With 12 teams remaining in the hunt for the Memorial Cup, the focus is starting to narrow. Fortunately for San Jose Sharks fans, they have a prospect involved in five of the six series. Game 1 of each series has already completed so here is an update.
(1) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs. Moncton Wildcats
After a surprising Game 1 loss, the Huskies and Timo Meier rallied for four-straight victories to reach the semifinal. Their prize is the opportunity to play against the top scorer in the CHL in Conor Garland. The shifty forward is a handful to deal with and the Huskies must be careful when trying to contain him.
At the same time, Rouyn-Noranda built enough depth to handle a team like Moncton and it showed in a 4-1 victory on Friday. The top-ranked team just keeps on rolling.
(12) Shawinigan Cataractes vs. (13) Saint John Sea Dogs
The Cataractes handled the Charlottetown Islanders well to earn a berth in the semifinal. Cavan Fitzgerald and the potent Cataractes offense now has to deal with a Sea Dogs squad with their fair share of stars. Led by exceptional-status player Joseph Veleno and first-round picks Jakub Zboril and Thomas Chabot. The Sea Dogs will be a handful.
Fitzgerald managed an assist in an game 1 overtime loss. With two fast-paced offenses. The rest of this series should be fun to watch.
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Barrie Colts vs. Niagara Ice Dogs
After making quick work of the North Bay Battalion in four games, the Colts enter this series well rested and ready to battle. Unfortunately, the same is said for their opponent who shockingly swept the sixth-ranked Kingston Frontenacs to arrive at the Eastern Conference Final.
The duo of Josh Ho-Sang and Brendan Perlini look possessed and was difficult for the Colts to shut down in a 3-2 loss in Game 1. That combined with the goaltending of Alex Nedeljkovic, this team will be very difficult to stop. Just imagine the Ice Dogs once Vince Dunn returns to the lineup.
As for the Colts, Kevin Labanc is still good for about one or two points in every game. The OHL looks like a joke to him and he is definitely ready for the San Jose Barracuda next season. As for Dylan Sadowy, he provides a much different story. Sadowy hasn’t played since early in the second round because of injury which is concerning for his contract hopes. Sharks fans should hope Sadowy can get back into the lineup before this season is over as failing to sign him is very risky.
(7) Brandon Wheat Kings vs. Red Deer Rebels
After a thrilling seven-game victory over the upstart Regina Pats, the Rebels run into the wall that is the Brandon Wheat Kings. A Memorial-Cup favorite for the majority of the season, this team is loaded with stars like seventh-overall pick Ivan Provorov and the top prospect in the 2017 NHL Draft in Nolan Patrick.
The Rebels were able to reach overtime but still ended up losing the first game. Based on the way the Wheat Kings are playing, the Rebels will be in tough if they plan on winning this series. As much as I would like to see Adam Helewka continue to grow his Logan Couture-esque mustache, that might have to wait until the Memorial Cup Tournament.
(11) Kelowna Rockets vs. (10) Seattle Thunderbirds
Speaking of thrilling game sevens, the Rockets scored with 0.2 seconds left to force an overtime they would eventually win. After shocking the WHL‘s best team in the Victoria Royals, the Rockets now face a team that has steamrolled their way through these playoffs.
Sharks fans might be familiar with Mathew Barzal, the prospect they notoriously passed on for Meier. Barzal might be the best playmaker in the CHL and his creativity should be monitored by the Rockets if they want to advance to the WHL Final.
Rourke Chartier did manage a goal in their Game 1 loss but with the way the Thunderbirds are playing and with how exhausted the Rockets are by playing two seven-game series, I wouldn’t be surprised if this series is ended prematurely. Then again, I had a similar thought in the second round against the Royals.
Stay tuned to track several Sharks prospects’ quest for the Memorial Cup.