As the QMJHL finishes up the regular season this Saturday and the OHL and WHL play their final games on Sunday, the CHL is officially gearing up for the playoff run. Bring on the patchy attempts at playoff beards, bad dye jobs on too-long flow (is that an oxymoron?) and the stench of unwashed lucky socks.
But first, here are some highlights from the regular season that are worth a look before they get forgotten by the excitement of the playoff stretch.
11. QMJHL Goaltending Record Set, then Broken
In November, the record for longest shutout streak by a goaltender, previously set in 1997-98, was broken by François Brassard. The Quebec Remparts netminder went 212 minutes 10 seconds without allowing a goal against. However, his record didn’t last long as Philippe Desrosiers of the Rimouski Océanic absolutely destroyed the month of February and went 243 minutes 35 seconds without letting in a goal. This came during 3 consecutive shutouts and resulted in Desrosiers being named the QMJHL VAUGHN Goaltender of the Month for February.
10. Goalie Fight!
Yes, people are talking about taking fighting out of hockey. But this girl still loves her fights. Mix in a couple of goalies and it gets even better. Dan Altshuller and Andrew D’Agostini had a nice little tilt at centre ice when the Generals visited the Pete’s in February.
9. Guelph Storm Line Brawl
This is hockey entertainment right here. Gloves came off, punches got thrown, no one got hurt, and all is good. This is what I love about fighting- players demand respect from each other. Two Attack players try to take one one Storm player, and Bertuzzi is having none of it. Then two Storm players are on one Attack player, and Lindo, clearly out of his fighting class against Bertuzzi, comes to the defense of his teammate. And… it’s entertaining to boot!
8. Calgary Hitmen Teddy Bear Toss
The Hitmen have by far the best Teddy Bear Toss in the CHL. There is nothing like watching almost 26 000 stuffed animals being thrown onto the ice from the nosebleeds of the Saddledome. Charity work is one of the greatest by-products of this junior hockey league and this is a fantastic example. If you’ve never attended a Teddy Bear Toss, make sure to find one close to you next season!
Also of excellent entertainment value… two-time Teddy Bear Goal Scorer Pavel Padakin’s awesome celebration.
7. Ben Fanelli at the Kitchener Rangers Home Opener
First, some background on Ben Fanelli. In 2009, in only his seventh OHL game, an Erie Otters player ran Fanelli into the end boards, resulting in a disturbing scene that saw Fanelli laying unconscious on the ice in a pool of his own blood. His doctors (and his mom) told him that he would never play hockey again.
Fast forward to the 2011-12 season, when Fanelli was introduced at the Rangers home opener for his first game back and brought the entire crowd to their feet, and to tears.
Now fast forward again to the Rangers 2013-14 home opener, when Fanelli, now wearing the Captain’s “C”, stepped out of the penalty box and assisted on a high-speed goal to put the Rangers up 3-0 in an eventual 4-2 win. Fanelli will be playing his final three games of his OHL career this week, and although his presence will continue to be felt throughout the Kitchener community through his charity, Head Strong: Fanelli 4 Brain Injury Awareness, the Rangers blue-line will certainly miss him.
6. Sam Reinhart’s Hat Trick
Sam Reinhart has consistently been rated at the top of NHL Central Scouting‘s list of prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft, and is expected to go first overall in June. This hat trick, part of a 7-3 Kootenay win against Brandon, shows part of the reason why.
5. Leon Draisaitl’s Shootout Goal
He has been called the “German Gretzky”, but this shootout move is more reminiscent of a certain Swede- Peter Forsberg, anyone?
4. Connor McDavid’s Goal of the Year
I can’t say enough about this kid. He has 93 points and sits fourth in OHL scoring but has played about ten less games than almost everyone else on the top scorers list. His 68 assists show that he’s not a one-dimensional player and that he makes the players around him better. The Erie Otters really hit the jackpot with this draft pick when he was granted exceptional status by the OHL. He’s not even draft eligible until 2015, which means that next season is going to be the Connor McDavid show. Here’s your preview:
3. Henri Ikonen Penalty Shot
Leave it to the Sarnia Sting to have a short-handed penalty shot called against them. Henri Ikonen of the Kingston Frontenacs cashes in with this quick-thinking move that I couldn’t recreate even if I spent a week straight on the pond practicing. Those are some soft hands, Henri.
2. Sergei Tolchinsky Between-the-Legs Breakaway Goal
There is absolutely nothing that I can say about this goal. Sergei Tolchinsky. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Just watch the video.
1. Jonathan Drouin
Drouin has to be my favourite player in the CHL right now. I can’t get enough of the kid. I could choose any highlight from any given night and jaws would drop. Just last week, he scored a goal and added five assists in one game for his first ever six-point game. With only 44 games played this year for the Halifax Mooseheads (10-20 games less than everyone around him on the list), Drouin sits sixth in QMJHL scoring with 26 goals and 72 assists. As a preview to the future of the NHL, when Drouin and Stamkos take over the world, here’s Drouin with an absolutely beautiful assist that makes the Cataractes defense look absolutely silly. If anyone can confirm the rumour that his stick and the game pucks are magnetized, that would be great.
If this is what we saw in the regular season, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for fans in the playoffs! Who are you cheering for?