The regular season has ended in most junior leagues, with the playoffs starting in the next few days. While some will be sitting in the sidelines with their seasons now at a close, others have their eyes on the championship.
The Belleville Senators fall undoubtedly in the first category, as they’ve been out of playoff contention for months. With still a few more weeks to go, they split their last two games, losing 3-1 to the Toronto Marlies and defeating the Utica Comets 4-3.
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In the midst of Belleville’s limited success, Chlapik has stepped up and taken over as their leading scorer (30 points in 50 games). In his two games this week, he picked up two goals and two assists. The bigger performance was against Utica, where he led both teams with six shots on goal.
He earned himself his third call-up to the big club of the season, where he played a season-high 17:27. With the season winding down, expect to see more young players like Chlapik getting played with tougher minutes higher in the lineup.
Wolanin’s play this week was around his average standards, picking up an assist in two games as North Dakota was eliminated from the NCHC’s Frozen Faceoff. The big news was that he decided to sign an entry-level contract with the Sens instead of waiting for free agency, and will be playing his first NHL game tonight! It’s a well-earned opportunity for a prospect that’s had a fantastic season.
The playoffs are starting soon, and this is how the Sens prospects stack up.
- Aaron Luchuk’s Barrie Colts finished first in their division, and will be facing the Mississauga Steelheads in the first round. The Colts loaded up for the post-season by acquiring guys like Luchuk and Dmitri Sokolov, pushing them to a second place Eastern Conference finish behind the Hamilton Bulldogs. Game one is tonight at 7:30.
- Alex Formenton and the London Knights finished a bit lower in the OHL’s Western Conference, at 5th place. They’ll play the 4th seeded Owen Sound Attack, starting tonight at 7:00. The Knights, unlike Barrie, had sold off some of their bigger assets mid-way through the season, including Robert Thomas, Cliff Pu and Max Jones.
- Finally from the OHL, Logan Brown and the Kitchener Rangers finished 2nd in the West, and play the Guelph Storm starting tomorrow. Kitchener didn’t do as much to gear up for a deep run, with Brown being their only significant mid-season acquisition (although Mario Culina has added some goaltending help).
- Drake Batherson was traded to the best possible team, as the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada ran away with the regular season championship (11 points ahead of the second place team). They’ll likely dominate the Val D’Or Foreurs in round one, which starts tonight at 7:00, as they somehow managed to qualify for the playoffs with the league’s worst goal differential of -136. The Armada are the Q’s favourites to head to the Memorial Cup.
- Jordan Hollett and the Medicine Hat Tigers finished first in the WHL’s Central Division, although they would’ve finished no higher than 4th had they been in any other division. They face the Brandon Wheat Kings in round one, who although finished 4th in the East Division have five more standings points than the Tigers.
- Rounding out the prospects playing in Canada is Parker Kelly, whose Prince Albert Raiders are the underdogs heading into their 1st round matchup against the league-leading Moose Jaw Warriors.
- In the NCAA, Kelly Summers with Clarkson University is the only Sens prospect whose team made it into the main bracket.
- Moving to Europe, the SHL playoffs are already underway, with Filip Gustavsson’s Luleå HF being eliminated in theor best-of-three series. Meanwhile, Filip Ahl, playing for BIK Karlskoga in the lower-tier Allsvenskan, did not make the playoffs. In fact, had they finished two points lower, they would’ve wound up fighting to avoid relegation.
- The last prospect heading into playoff season is Markus Nurmi, who finished second in the Liiga with TPS Turku, earning them a bye to the second round. They’re currently in the middle of their second playoff game against the 7th place SaiPa, taking the first game 4-3 in overtime.
- Due to Gustavsson’s early playoff exit, he’s on his way to North America. The papers have been signed, and he’ll report to Belleville to join the rotation with Danny Taylor and Marcus Hogberg.
- Speaking of Hogberg, he’s continually being shipped between Belleville in the AHL and Brampton in the ECHL. His level of play seems to fall directly between the two leagues, as his goals saved above average (GSAA) is the opposite in either league (+6.4 vs -6.4).
- Continuing with the goalies, Jordan Hollett returned after missing six weeks with a lower-body injury — just in time for the post-season.
- Christian Jaros also returned after missing significant time injured (his last game was January 20th). Hopefully he can get back up to speed, as he has all the tools to potentially play full-time in the NHL next season. Could be a potential call-up in the final few weeks.
- The regular season closing down also brings up some awards, most notably Aaron Luchuk taking home the OHL’s scoring title!
- And as infamous as he may be to Sens fans, Patrick Sieloff now has two goals in two NHL games over his career. This, coming from a player who has never scored more than three goals for a team in a single season.