It’s March! Know what that means? Almost time for the CHL Playoffs! There is less than two weeks left on all three league schedules, and the race is on for a playoff spot. Many teams have already clinched their spots on the road to the Memorial Cup, so this week I’m outlining a few teams from each league that are poised to make a long run in the fight for a chance to play for hockey’s toughest trophy to win.
Here are your Top 9 teams in the CHL Playoff Race!
9. Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)
Tied in points with Halifax at 87, Rimouski is #10 on the BMO CHL Top 10 list this week, ranked for only the sixth time this season. Anthony DeLuca, Michael Joly, and Sébastien Sylvestre lead the team in points as they look to continue their 11 game winning streak heading to the QMJHL playoffs. With a 40-15-3-4 record, Rimouski is hoping to make it to the Memorial Cup tournament for the first time since a kid named Sidney Crosby took off for the NHL.
8. Halifax Mooseheads
The Mooseheads lost their biggest star to the NHL this season, but luckily they still have plenty of offensive power bringing them to a 42-18-0-3 record. Second in goals this season with 263, the Mooseheads are powered by one of the most creative playmakers in the CHL, Jonathan Drouin, who has 70 assists and 25 goals this year. He is joined by rookie teammate Nikolaj Ehlers with 94 points as the Mooseheads try to repeat last year’s success with another Memorial Cup win.
7. Baie-Comeau Drakkar
The QMJHL league champion may have a difficult time against the OHL and WHL champions in this year’s Memorial Cup Tournament. Although they lead the Q, the Drakkar only have 92 points this season while the OHL and WHL leaders both have over 100 points. However, after being ranked 20 times this season on the CHL Top 10 list, sporting a 44-15-1-3 record, and allowing a league-low 156 goals against, the Drakkar are prepared to make a run for it. Charles Hudon leads the team in points as the Drakkar head into the end of the season with an 8-2 record in their last ten games.
6. Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Although they are only an honourable mention this week, and have only been ranked five times this entire season, the Calgary Hitmen are bringing heat heading into the playoffs with 95 points. A 5-4 loss to the Regina Pats is the only thing ruining a potential 13 game winning streak in a 44-15-3-4 season resulting in 95 points. Brady Brassart and Greg Chase lead the Hitmen in points as they sit atop the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
5. Portland Winterhawks
Even without Seth Jones this season, the Winterhawks have been ranked 20 times on the CHL Top 10 list. They are the biggest competition for Kelowna, with 99 points and a 47-13-2-3 record. Their 302 goals for are the highest in the WHL and they have gone 9-1 in their last ten games. With Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand lighting up the league with 106 and 97 points and two more players on the WHL Top Scorers list, the Winterhawks hope that their offensive power will give them a chance for redemption after last season’s loss in the Memorial Cup Final.
4. Kelowna Rockets
The WHL is extremely competitive this season, but the Rockets are running ship with 108 points- almost 10 points ahead of the next closest team. Currently ranked #1 on the CHL Top 10 List, their 52 wins are not only the most in the WHL, but the most in the CHL. Strangely, the Rockets don’t have any players on the WHL Top Scorers list, with Myles Bell’s 72 points landing just out of the top 20. This suggests a strong team game that will be important and potent heading into the playoffs, as opponents will have a difficult time selecting a player to focus on.
3. London Knights (OHL)
Going 9-1 in their last ten games, the Knights already know that they will have a spot at the Memorial Cup Tournament as the host team. However, as most host teams prefer to earn their place in the tournament as league champs as well, the Knights are not taking any days off. Only one point behind Erie, the Knights have winning down to a science, except when it really comes down to it. In their third straight year at the tournament, the Knights hope to actually take home the Cup this year, as they have fallen short in the past two years and didn’t even make the finals last year. Max Domi and Chris Tierney lead the team in points and will have to lead the team to the championship game.
2. Erie Otters
Second place in the OHL, Erie has a 46-14-2-0 record and 94 points. Although they are most easily recognized by their explosive, insanely creative offense, the Otters also have the lowest number of goals against in the league, with only 157. Led by Connor Brown, Dane Fox, and of course Connor McDavid, the Otters are one of the scariest teams in the league this year after dredging the bottom of Lake Erie last season.
1. Guelph Storm
No team in the CHL has been ranked on the BMO CHL Top 10 List more times this season than the Guelph Storm. With 23 weeks on the list and currently sitting at #2, the Storm have an impressive 49-11-2-1 record and are the first team in the OHL to break the 100 point mark this season. They also have the most goals scored in the OHL, with 311- the only team with over 300 goals scored. With their next five games coming against Kitchener, Sarnia, and Owen Sound, the Storm will have a good chance to extend these league leads even farther and rest some of their top players heading into the playoffs. Keep an eye out for team points leaders Scott Kosmachuk, Robbi Fabbri, and Kerby Rechyl.
Needless to say, I’m pretty excited for playoffs to start! What are your predictions for the WHL, OHL, or QMJHL?