings in goals, and first in assists, points, and plus/minus with an impressive +21 rating.

Cam Dineen (North Bay) vs. Brendan Perlini (Niagara) – OHL

Toms River, New Jersey native Cam Dineen was verbally committed to Yale University before flipping over to the OHL after being selected in the 11th round of the 2014 OHL Priority Selection by the North Bay Battalion. Solid asset management by the Battalion meant the team was acquiring the New Jersey Rockets defenseman, fresh off his honor as EHL Rookie of the Year. Dynamic with and without the puck, Dineen has pushed the pace from the blueline for North Bay this season with impressive results in his draft-eligible season. His 12 goals and 46 assists places him second in OHL scoring by a rookie, behind only Mississauga’s Alexander Nylander. Dineen’s impact on the team has been felt at both ends of the ice, as proven by his +21 rating, showing why Head Coach Stan Butler trusts the young defenseman in a number of ways.

While he has been quiet lately, Niagara IceDogs forward Brendan Perlini has been grinding it out in the IceDogs top-six forward group. The Arizona Coyotes prospect has fought through a couple of minor injuries and a long stint with Team Canada at the most recent installment of the IIHF World Junior Championship. Upon his return, Perlini’s confidence has grown to total 23 goals and 17 assists through 51 games. With only one assist in his last five games, the IceDogs need more from one of their top forward options.

Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville) vs. Anthony Richard (Val-d’Or) – QMJHL

On the wrong side of a three-game losing streak, Victoriaville Tigres leading scorer Pascal Laberge hopes to continue producing down the stretch as the team eyes the playoffs. Laberge, the second pick overall in the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft, is flourishing with Victoraville after a midseason trade from Gatineau last year. Laberge has 22 goals and 42 assists this season in his draft-eligible campaign, and is trending upwards at the right time. He has at least one point in 12 of his last 15 games, including seven multi-point performances. Garnering NHL attention lately, Laberge is one of the youngest prospects available for the draft, so a long playoff run would do wonders for his draft stock.

Opposing Laberge will be Anthony Richard, who currently sits seventh in QMJHL scoring and is closing in on personal records as the regular season winds down. The Nashville Predators prospect is six goals short of his career high of 43, and just two assists behind his career high of 50. Held without a point in back-to-back games for only the second time this season, Richard is one of the most consistent scorers in the league today. With 41 games of playoff experience under his belt, Richard will be a key player for the Foreurs as the team eyes their second championship in as many years.

Jonathan Drouin (Syracuse) vs. Jesse Graham (Bridgeport) – AHL

If the spotlight over the career of Jonathan Drouin got any brighter, the young man might spontaneously combust. Back in the news, Drouin reported on Tuesday morning to the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate. Out of the lineup since January 20th, Drouin requested a trade that never came to fruition and is now trying to simply get back to playing the game. Before the ordeal, Drouin had eight points in 19 games in Tampa and three points in seven games with the Crunch before leaving the team. While Drouin’s role with the team will be evaluated by Head Coach Rob Zettler this week, he is expected to return to the lineup this weekend, certainly a unique situation worth keeping an eye on.

Opposing Drouin, Jesse Graham has been a steady influence on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ defensive corps in his second season in the AHL. Graham, who once starred on the blueline of the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, has been a regular in the lineup since returning from a stint in the ECHL in mid-February. In his first game back, the young Islanders prospect scored a power play goal and scored the shootout winner. To date, he has five goals and 12 assists in 44 games, just two points shy of his career-high point total of 19. Graham is a puck-moving defenseman who prides himself on his footwork and ability to make good decisions on the breakout.

Prospect Faceoffs from 3/4-3/6

Christian Fischer (Windsor) vs. Travis Konecny (Sarnia) – OHL

With the OHL’s Western Division up for grabs, the Sarnia Sting took another step ahead of the Windsor Spitfires by defeating them by a final score of 2-1. Travis Konecny (PHI) assisted on Nikita Korostelev’s (TOR) 19th goal of the season, helping Konecny surpass the 90-point mark as he continues his hot run of play. Sarnia goaltender Charlie Graham stopped 27 of 28 shots to pick up his 11th win. For Windsor, their lone goal was scored by Christian Fischer (ARI), his 34th goal this season.

Brett Howden (Moose Jaw) vs. Jayce Hawryluk (Brandon) – WHL

It was a pretty good week for Jayce Hawryluk, who continued his strong run of play in a pair of blowout victories in a home-and-home series against Moose Jaw this past weekend. The Florida Panthers signed Hawryluk to an entry-level deal early last week, and he stayed hot by scoring three times and assisting on four others in the two-game series. As a result, Hawryluk was named the WHL Player of the Week after he finished with 16 points in just four games. Moose Jaw endured two rough losses, 6-3 and 7-2 respectively, and Brett Howden managed one goal during the series, his only point last weekend.

Blaine Byron (Maine) vs. Dylan Sikura (Northeastern) – Hockey East

Northeastern University picked up a pair of much-needed victories over a slumping University of Maine this weekend. On Friday, Northeastern overcame an early 2-0 deficit to take the first game by a final of 3-2. Kevin Roy (ANA) logged a goal, then again played a role the next night in the Huskies 4-3 win, notching two more goals to go along with an assist. Despite playing well, Dylan Sikura’s (CHI) three-game point streak came to an end as he failed to register a point all weekend. Blaine Byron (PIT) added a goal and an assist in the two-game series, continuing his recent run of success.

Alex Barre-Boulet (Drummondville) vs. Cody Donaghey (Moncton) – QMJHL

The Moncton Wildcats’ season strolled on this weekend as they made a 6-0 win look easy against the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The Wildcats scored early and often with Conor Garland (ARI) scoring twice, and Cody Donaghey finishing with one of his best games in recent memory, a one-goal, two-assist effort. Moncton goaltender Keven Bouchard (EDM) got an assist and stopped all 27 shots he faced to pick up his ninth win and second shutout of the year. Drummonville could not get anything going, as seen by Alex Barre-Boulet’s disappointing -3 output, ending his four-game point streak.

Sebastian Aho (Karpat) vs. Patrick Virta (TPS) – Liiga

He might not be a household name yet, but Sebastian Aho’s storybook season in Finland continued this weekend in a convincing 8-2 win. The Carolina Hurricanes prospect continued his torrid scoring pace, potting two goals and adding a pair of assists in Karpat’s victory. Patrick Virta was not able to record a point, extending his scoreless streak to five straight games.

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey