One thing is for certain, one Vancouver Canucks prospect will be playing in the 2015 Memorial Cup. The question is, who will it be?
Cole Cassels and his Oshawa Generals (51-11-6) take on Kyle Pettit and the Erie Otters (50-14-4) in the best-of-seven Ontario Hockey League Championship Series, which gets underway on Friday night. The winner moves on to Quebec City for the Memorial Cup.
Cassels has enjoyed a steady playoff-run for the Generals so far, notching 19 points (6-13-19) in 16 games, while Pettit, who is still recovering from a hand injury, is expected to make his post-season debut at some point during the series.
The big test for Cassels this series is not be how many points he can put up, but how many he can prevent Erie star Connor McDavid from getting. The Canucks’ third round, 85th overall, pick in 2013 is regarded as one of the OHL’s top two-way players and also has a reputation of being one of the toughest to play against.
“I take pride in shutting people down, but this is a huge challenge, the ultimate challenge at this level,” Cassels told the Columbus Dispatch. “If I can hold him to less than a point a game, that’d be great for me and the team.”
“Nobody has been able to shut down the McDavid kid,” added Oshawa coach D.J. Smith said. “He’s running through our league like nobody has done before.
“It’s going to be Cole’s job. We’re going to get him out there as often as we can against McDavid. It’ll be up to the two (defencemen) on the ice, too, obviously, but that’s Cole’s matchup in this series.”
As for Pettit, a return would be a boost to the Otters lineup. The Canucks’ sixth round, 156th overall, pick in 2014 was voted the best of face-offs in the Western Conference and third best defensive forward by opposing coaches, while also netting 16 goals this past season.
If the Otters choose to go away from the Cassels/McDavid matchup while they have last change on home ice, there is a good chance, if he returns to the lineup, that Pettit will be going head-to-head against Cassels, which will be interesting in the face-off circle, as Cassels was voted second best at face-offs in the Eastern Conference Coaches Poll.
Regardless of who wins, Canucks fans can look forward to some bonus hockey at the Memorial Cup for the second consecutive year.
Game 1 – Friday, May 8 – 4:35pm PT @ Oshawa
Game 2 – Saturday, May 9 – 4:05pm PT @ Oshawa
Game 3 – Monday, May 11 – 4:35pm PT @ Erie
Game 4 – Wednesday, May 13 – 4:35pm PT @ Erie
**Game 5 – Friday, May 15 – 4:05pm PT @ Oshawa (Sportsnet 360)
**Game 6 – Sunday, May 17 – 4:35pm PT @ Erie (Sportsnet Pacific)
**Game 7 – Tuesday, May 19 – 4:05pm PT @ Oshawa (Sportsnet 360)