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CHL Storylines: Playoff races still up for grabs heading into final week


With one week remaining in the CHL regular season, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered as teams gear up towards their respective playoffs.

In the Ontario Hockey League, the closest race is in the Central Division where the North Bay Battalion, Mississauga Steelheads, and Sudbury Wolves are all within three points of each other.

Mississauga leads the division heading into the final week with a 37-21-8 record and are one point ahead of the Battalion. The Wolves sit fifth in the conference with a 36-22-7 record and are three points back of the Steelheads with two games remaining.

The Steelheads have won seven of their last eight games and haven’t lost in regulation since Feb. 24.

“The Steelheads understood where they were and recognized that they weren’t a legitimate [contender] last season,” said TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button. “They built a cycle where they could remain competitive but give themselves an opportunity to become legitimate.”

Forward Luke Misa leads the team in scoring with 24 goals and 79 points in 64 games. The 5-foot-10 centre is eligible for this year’s NHL draft and is ranked 43rd on Button’s January draft list and 67th on TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie’s mid-season draft rankings.

Winger Porter Martone leads the team with 32 goals to go along with his 68 points. The 6-foot-3 forward was acquired by the Steelheads in January of 2023 from the Sarnia Sting for defenceman Ethan Del Mastro and is a top prospect for the 2025 NHL Draft.

“Getting Martone [from the Sting] was unbelievable,” said Button. “I see him as a clear-cut top-five player, and he may end up being the second-best player in the 2025 NHL Draft.”

The Steelheads travel to St. Catharines, Ont. to take on the Niagara IceDogs on Thursday and then wrap up the season at home against the Battalion.

North Bay enters the final three games of the season after a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the Kingston Frontenacs on Sunday. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

The Battalion host the Barrie Colts on Wednesday then take on the Steelheads and Peterborough Petes over the weekend to end the regular season.

Sudbury has struggled of late, going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games including losses to the Steelheads and Battalion. They host the Colts on Friday and then finish the regular season on the road with games against the IceDogs and Oshawa Generals.

Battalion winger Anthony Romani and Wolves forward David Goyette are also in a battle for the OHL scoring title with both players tied with three games remaining.

Romani, 18, is having a breakout season, recording 53 goals and 105 points in 65 games, toppling his previous career high of 43 points. His 53 goals also put him one ahead of Kitchener Rangers star Carson Rehkopf for the league lead.

The Pickering, Ont., native is eligible for this June’s NHL draft.

“[Romani] has two more cracks at the draft,” said Button. “When you score 50 goals and push to the level that he has, I don’t think there’s going to be any doubt that he’ll be drafted. You can look at whatever strengths and weaknesses, 50-goal scorers don’t fall through the draft.”

Goyette, 19, has improved every season to the culmination of 37 goals and 105 points in 65 games in 2023-24. The 5-foot-11 winger was drafted 61st overall by the Seattle Kraken in 2022

QMJHL East up for grabs

The Baie-Comeau Drakkar have long since wrapped up first place in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League with their 52-11-3 record but the top spot in the Eastern Conference is still up for grabs between the Drummondville Voltigeurs and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

Drummondville recorded a 45-14-6 record to win the Central Division and have a two-point cushion over Rouyn-Noranda with three games remaining.

“Drummondville and Rouyn-Noranda are trying to win home ice for a possible semifinal showdown between the two teams,” said Button.

The Voltigeurs enter the final week on a four-game winning streak after defeating the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Rimouski Oceanic over the weekend. They are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games.

They have a balanced attack with forwards Sam Oliver, Justin Cote, Ethan Gauthier, and defenceman Vsevolod Komarov all within three points of each other for the team lead.

Oliver, 19, leads Drummondville in scoring with 67 points and is tied with Gauthier for the team lead in goals with 33.

Komarov, 20, leads all QMJHL defenceman in scoring with 13 goals and 64 points this season split between the Quebec Remparts and Voltigeurs. He was drafted 134th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2022 draft.

Drummondville takes on the Sherbrooke Phoenix on Tuesday and wrap up their regular season against the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Drakkar over the weekend.

The Huskies won the West Division with a 44-15-6 record this season and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, including wins over the Shawinigan Cataractes and Gatineau Olympiques over the weekend.

They are led by QMJHL scoring leader Antonin Verreault, who has 32 goals and 102 points in 65 games this season. The 2023-24 campaign was a breakout season for the 5-foot-8 winger who had never recorded more than 46 points prior.

“His path [in professional hockey] is going to be a little longer,” said Button. “I can see him signing a professional tryout [with an NHL team] and possibly going to the American Hockey League and starting from there.”

In net, the Huskies are led by William Rousseau, who leads the league in wins with a 33-10-1 record to go along with a .923 save percentage and 2.27 goals-against average.

Rouyn-Noranda battles the Val-d’Or Foreurs on Wednesday then ends the season at home against the Victoriaville Tigres and Olympiques.

The other race in the QMJHL is the battle between the Remparts and Saint John Sea Dogs for the final available playoff spot.

Both teams will finish the season with a better record than the eighth-seeded Foreurs in the East, which means one of them will cross over from the Western Conference for the final spot.

Quebec and Saint John are tied with 46 points each after the Sea Dogs defeated the Charlottetown Islanders 8-4 on Sunday. Saint John holds the tiebreaker over Quebec with 18 regulation and overtime victories.

“If you look at last year’s Memorial Cup finalists, Peterborough, Kamloops, and Seattle are already out [of playoff contention],” said Button. “If Saint John beats out Quebec for the last spot, then all four finalists will have missed the playoffs this season.”

The Sea Dogs enter the final stretch of the season having only won two of their last 10 games. They take on the Moncton Wildcats on Wednesday and finish off the season with back-to-back home games against the Halifax Mooseheads.

Quebec has struggled as much as Saint John, winning three of their last 10 games. They finish off the season against the Armada on Wednesday then a home-and-home against the Oceanic in the final weekend.

Funk battles Firkus in WHL scoring race

In the Western Hockey League, the scoring race is coming right down to the wire as Prince George Cougars forward Zac Funk leads Moose Jaw Warriors star Jagger Firkus by one point with two games remaining.

Funk has a CHL-leading 67 goals to go along with 119 points, including three goals and seven points over the weekend.

The 6-foot winger was acquired by the Cougars in January of 2023 after playing his entire five-season career with the Calgary Hitmen. Prior to this season, Funk had never recorded more than 26 goals or 58 points in a season.

After being passed over twice in the NHL draft, the Coldstream, B.C., native was able to use his breakout success this season to sign an entry-level contract with the Washington Capitals at the beginning of March.

Funk is entering the final week of the season on a 12-game point streak, which includes nine multi-point games.

“Funk had a fantastic year and with overage players, they want to prove themselves in being worthy of NHL attention,” said Button. “He did more than that, he got pursued and signed a contract and that’s great. His on-ice play has been pretty phenomenal on a top team in the CHL.”

Firkus, a Kraken prospect, has 56 goals and 118 points in 61 games this season and is also on a 12-game point streak. During this span, Firkus has nine multi-point games including five goals and six points over the weekend.

The battle for the top of the Western Conference could play a role in deciding the WHL scoring leader as the Cougars are trying to hold off the Portland Winterhawks.

Prince George won the B.C. Division with a 47-15-4 record and have a two-point advantage over the Winterhawks at the top of the conference. With the Cougars and Winterhawks splitting their season series, if the two teams end up tied at the end of the season, point differential will be the next tiebreak.

“Prince George plays the last-place Kamloops Blazers twice to end the season and the Cougars will try to run up the score big time on the Blazers,” said Button. “That will give Funk the inside track to win the WHL scoring title.”

The Cougars have been playing some of their best hockey heading into the end of the season. They have won 11 of their last 12 games and haven’t recorded a loss in regulation since Feb. 2.

Portland (46-15-4) managed to pull away from the Everett Silvertips for the U.S. Division lead and clinched on Saturday night after a 5-3 win over the Wenatchee Wild.

They enter the final week having won seven of their last eight games. The Winterhawks take on the Tri-City Americans on Friday and end the season with a home-and-home against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

“Both teams want the top spot because they want home ice through to the conference final,” said Button. “They also want to avoid a possible matchup with Everett in the second round.”

Everett has a 43-18-5 record heading into the final weekend of the season and finish the season at home against the Wild and Americans.

The Silvertips won the season series 3-1-0 over Prince George and went 2-5-1 against the Winterhawks this season.