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CHL Storylines: League conference finals set to get underway

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The Canadian Hockey League Playoffs are into the third round as each team battles for the right to represent their league at the Memorial Cup.

With most of the conference finals set to begin on Friday, here is a look at each of the matchups in the conference finals.


Western Hockey League

Prince George Cougars vs. Portland Winterhawks

The two top teams in the Western Conference are set for a showdown when the Cougars begin their third-round series against the Winterhawks on Friday.

Prince George finished with a 49-15-4 record, one point ahead of Portland to top the conference and three points behind the league-leading Saskatoon Blades.

In the playoffs, the Cougars swept the Spokane Chiefs and then easily dispatched the Kelowna Rockets in five games.

Forwards Zac Funk and Riley Heidt led the offence in the regular season, finishing second and third in league scoring with 123 and 117 points, respectively. Funk also led the entire CHL with 67 goals this season.

Both players continued their pace in the playoffs as Heidt led the team with three goals and 16 points through nine games, followed by Funk with seven goals and 15 points.

Ty Young and Joshua Ravensbergen split the goaltending duties throughout the regular season, but it’s been the rookie Ravensbergen who has taken the ball and ran with it in the playoffs.

The 6-foot-4 netminder has a 7-0 record in the playoffs with a 1.85 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. He had a 26-4-2 record in the regular season with a .246 GAA and .907 save percentage.

Portland won U.S. Division title with a 45-15-5 record and finished second in the West.

They were led by overage forward Gabe Klassen with 35 goals and 106 points, followed by James Stefan with 50 goals and 101 points. Stefan, the son of 1999 NHL first-overall pick Patrik Stefan, was able to parlay his season into an entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers in March.

The Winterhawks has swept their way through the WHL playoffs so far, beating the Victoria Royals and Everett Silvertips in the minimum number of games.

Stefan has continued his scoring ways in the playoffs with six goals and 13 points, while Klassen provided three goals and 12 points.

Czechia native Jan Spunar started all eight playoff games for the Winterhawks, going 8-0 with a 1.94 GAA and .931 save percentage. The 6 foot-3 netminder went 25-6-3 in the regular season with a .913 save percentage and 2.12 GAA.

The Cougars and Winterhawks played each other four times in the regular season and split the season series 2-2.

Saskatoon Blades vs. Moose Jaw Warriors

The Blades finished the regular season with a 50-13-5 record and cruised to the Eastern Conference Final after dispatching the Prince Albert Raiders in five games in the first round and then sweeping the Red Deer Rebels in Round 2.

Captain Trevor Wong led the Blades in scoring during the regular season with 15 goals and a league-leading 86 assists, while Anaheim Ducks prospect Yegor Sidorov had 50 goals and 88 points.

Sidorov continues to lead the Blades in the postseason with 10 goals and 14 points while Wong acts as a primary setup man with three goals and 10 assists.

Rookie goaltender Evan Gardner has appeared in eight of the Blades’ nine playoff games, registering a 7-0 record with a 1.66 GAA and .928 save percentage. The 6-foot-2 netminder had a 21-5-2 recording in the regular season with a 1.91 GAA and .927 save percentage in 30 games.

The Warriors are coming off a five-game series win over the Swift Current Broncos in the second round and swept the Brandon Wheat Kings in Round 1.

WHL leading scorer Jagger Firkus was the cornerstone of Moose Jaw’s offence in the regular season, registering 61 goals and 126 points in 63 games, including five goals and eight points in the final weekend.

Overage forward Atley Calvert and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Brayden Yager provided secondary scoring by recording 95 points each. The team added Buffalo Sabres draft pick Matthew Savoie at the trade deadline, and he went on to record 19 goals and 47 points in 23 regular-season games in Moose Jaw.

Defenceman Denton Mateychuk leads the WHL in postseason scoring with five goals and 19 points through nine games, followed by Firkus with nine goals and 18 points.

Goaltender Jackson Unger has appeared in all nine games for the Warriors in the playoffs, registering an 8-1 record with a .903 save percentage and 3.29 GAA. The 6-foot-1 netminder had a 35-15-2 record in the regular season with a .908 save percentage and 3.08 GAA and is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft.

Saskatoon and Moose Jaw played each other six times in the regular season, with both teams winning three games apiece.


Ontario Hockey League

London Knights vs. Saginaw Spirit

The Western Conference Final features the Knights taking on the Spirit in the battle of the two best records in the OHL.

London finished the regular season with the league’s best record of 50-14-4 and took top spot in the conference.

Led by Philadelphia Flyers prospect Denver Barkey and Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Easton Cowan, the Knights scored 322 goals in the regular season to finish second in the league behind the Sudbury Wolves.

Barkey finished tied for fourth in the league in scoring with 35 goals and 102 points while Cowan finished tied for sixth with 34 goals and 96 points.

Cowan also ended the regular season on a 36-game point streak that saw him register 25 goals and 68 points during that span. He also recorded at least a point in his first six playoff games before his streak ended in Game 3 against the Kitchener Rangers in the second round.

The Knights opened the playoffs with a four-game sweep of the Flint Firebirds in the first round and followed it up with another sweep of the Rangers in Round 2.

Winnipeg Jets prospect Jacob Julien leads the team in the playoffs with seven goals and 12 points, while San Jose Sharks draft pick Kasper Halttunen is just behind him with six goals and 11 points.

Michael Simpson has started all eight games for the Knights, registering an 8-0 with a shutout, .907 save percentage, and 2.44 GAA. The 6-foot-1 netminder led the league with a 2.61 GAA while recording a 34-10-1 record with a .905 save percentage in the regular season.

The Spirit are coming off a gruelling seven-game series win over the Soo Greyhounds in the second round after taking the deciding game 3-1 on Tuesday.

Overage forward Calem Mangone dominated against the Greyhounds, recording five goals and seven points in the series. The 5-foot-9 winger had 22 goals and 63 points in 62 games in the regular season.

Trade deadline acquisition Owen Beck has been everything the Spirit could ask for and more during the playoffs, leading the Spirit with two goals and 10 points in 11 playoff games.

The Montreal Canadiens prospect was acquired by the Spirit at the CHL trade deadline in January and recorded 18 goals and 51 points in 32 regular-season games in Saginaw.

Andrew Oke began the playoffs in net for the Spirit, appearing in the first six games going 5-0 with a 1.83 GAA and .938 save percentage.

Nolan Lalonde had to step in the net early in early in the Spirit’s second round series after Oke went down with an upper-body injury. He went 3-3 with a 2.85 GAA and .890 save percentage.

The series also features a battle between two of the top defensive prospects in the NHL draft in London’s Sam Dickinson and Saginaw’s Zayne Parekh.

Parekh led all CHL defencemen with 33 goals and 96 points in the regular season and was a force on the man advantage with 33 points. In the playoffs, the 6-foot defenceman has two goals and eight points in nine games.

Dickinson finished fourth among OHL defencemen with 18 goals in 70 points in the regular season and has a goal and four points in the playoffs.

Parekh is ranked No. 3 on TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button’s March draft list while Dickinson is ranked No. 6.

London and Saginaw played each other four games in the regular season with both squads each winning two games.

Oshawa Generals vs. North Bay Battalion

The Generals were the top team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, finishing two points ahead of the Battalion with a 40-19-9 record.

Oshawa got past the Barrie Colts in the first round in six games and went on to sweep the Ottawa 67’s in the second round to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

New York Rangers prospect Dylan Roobroeck is tied for the lead in playoff scoring with seven goals and 16 points, followed by winger Beckett Sennecke with six goals and 15 points.

Sennecke is a top prospect in the 2024 NHL draft and was ranked No. 39 on Button’s March draft list.

Also leading the Generals has been Colorado Avalanche prospect Callum Ritchie, who has four goals and 13 points in the playoffs. The 6-foot-2 centre led the Generals in scoring in the regular season with 28 goals and 80 points in 50 games.

Jacob Oster started all 10 playoff games in net for the Generals, and is second among playoff performers with a 1.91 GAA and .933 save percentage. The 6-foot-3 netminder had a 35-16-8 record in the regular season with a .905 save percentage and 2.82 GAA.

The Battalion makes their appearance in the conference final after dispatching the Kingston Frontenacs in five games then sweeping the Wolves

Florida Panthers prospect Sandis Vilmanis is tied with Roobroeck as the playoff leader in scoring with five goals and 16 points followed by Dallas Stars draft pick Justin Ertel and forward Dalyn Wakely with 15 points each.

Rookie netminder Mike McIvor appeared in eight playoff games in net, going 7-1 with a 2.28 GAA and .924 save percentage. Winnipeg Jets prospect Dom DiVincentiis had the starting role for the Battalion in the regular season, but sustained an injury during Game 2 of their first round series against the Frontenacs and was given a week-to-week time frame.

The two teams played each other twice in the regular season, splitting the season series 1-1.


Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League

Baie-Comeau Drakkar vs. Cape Breton Eagles

The Drakkar hold a 1-0 series advantage over the Eagles to start their third-round series after a 4-0 shutout victory in Game 1 on Thursday night.

Prior to this season, the regular season champion Drakkar have sailed through the playoffs, sweeping the Charlottetown Islanders and Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the first two rounds.

New York Islanders prospect Justin Gill led the team in scoring all season, recording 40 goals and 98 points. He continues to lead the team in the playoffs with six goals and 17 points through nine games, including a goal and an assist on Thursday.

The Drakkar also feature two intriguing prospects for the NHL Draft in winger Justin Poirier and centre Raoul Boilard.

Poirier was the only player in the QMJHL to crack the 50-goal plateau in the regular season with 51 goals and 82 points. The 5-foot-8 winger has continued his goal scoring ways in the playoffs, recording 11 goals and 15 points.

Boilard has climbed up the draft rankings over the past couple of months and is viewed as a player who can play in any situation. The 6-foot-2 centre recorded 22 goals and 62 points in the regular season and has four goals and seven points in the playoffs.

The Sherbrooke, Que., native was ranked No. 38 on Button’s March draft list.

Charles-Edward Gravel has won all nine games for the Drakkar in net and leads the playoffs with a 1.90 GAA to go along with a .920 save percentage. The 6-foot-1 netminder was acquired from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in December and registered a 17-9-0 record with a 2.34 GAA and .906 save percentage in 26 regular season games with Baie-Comeau.

The Eagles finished as the No. 4 seed in the East with a 39-26-3 and defeated the Rimouski Oceanic in five games in the first round before sweeping the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the second round.

New Jersey Devils prospect Cam Squires leads the team in playoff scoring with seven goals and 17 points through nine games. The 6-foot-1 winger recorded 33 goals and 72 points in 66 games in the regular season to lead the Eagles.

Forward Jacob Newcombe also stepped up for the Eagles recording eight goals and 16 points in their playoff run. The 6-foot winger only appeared in 26 games in the regular season after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in July.

Nicolas Ruccia has been stellar in net for Cape Breton with a 2.12 GAA to go along with an 8-2 record and .916 save percentage. The 6-foot netminder had a 21-15-2 regular season record with a 2.58 GAA and .910 save percentage.

Baie-Comeau swept the two-game season series during the regular season.

Drummondville Voltigeurs vs. Victoriaville Tigres

The Voltigeurs enter the Western Conference Final after sweeping the Saint John Sea Dogs in the first round and defeating the Sherbrook Phoenix in six games in the second round.

The West’s No. 1 seed has been led by winger Ethan Gauthier, who leads the playoffs with 10 goals and 18 points through 10 games. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect had 36 goals and 71 points in the regular season, which tied him for the team lead in scoring with overage forward Sam Oliver.

Buffalo Sabres prospect Vsevolod Komarov led all defencemen in scoring during the regular season with 14 goals and 69 points in 60 games split between the Quebec Remparts and Voltigeurs. He continues to be among the defenceman leaders in the playoffs with two goals and eight points.

Riley Mercer started all 10 games in the playoffs for Drummondville and is second in the league with a 2.21 GAA to go along with a .916 save percentage and 8-2 record. The 6-foot-2 netminder had a 31-13-4 record in the regular season with a 2.83 GAA and .905 save percentage.

Victoriaville swept the Shawinigan Cataractes in the first round and defeated the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in five games in the second round to reach the conference final.

They have been led by last year’s CHL Goaltender of the Year Nathan Darveau, who has an 8-1 record with a 2.65 GAA and .922 save percentage. The 5-foot-8 netminder finished the regular season with a 30-14-2 record and was third in the league with a .916 save percentage to go along with a 2.67 GAA.

Captain Maxime Pellerin has been the leader offensively for the Tigres in the playoffs, recording nine goals and 16 points. The 6-foot winger dominated the Huskies in the second round, registering seven goals and 10 points through the five-game series.

Winger Justin Larose led the team in scoring in the regular season with 37 goals and 80 points, followed closely by centre Tommy Cormier 30 goals and 79 points. In the playoffs, Larose has four goals and 12 points while Cormier has added four goals and nine points.

The two teams played each other six times in the regular season, with the Voltigeurs winning the season series 4-2.