Since the San Jose Sharks have been in a secure playoff spot since the New Year, it’s time we focus on some hockey that matters. With the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) playoffs about to begin, we begin our look at Sharks prospects to focus on. Let’s start with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Following the OHL during this year’s playoffs is easy because there is only one team to watch from a Sharks perspective, the Barrie Colts. With two forward prospects posting over a point-per-game with the Colts this season, the Colts will be a team that Sharks fans should keep a close eye on during their upcoming playoff run.
Kevin Labanc and Dylan Sadowy
The 2016 Central Division Champions begin the playoffs on Thursday against an upstart Steelheads team which will be a series that features plenty of notable prospects on both sides. Sharks fans will want to keep a close eye on two 2014 draft picks in third-round pick Dylan Sadowy and sixth-round pick Kevin Labanc.
Like any player who wins their league’s scoring title, Labanc will draw the most attention from the Steelheads as him and Calgary Flames prospect Andrew Mangiapane can score in waves if opponents aren’t careful. Like most Sharks prospects, Labanc can refine his staking stride to make him more effective, but his play-making abilities have helped him earn an entry-level contract with the Sharks and are even vaulting him into consideration for the 2016-17 Sharks. Failing to sign a prospect with the puck control Labanc has would have been a crime the Sharks would struggle to recover from.
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Sadowy, the Sharks other prospect on the Colts is the less-heralded prospect despite being selected higher in the draft. As their big trade deadline acquisition, Sadowy was brought in for scoring depth in preparation for the playoffs. He has delivered on those expectations so far, scoring 25 goals in 28 games, but his assist totals and defensive play with the Colts and Saginaw Spirit have been questionable. Granted, Sadowy has always been known as a goal scorer but I’m sure the Sharks would like to see a more well-rounded game from an already versatile player.
But on a team where he’ll receive less attention, that should open Sadowy up to score often during the playoffs. He probably won’t score as much as Labanc, but Sadowy’s offensive instincts should be enough to earn him a contract with the Sharks in the coming months. If not, the Sharks could miss out on another player that projects into a similar role as Tommy Wingels in the NHL. These two Sharks prospects should be on every fan’s radar during their run to the Memorial Cup.
Barrie Colts vs. Missisauga Steelheads
As for the series itself, Barrie, as the second seed in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, should be favored to win. Along with Labanc and Sadowy. Mangiapane is a scoring machine that while under-sized, can cause problems for any defense. Additionally, Anaheim Ducks prospect Julius Nattinen provides another scoring option that should help tilt possession towards the Colts.
Likewise, the Colts boast one of the premier offensive-defenseman in the OHL in Flames prospect Rasmus Andersson. Any defenseman that has almost averaged a point-per-game in his junior career should be a focus and Andersson is no different. His decision making and work ethic have been questioned but the Steelheads should avoid taking penalties if they hope to win this series.
Speaking of Missisauga, they are not a team that should be taken lightly. They are finally starting to recover from their appearance in the 2011 Memorial Cup Final and boast four top prospects in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Led by possible first-round picks Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian, Missisauga has some solid scoring depth that can stifle most junior teams.
The Steelheads also have the very controversial (and future Shark, I’m calling it) Sean Day, who as an exceptional status player wants to separate himself from that title. His skating and size are tremendous but comparing him to Connor McDavid or Aaron Ekblad would be silly.
Finally, the biggest defensive concern should be Alexander Nylander who is showing a similar skill-set that made his brother William such a coveted prospect. On both teams, Nylander likely possesses the highest NHL potential, so shutting him down will be key to the Colts’ success.
As for the series in general, any team like the Colts who play a Dallas Stars type of offense should be a pleasure to watch. So stay tuned for more updates on Lancathe CHL playoffs.