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CHL Storylines: Ticket to Memorial Cup on the line in Championship Series


The Canadian Hockey League enters the final stages of the playoffs as the league Championship Series are underway.

Fans can watch the entirety of the Championship Series in the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL LIVE on TSN,, and the TSN App.

With analysis from TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button, here is a look at the matchup in each league final.

Gilles-Courteau Trophy Final

The Baie-Comeau Drakkar are taking on the Drummondville Voltigeurs in a battle of the two No. 1 seeds in the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League Championship Series.

Drummondville has a 1-0 series advantage after defeating the Drakkar 4-0 in Game 1 on Thursday. Goaltender Riley Mercer stole the show stopping all 43 shots he faced while Philadelphia Flyers prospect Alexis Gendron led the offence with a hat trick.

Mercer has been fantastic in net for Drummondville during the playoffs, leading the league with a .934 save percentage and a 1.94 GAA.

The Voltigeurs entered the Gilles-Courteau Trophy Final after sweeping the Saint John Sea Dogs, dispatching the Sherbrooke Phoenix in six games, and defeating the Victoriaville Tigres in five games in the West Final.

“The biggest thing I can say about Drummondville is that they don’t chase offence, so they don’t create vulnerability,” said Button. “The offence comes from the way they force turnovers and because of the way they play without the puck, they get a lot of opportunities to get on offence.”

Drummondville has been led by Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Ethan Gauthier, who is tied for fourth in QMJHL playoff scoring with 10 goals and 20 points.

The 5-foot-11 winger was tied for the team lead in scoring in the regular season with forward Sam Oliver, recording 36 goals and 71 points in 64 games.

“Gauthier is a complete player who can play anywhere, any place, any time, against anyone,” said Button. “The Lightning got a complete gift getting him in the second round and I think he has a long NHL career ahead of him.”

Making his presence known on the backend has been defenceman Vsevolod Komarov, who is second behind Drakkar defenceman Niks Fenenko for the most points by a defenceman in the playoffs with four goals and 13 points.

The Buffalo Sabres prospect was acquired by the Voltigeurs from the Quebec Remparts in December and led all QMJHL defencemen in the regular season with 14 goals and 69 points in 60 games split between the Remparts and Voltigeurs.

Komarov won the Emile Bouchard Trophy as the best defenceman in the QMJHL this year.

“He benefitted from playing for Patrick Roy when he was a member of the Remparts [last year],” said Button. “Roy helped teach him how to use his stick and get into the right space. He dares players to try to beat him and it’s like trying to get around a pterodactyl.”

Komarov played parts of three seasons in Quebec, helping the team take home a Gilles-Courteau Trophy last season as the Remparts went on to win their first Memorial Cup since 2006.

Baie-Comeau finished the regular season with the league’s best record at 53-12-3. They swept through the Charlottetown Islanders and Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the first two rounds and then defeated the Cape Breton Eagles in five games in the Eastern Conference Final.

“This is a high-power scoring team with a big defence that’s no fun to play against,” said Button. “They’re an offensive juggernaut who are dangerous and don’t need a ton of opportunities to make you pay.”

The Drakkar have been led by wingers Justin Poirier and Justin Gill, who both sit at the top of the QMJHL playoff scoring leaderboard with 25 and 24 points, respectively.

Poirier, 17, led the league with 51 goals in the regular season to go along with 82 points. The 5-foot-8 winger has continued his prowess in the postseason, leading the league with 17 goals and 25 points, including seven goals and 11 points against the Eagles.

“I think Poirier is like Jonathan Marchessault [of the Vegas Golden Knights],” said Button. “He has a wicked release with velocity, and he arrives at the right spot at the right times. He doesn’t get himself into any unnecessary battles.”

The Valleyfield, Que., native represented Canada at the 2023 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, recording two goals and four points in five games en route to winning gold.

Poirier is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft in Vegas and Button believes teams will be high on him.

“You don’t have to draft somebody because of their size, but the only reason you won’t draft Poirier is because of the tape measure,” said Button. “Whatever you think of Poirier as a prospect, there’s no denying he’s an elite goal-scorer and has the ability to do it when it counts the most.”

Gill finished second in QMJHL scoring in the regular season with 40 goals and 98 points in 65 games and was a finalist for the Michel-Briere Trophy as the QMJHL’s MVP.

The New York Islanders prospect has added 10 goals and 24 points in the postseason, including five goals and 10 points in the West Final.

“Gill had a disappointing playoff loss while playing for Sherbrooke last season and I think he took those lessons to heart, said Button. “All he does is score, he did it last year and he’s doing it again this year. He’s been an elite player who has shown he can perform at an elite level in the QMJHL.”

Charles-Edward Gravel has been a force in net for the Drakkar and is second in the playoffs with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

The 6-foot-1 netminder was acquired from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in December and registered a 31-17-1 record with a 2.48 GAA and .889 save percentage split between the Armada and Drakkar.

“The Drakkar were looking for someone who can give them a better opportunity to compete for a championship,” said Button. “He’s a little bit older with the ability to handle pressure and this was an upgrade at the goaltending position.”

Baie-Comeau and Drummondville played each other four times in the regular season with the Voltigeurs taking the season series 3-1.

J.Ross Robertson Cup Final

The London Knights are battling the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League Championship Series.

London struck first blood on Thursday as they defeated the Generals in an 8-1 rout in Game 1. Easton Cowan was the star of the show, registering a goal and four assists, while defenceman Oliver Bonk and winger Ruslan Gazizov each had a pair of goals.

The Knights finished the regular season with the OHL’s best record at 50-14-4 and swept the Flint Firebirds and Kitchener Rangers in the first two rounds before taking out the Saginaw Spirit in six games in the Western Conference Final.

“Dale Hunter is one of the top 15 coaches anywhere on the planet,” said Button on what makes the Knights so successful. “He is so good at understanding and impressing on his players what they need to do to have team success while helping players grow individually.”

Oshawa finished first in the East with a 40-19-9 record, defeated the Barrie Colts in six games in the first round and swept the Ottawa 67’s in Round 2.

In the conference finals, the Generals got out to an early 3-0 series lead on the North Bay Battalion but the Battalion were able to fight back to force a Game 7. New York Rangers prospect Dylan Roobroeck recorded a goal and an assist while goaltender Jacob Oster made 24 saves as the Generals won Game 7 6-1.

This series will feature two of the OHL’s best players between in Cowan and Generals centre Calum Ritchie.

Cowan leads the Knights in playoff scoring with eight goals and 24 points, including five goals and 11 points against the Spirit.

The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect won the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player after recording 34 goals and 96 points in 68 games. He finished the season with a 36-game point streak that saw him record 25 goals and 68 points during that timeframe.

Ritchie missed the first couple of months of the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery but led the Generals in scoring with 28 goals and 80 points in 50 games.

The Colorado Avalanche prospect has continued his dominance in the playoffs with six goals and 25 points, including two goals and 12 points against the Battalion.

“If he played the full year, I believe he would’ve led the league in scoring and won the OHL MVP,” said Button. “The Avalanche got an absolute stud [in the draft] because people didn’t understand how the injury impacted his play last year. This year, from the time he came back to now, he’s been the best player in the league.”

Ritchie was ranked No. 6 on TSN’s top-50 NHL affiliated prospects list in February, while Cowan was ranked No. 37.

“These are two players who I would refer to as the ‘spine’ of their teams,” Button said of Cowan and Ritchie. “We know their individual skills are good but when you have two players who are so complete and competitive, they make such a material impact on the rest of the team.”

Fans will have an opportunity to see two highly rated prospects in the 2024 NHL Draft in Knights defenceman Sam Dickinson and Generals winger Beckett Sennecke.

Dickinson led the Knights’ defence in scoring this season with 18 goals and 70 points and is regarded as one of the most complete defencemen in the league. The 6-foot-3 left-shot defenceman has two goals and 10 points in the playoffs.

The Toronto native was ranked No. 6 in Button’s March draft list and TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie’s most recent draft rankings.

Sennecke is among the league leaders in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 22 points, including four goals and seven points against the Battalion. He had 27 goals and 68 points in 63 games during the regular season.

“It’s taken me a little bit of time to feel confident in him as an NHL player, but he keeps showing more and more,” said Button. “The biggest thing with him is that he’s learned how to take his strong individual play and integrate it with the team. I think Richie has helped him in that regard and now he’s doing it exceptionally well.”

The 6-foot-3 winger was ranked No. 14 on McKenzie’s draft rankings and was No. 39 on Button’s March list prior to the start of the playoffs.

For London, Michael Simpson was outstanding in net during the conference final, only allowing three or more goals twice. He was acquired by the Knights in September from the Peterborough Petes after he starred in last year’s playoffs and was named playoff MVP in Peterborough.

The 6-foot-1 netminder went on to register a 34-10-2 record in the regular season with London and had a league-best 2.61 GAA to go along with a .906 save percentage. He has continued his stellar play in the playoffs, going 13-2 with a 2.48 GAA and .914 save percentage.

“Simpson has lots of experience playing in big games and last year with the Petes, he was key to their success,” said Button. “Peterborough had a team that could stifle you defensively and then teams had to beat Simpson if they got past the defence.

“This year, he’s on a Knights team that is more balanced and has more offence, so he doesn’t have to stand on his head.”

Oster has a 2.48 GAA and .914 save percentage after surrendering seven goals to the Knights on Thursday. He led the league in wins with a 35-16-7 record and was second with a 2.82 GAA to go along with a .905 save percentage.

The Knights will be without St. Louis Blues prospect Landon Sim and centre Kaleb Lawrence for at least the first four games of the series after both were given five-game suspensions for their actions in Game 5 of their series against the Spirit.

Sim received a game misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct due to comments he made directed at Spirit captain Braden Hache. The 5-foot-11 winger had four goals and eight points in the playoffs and 10 goals and 29 points in 39 games in the regular season.

Lawrence was ejected from Game 5 after he cross-checked Spirit star defenceman Zayne Parekh in the neck. He was acquired from the 67’s at the trade deadline and recorded 20 goals and 37 points split between the Knights and 67’s in the regular season.

The 6-foot-6 centre has five goals and nine points in the playoffs.

London and Oshawa played each other twice during the regular season with both teams winning their road games.

Ed Chynoweth Cup Final

The Portland Winterhawks will battle the Moose Jaw Warriors in the Western Hockey League Championship Series for the Ed Chynoweth Cup beginning on Friday.

Portland advanced to the WHL Championship Series after sweeping the Victoria Royals and Everett Silvertips in the first two rounds, then getting past the Prince George Cougars in six games in the Western Conference Championship Series.

Moose Jaw swept the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round, then dispatched the Swift Current Broncos in five games in Round 2. The Warriors then went up against the regular season champion Saskatoon Blades in the Eastern Conference Championship Series.

The Warriors battled the Blades to a seven-game series victory that saw six of the seven games be decided in overtime. West Kelowna, B.C., native Lynden Lakovic was the hero in Game 7, scoring 36 seconds in to overtime to seal the series for the Warriors.

“When it comes to this point in the playoffs, it comes down to the margins. “There weren’t any wide gaps between them and the Blades,” said Button. “Moose Jaw has the MVP in the league [in Jagger Firkus] up front and the best defenceman [in Denton Mateychuk] on the back end and while Saskatoon had good players, they had no one at that level to match.”

Detroit Red Wings prospect Nate Danielson has been leading the way for Portland in the playoffs with five goals and 21 points. The 6-foot-2 centre took apart Prince George in the conference final by registering two goals and 11 points in the series.

Danielson was the Winterhawks’ biggest addition at the trade deadline after he was acquired from the Wheat Kings for forward Nick Johnson, defenceman Rhett Ravndahl, and three draft picks. He recorded 12 goals and 41 points in 28 regular season games after joining the Winterhawks.

“He is a fascinating type of player because he’s built for these types of playoff series,” said Button. “He’s someone who is relentless and unwilling to give into any of the challenges in front of him, which permeates through the team.”

Winger Marcus Nguyen also stepped up against the Cougars, recording six goals and nine points in the series. The 5-foot-10 winger has six goals and 15 points during Portland’s playoff run.

Firkus led the offence in Moose Jaw all season, leading the league with 61 goals and 126 points during the regular season. The Seattle Kraken prospect continues to be at the top of the leaderboard in playoff goal scoring with 12 goals and 27 points, including three goals and nine points against the Blades.

Joining Firkus with the scoring lead is Mateychuk with eight goals and 27 points in the playoffs. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect was third among defencemen in scoring in the regular season with 17 goals and 75 points in 52 games.

“[Mateychuk] has superb poise, drive, and he’s a general out there on the blueline,” said Button. “He has a willingness to be a driver and push the game offensively and defensively.”

Jan Spunar has been outstanding in net for the Winterhawks, who is second in the playoffs with a 2.32 GAA and .923 save percentage.

The 6-foot-3 netminder finished second behind Blades rookie netminder Evan Gardner with a 2.12 goals-against average to go along with a .913 save percentage and 25-6-3 record. He is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft in Las Vegas.

Jackson Unger had to stand on his head for the Warriors against the Blades, being outshot 105 to 84 in their three overtime wins. The 6-foot-1 netminder has a 3.14 GAA and .903 save percentage in the playoffs.

Unger led the WHL with a 35-15-2 record in the regular season with a 3.08 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Moose Jaw and Portland played each other once during the regular season in a 4-3 Warriors' victory on Feb. 28.