Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings) vs. Prince Albert Raiders
Griffin Reinhart and the top-seeded Edmonton Oil Kings face off against the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL Eastern Conference quarter-finals. This won’t be a cakewalk for the Oil Kings, as they lost two of four games (2-1-0-1) to the eighth-seeded Raiders, with the road team winning all four games. While Edmonton (50-19-2-1) clinched a playoff spot long ago, Prince Albert beat the Red Deer Rebels 5-3 in a one-game tiebreaker Tuesday night to qualify for the postseason.
The Oil Kings scored the most goals (290) in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and allowed the fewest (179) in the entire league. Edmonton also boasted the league’s second-ranked penalty kill, which had an 85.3% kill rate. Oil Kings captain – and Islanders’ prospect – Griffin Reinhart had a hand in Edmonton’s stingy play, leading his team from the back end, as the Oil Kings were 37-8 with Reinhart in their lineup. The Islanders’ fourth-overall pick in 2012 had one assist in his lone game against the Raiders and four goals and 17 assists in 45 games this season.
Game 1: Prince Albert Raiders @ Edmonton Oil Kings – Saturday, March 22, 4:30 p.m.
Game 2 : Prince Albert Raiders @ Edmonton Oil Kings – Sunday, March 23, 6 p.m.
Game 3: Edmonton Oil Kings @ Prince Albert Raiders – Tuesday, March 25, 9 p.m.
Game 4: Edmonton Oil Kings @ Prince Albert Raiders – Wednesday, March 26, 9 p.m.
*Game 5: Prince Albert Raiders @ Edmonton Oil Kings – Saturday, March 29, 9 p.m.
*Game 6: Edmonton Oil Kings @ Prince Albert Raiders – Sunday, March 30, 9 p.m.
*Game 7: Prince Albert Raiders @ Edmonton Oil Kings – Tuesday, April 1, 9 p.m
Ryan Pulock (Brandon Wheat Kings) vs. Kyle Burroughs (Regina Pats)
A pair of Islanders’ defensive prospects face off in the first round of the WHL playoffs, as Kyle Burroughs and the second-seeded Regina Pats take on Ryan Pulock and the seventh-seeded Brandon Wheat Kings.
The teams are more evenly matched than their seeds suggest, as the Pats and Wheat Kings are only separated by eight points in the standings. Regina claimed the second seed by winning the East Division, but would have finished in a tie for fifth had divisional winners not been assured one of the top two seeds in the conference.
The divisional-rivals played each other eight times this season, with Brandon taking five of the eight meetings. Two of the games were decided in overtime, so Regina finished with a 3-3-2 record against Brandon this season. The teams played their final two regular season games against each other – Brandon won both games – so familiarity should breed contempt. The home team also won seven of eight meetings this season, so expect home ice to play a factor.
Pulock had a fantastic season, finishing second on the Wheat Kings with 63 points (23 goals, 40 assists) in 66 games. The Islanders first-round pick in 2013 had 14 power-play goals, helping Brandon to the league’s second-best power play (25.9%). Pulock finished second in team scoring, was named Brandon’s MVP and took home the teams’ Top Defenseman award for a third straight season.
Burroughs had a breakout season offensively, setting new career-highs in goals (eight), assists (32) and points (40). Burroughs’ career-year ended on a tough note, as he missed the Pats final four regular season games and is listed as day-to-day with a head/neck injury.
Game 1: Brandon Wheat Kings @ Regina Pats – Saturday, March 22, 9 p.m.
Game 2 : Brandon Wheat Kings @ Regina Pats – Sunday, March 23, 9 p.m.
Game 3: Regina Pats @ Brandon Wheat Kings – Wednesday, March 26, 8 p.m.
Game 4: Regina Pats @ Brandon Wheat Kings – Friday, March 28, 8:30 p.m.
*Game 5: Brandon Wheat Kings @ Regina Pats – Saturday, March 29, 9 p.m.
*Game 6: Regina Pats @ Brandon Wheat Kings – Monday, March 31, TBD
*Game 7: Brandon Wheat Kings @ Regina Pats – Wednesday, April 2, 9 p.m.
Adam Pelech (Erie Otters) vs. Jesse Graham (Saginaw Spirit)
Islanders’ defensive prospects Adam Pelech and Jesse Graham collide, as the Erie Otters take on the Saginaw Spirit in the first round of the OHL playoffs. The third-seeded Otters are stacked with offensive talent, boasting three of the league’s top-four scorers. To put their firepower in perspective, projected 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid is third in team scoring with 99 points (28 goals, 71 assists). Connor Brown leads the league with 128 points (45 goals, 83 assists), while Dane Fox has a league-high 64 goals and 107 points.
Pelech, the Islanders’ third-round pick in 2012, bolsters the Otters attack from the back end, scoring 54 points (nine goals, 45 assists) in 60 games this season. The Toronto, ON, native led all Otters defensemen in scoring and set career highs in goals, assists and points. Pelech’s plus-minus (plus-52) took a dramatic upswing this season, improving from minus-16 from last year.
Erie is equally as good without the puck, allowing a league-low 170 goals. The Otters are the OHL’s hottest team entering the second season, having won eight straight games and nine of their last 10. Erie’s 52 wins tie Guelph for the most in the league, but a pair of shootout losses propelled the Storm to a division title.
Saginaw finished the season 33-30-4-1 with 71 points. The Spirit are heavy underdogs, but beat the Otters 2-1 in their first-of-four meetings this season on Sept. 25. Islanders’ fans will keep a close eye on Jesse Graham, who joined the Spirit via midseason trade from the Niagara IceDogs.
Graham finished the season tied for third in OHL defensive scoring, posting 54 points (11 goals, 43 assists) in 66 games. Graham scored 37 points (five goals, 32 assists) in 42 games with the Spirit this season.
Game 1: Saginaw Spirit at Erie Otters – Friday March 21 7 p.m.
Game 2: Saginaw Spirit at Erie Otters – Saturday March 22 7 p.m.
Game 3: Erie Otters at Saginaw Spirit – Monday March 24 7:11 p.m.
Game 4: Erie Otters at Saginaw Spirit – Wednesday March 26 7:11 p.m.
*Game 5: Erie Otters at Saginaw Spirit – Thu March 27 7:11 p.m.
*Game 6: Saginaw Spirit at Erie Otters – Sun March 30 6:00 p.m.
*Game 7: Saginaw Spirit at Erie Otters – Mon March 31 7:00 p.m.
Victor Crus-Rydberg (Plymouth Whalers) vs. Guelph Storm
The eighth-seeded Plymouth Whalers take on the OHL’s top team, the Guelph Storm, in the first round of the OHL’s Western Conference playoffs. Forty-five points separate the teams in what would be a monumental first-round upset for Plymouth. Guelph has three of the league’s top-20 scorers on their roster, including third-ranked Scott Kosmachuk (49 goals, 52 assists).
Plymouth won one of four regular season meetings against Guelph and were outscored 22-10 over that span. Islanders’ fans should watch for Victor Crus Rydberg, the Isles 2013 fifth-round pick, who had 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) in 62 games during his rookie season. Rydberg had three assists in four games against Guelph this season.
Game 1: Plymouth Whalers at Guelph Storm – Friday Mar 21 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Plymouth Whalers at Guelph Storm – Saturday, March 22, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Guelph Storm at Plymouth Whalers – Tuesday, March 25, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Guelph Storm at Plymouth Whalers – Wednesday, March 26, 7 p.m.
*Game 5: Plymouth Whalers at Guelph Storm – Friday, March 28, 7 p.m.
*Game 6: Guelph Storm at Plymouth Whalers – Sunday, March 30, 4 p.m.
*Game 7: Plymouth Whalers at Guelph Storm – Tuesday, April 1, 7 p.m.QMJHL:
Loic Leduc (Rimouski Oceanic) vs. Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Loic Leduc and the fourth-seeded Rimouski Oceanic draw the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs. Rimouski (97) holds a 42-point advantage over Chicoutimi (55), making them the heavy favorites in opening-round action. The Oceanic tied the Halifax Mooseheads for the second most points in the league, but are ranked fourth because they did not win their division.
Leduc was acquired in a midseason trade from Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, racking up three goals and four assists in 26 games with the Oceanic. Leduc established career highs in goals (six), assists (nine), points (15) and penalty minutes (102). The 6’6, 218 lbs. defenseman is a hulking, shutdown presence on the blueline. Leduc also saw his plus-minus improve 43 points from last season, swinging from minus-13 to plus-33.
Game 1: Chicoutimi Sagueneens @ Rimouski Oceanic – Friday March 21 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Chicoutimi Sagueneens @ Rimouski Oceanic – Saturday March 22 4 p.m.
Game 3: Rimouski @ Chicoutimi Sagueneens Oceanic – Tuesday March 25 7 p.m.
Game 4: Rimouski @ Chicoutimi Sagueneens Oceanic – Wednesday March 26 7 p.m.
*Game 5: Chicoutimi Sagueneens @ Rimouski Oceanic – Friday March 28 7:30 p.m.
*Game 6: Rimouski @ Chicoutimi Sagueneens Oceanic – Sunday March 30 4 p.m.
*Game 7: Chicoutimi Sagueneens @ Rimouski Oceanic – Tuesday April 1 7 p.m.