As always the first round of the playoffs provides plenty of great hockey. Upsets, comebacks, late goals, great goals and great saves. The opening round had it all.
As for the Jets there was plenty of attention paid to the Ontario Hockey League final, where Mark Scheifele was having a great championship series as Barrie and London battled.
Scheifele missed game seven due to injury, as London scored the winning goal with one second left to advance to the Memorial Cup. London will join Portland, Halifax and host Saskatoon.
Interesting father/son note – Saskatoon last hosted the Memorial Cup in 1989 with Tie Domi competing with Peterborough, here in 2013 Max Domi will compete with London.
NHL scouts will love this tournament with the top three picks all in the event, those being Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. Plus a number of other top picks set to strut their stuff.
Back to Scheifele, despite missing the last game he walked away with the OHL playoff scoring title going 15-26-41 in 21 games, to finish nine points ahead of Domi. Scheifele had back-to-back five point games in the final series, including a four goal game.
Another Jets prospect will compete for CHL player of the year honours. Big Adam Lowry went 45-43-88 in 72 games with Swift Current and was named the WHL player of the year. And after signing with the Jets but not getting into any games, Jacob Trouba joined Team USA at the World Hockey Championships.
All NHL teams, including the Jets, are now busy preparing their final lists in preparation for the NHL Draft, a one day event this year, set for June 30. (All day draft coverage on TSN and TSN 1290). Also on the “to do” list is to re-sign players like Zach Bogosian, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little.
During his post-season news conference, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff talked about injuries to a number of players as the Jets battled for a playoff spot.
There was some concern that Evander Kane and Mark Stuart may require surgery, but it now appears rehab and some rest is all that is needed.
Cheveldayoff talked about how everything was magnified due to a shortened season and all games in conference. Plus the importance of EVERY game, starting with game one, as the roller coaster season had the Jets jumping from winning the division to drafting near the top.
Cheveldayoff also talked about perhaps having to create space on the roster for some of the young players. With good training camps Trouba and Scheifele will get serious looks. If they deserve to play at the top level, they will, and the opportunity is there.
Another huge question is what changes will the Jets have to make in style of play with the switch to the Western Conference.
“We knew it was eventually going to happen – us moving”, added Cheveldayoff, “We got bigger in preparation of the move.”
So how much will that play into how the Jets draft, which players they want to re-sign and which players will they look at via trade and unrestricted free agency.
So as you play arm chair general manager, keep that in mind. As you watch playoffs it is obvious the Western Conference is tighter checking, not as wide open and more physical.
For fans, the move is exciting. A number of teams have yet to experience MTS Centre. Unlike the upcoming schedule where all teams will play a home-and-home series, that was not the case two years ago, and of course this past season saw no East-West play at all. Fans have not seen the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets (The Blue Jackets did play a split squad pre-season game in Winnipeg).
The 2013-14 schedule should be out around the middle of July, in the meantime enjoy the playoffs.