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Canucks Prospects Update: CHL playoff preview

...four Canucks prospects begin the battle towards the Memorial Cup

by Ryan Biech @ryanbiech / Freelance writer

Junior rinks across the country will be buzzing this evening as the Canadian Hockey League playoffs kick off.

It's a long road for all the qualifying teams as they hope to win their respective league and punch their ticket to the Memorial Cup Championship in Halifax.

The Canucks had four prospects playing in the CHL, with three in the Ontario Hockey League and one in the Western Hockey League, all of which qualified for their league's playoffs.

We'll preview their first-round matchups and figure out who has a chance to go all the way.

Jett Woo (WHL - Moose Jaw Warriors)

The Canucks 2018 2nd round pick was signed to an entry-level contract this past week and now turns his focus to the playoffs. The Warriors take on a familiar foe in the Saskatoon Blades as the two teams met six times during the regular season with the Blades winning five of six games.

Woo picked up five assists in those six contests, which included a two-assist performance in the December 7th game.

Saskatoon isn't led by any superstars, but more relies on its depth, relentless play to push the pace of the game and forcing its opponents into mistakes. Whereas the Warriors are led by their first line and defencemen Josh Brook and Woo.

If the Warriors can pull off the win in the first round, it will be on the back of those five players that did most of their scoring this season. They would also then face the best team in the regular season, the Prince Albert Raiders, in the second round.

No matter what happens, it has been a fantastic season for the right-handed defender and Canucks fans should be excited to see what he can do next season in the WHL.

Mitch Eliot (OHL - Sarnia Sting)

Eliot joined the organization as a free agent in December and has quietly put together a very good season for the Sting. He finished second in defencemen scoring for Sarnia with 17 goals and 38 assists in 66 games.

Sarnia will take on the Saginaw Spirit in the first round of the OHL playoffs and it's fair to suggest that the Spirit are the favourites in the matchup despite the two teams splitting the six-game season series. In those games, Eliot picked up six assists, six penalty minutes, and 11 shots of goal. Eliot only had three games all season where he didn't register a shot on goal and one of those was against the Spirit on December 15th.

The Sting will be in tough against the deep Spirit team that is loaded with depth and offensive weapons. Saginaw added Owen Tippett and Ryan McLeod this season in a blockbuster trade that shows they have their eye on the OHL title.

If the Sting are out quickly, we may see Eliot make his way to the Utica Comets to close out the season as he is expected to make the jump to the AHL for the 2019-20 season.

Matt Brassard (OHL - Niagara IceDogs)

The Canucks 2017 7th round pick was moved to the IceDogs prior to the OHL trading deadline and has been making the most of the move. In 30 games with his new team, Brassard has posted three goals and 26 assists in 30 games.

Niagara will take on the North Bay Battalion in the first round of the OHL playoffs. The two teams met six times with the IceDogs winning four of those games by a combined score of 31 to 18, which included an 8-3 Niagara win in their last meeting.

So, it's not much of a stretch to suggest that the IceDogs are the favourites in this matchup.

Niagara had two scorers break the 100-point plateau and five other players to eclipse the point-per-game pace. They are a deep team that can score goals at will and in a variety of ways.

They loaded up at the trading deadline and look poised to make a serious run at representing the OHL at the Memorial Cup.

Michael DiPietro (OHL - Ottawa 67's)

The 19-year-old netminder was another player to be on the move at the deadline and ended the season with the best goals-against-average in the OHL.

DiPietro should be the starting netminder for the 67's when he returns from injury, which could be for their opener or in a few games. The Canucks prospect took a puck off the head in Ottawa's game against the Peterborough Petes on March 15th and hasn't dressed since.

The 67's will play the defending champion Hamilton Bulldogs in the first round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs are led by 2019 draft prospect Arthur Kaliyev and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matthew Strome, but were unable to replicate their success from last season and squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed. While the 67's enter the playoffs as one of the favourites after allowing the fewest goals against in the league and setting a franchise record 106-point season.

Between playing for Windsor and Ottawa, DiPietro faced the Bulldogs four times and posted a 2-2-0 record in those games. The 67's and Bulldogs faced off five times this season, with DiPietro in net for two of them, with Ottawa winning all five games.

The 67's and IceDogs appeared to be on a collision course to meet in the OHL Eastern Conference finals and Canucks fans will have a keen eye on both DiPietro and Brassard if that happens.

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