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CHL Storylines: Knights’ Cowan running roughshod over OHL

Easton Cowan Denver Barkey Ruslan Gazizov London Knights Easton Cowan Denver Barkey Ruslan Gazizov - Tim Austen/Ottawa 67's

The biggest story in the Ontario Hockey League these days has been the play of London Knights forward Easton Cowan.

The Toronto Maple Leafs first-round draft pick (2023) is in the midst of a 26-game point streak, which ties a franchise record and is the longest in the OHL this season. The streak is also tied for the longest in the Canadian Hockey League in 2023-24 with Moose Jaw Warriors star Jagger Firkus, who had 19 goals and 51 points between Nov. 25 and Feb. 17.

Cowan has registered 20 goals and 49 points during the streak, which includes 15 multi-point games. He sits second in team scoring behind forward Denver Barkey (82 points) and is 11th in the OHL with 29 goals and 77 points in 44 games this season.

“Cowan has demonstrated exactly what teams are trying to do with young players,” said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button. “Everybody matures and develops at different rates and [the Knights] took their time with him and were very patient, allowing him to grow and develop at his own rate.

“In the last 12 months he’s done exactly what you want to see young players do by taking those upward steps, but he was set up to do it.”

Cowan’s success offensively is only one aspect of the development of his overall game. Head coach Dale Hunter has made sure the 5-foot-10 winger is capable in every situation, and can be trusted to play in his own zone and in critical moments of the game.

The Mount Brydges, Ont., native has rewarded his coach by leading the league with 12 short-handed points, with Barkey right behind him with 10.

Button believes Hunter is the reason the Knights’ skilled players are so well-rounded.

“[Hunter] is one of the top 15 coaches in the entire world, in any league,” said Button. “Do you know why [Maple Leafs star] Mitch Marner is such an outstanding player? He played in London.

“Don’t look at the banners in London, just look at the players [that have come through there]. Marner is where he’s at because of Hunter, he’s a well-rounded player because of Hunter.”

Cowan was placed as No. 36 on Button’s Top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects rankings.

Cowan has helped propel the Knights to a 42-12-3 record to lead the OHL. During his streak, the Knights have gone 22-3-2. Cowan missed eight games while representing Canada at the World Juniors.

The Knights sit four points ahead of the Memorial Cup-host Saginaw Spirit who are second in the OHL with a 41-15-1 record and 11 games remaining on the season.

Spirit have kept pace with the Knights during the same stretch of Cowan’s point streak, going 29-8-0 since Nov. 25. The two clubs wrapped up the four-game season series, where both sides won two games apiece.

Barring any upsets, the two clubs appear to be on a collision course in the OHL playoffs. With Saginaw’s spot in the Memorial Cup tournament guaranteed as the host club, London must get past Saginaw in the Western Conference and win the J. Ross Robertson Cup in order secure their spot in the spring tournament.

Cowan and the Knights will be taking on the Oshawa Generals on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT and can be seen live with a subscription to TSN+.

Cougars’ Heidt joins Warriors' Firkus at the top of WHL scoring race

Prince George Cougars forward Riley Heidt has joined Firkus at the top of the Western Hockey League scoring race going into Tuesday’s action.

The Minnesota Wild prospect has 32 goals and 100 points to tie Firkus and is two points ahead of teammate Zac Funk. He has already surpassed his previous career high of 97 points in 68 games that he set last year, and still has 10 games remaining on the season.

Heidt, 18, has been dominant on the man advantage, leading the WHL with 43 power-play points.

The 5-foot-11 centre is on a seven-game point streak and has eight goals and 30 points in his last 17 games. During this stretch, Heidt has seven multi-point games including a four-point night in the Cougars’ 6-5 shootout win over the Kelowna Rockets on Sunday.

“Heidt has been a more complete player [this season] with no sacrifice on the offence,” said Button. “There was no question that he had the offensive talent, but the other areas of his game needed more commitment.

“After he went to the U18 World Championship and not playing at the level he expected himself to play at, followed with going in the second round at last year’s NHL draft, I think he realized he’s talented offensively, but he has other areas of the game that he had to be more committed to. That’s just a part of growing and finding out about yourself.”

Button ranked Heidt at No. 46 on his Top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects rankings.

Heidt has helped the Cougars to an 8-1-1 record in February and propelled them back to the top of the Western Conference with a 40-15-3 record.

Prince George is two points ahead of the Everett Silvertips and three points up on the Portland Winterhawks for top spot in the Western Conference. Portland and Everett are also competing against each other for top spot in the U.S. Division.

The Cougars are looking to maintain their pace in the West in order to claim home ice advantage after they tied the season series with the Winterhawks two games apiece and lost the season series with Everett 3-1.

Prince George has already clinched the B.C. Division, which means they will either finish as the first or second seed in the West.

“The Cougars don’t want to have to go through Portland or Everett [to advance to the WHL final],” said Button. “They want to finish first in the conference because there’s no benefit [to them] by finishing second.”

Red Hot Saguenéens

The Chicoutimi Saguenéens are the hottest team in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), going a perfect 9-0-0 in the month of February.

Chicoutimi is fighting for positioning in the Eastern Conference and have wins against the Rimouski Oceanic, Moncton Wildcats, and Victoriaville Tigres who are all ahead of the Saguenéens in the standings.

The Saguenéens sit tied for fifth in the East with the Cape Breton Eagles, registering a 28-22-7 record this season. They are two points behind the Oceanic for second place in the East Division and fourth place in the conference.

“You’re always trying to build your team as the season moves on to be peaking at this point of time,” said Button. “They’re in a dogfight trying to get home-ice advantage in the first round but they have a good young team that have developed nicely. The organization has done a good job moving them forward.”

Last season’s QMJHL Rookie of the Year, Maxim Massé, leads the team in scoring with 29 goals and 60 points in 56 games this season. The 6-foot-2 winger has seven goals and 14 points during the Saguenéens run in February, including a four-point game in Chicoutimi’s 5-0 shutout victory over the Tigres on Sunday.

The crowning moment for Massé this season so far came during the Saguenéens 8-3 victory over the Charlottetown Islanders on Jan. 21, when he went off for four goals and an assist in the victory.

Massé is eligible for the 2024 NHL draft and is ranked 23rd in Button’s January draft list and 35th in TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie’s most recent draft ranking.

“Maxim is a really well-rounded player with high intelligence,” said Button. “If some of those elements were stronger, like having more speed, better scoring ability, or those type of things, you’d be talking about him as a top-10 draft pick.

“I think he’ll be a really good second-line player. If his attributes were more dynamic and higher end, he’d [be higher], but he doesn’t have those in my view. Maybe he’ll develop them more than I expect, but he’s a player you want on your team.”

Netminder Rémi Delafontaine started seven of the team’s nine wins in February, only allowing 11 goals and recording a .946 save percentage with a 1.55 goals-against average.

He was acquired by Chicoutimi on Jan. 5 from Shawinigan in exchange for goaltender Mathys Fernandez. Since joining the Saguenéens he has an 8-4-0 record with a .930 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average.

Chicoutimi has 11 games remaining in their regular season, including two games against the league-leading Baie-Comeau Drakkar, a home-and-home against the West Division leading Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, and a match against the Eastern Conference leading Drummondville Voltigeurs.