Sunday CHL preview: Frontenacs vs. IceDogs

Dal Colle has 20 goals and 38 points in his first 19 games with the Frontenacs (OHL Images)

The CHL on Sunday makes its way back to Kingston for an early matinee (12:30 p.m. ET) between the hometown Frontenacs and Eastern Conference foe Niagara.

The IceDogs are reeling and have lost nine of their last 14 games, yet still remain in contention for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Kingston is sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference’s driver’s seat and has picked up points in seven of its last eight games with a favourable schedule down the stretch with six of its final 13 games against teams with below .500 records. Only two opponents (London and Windsor) have records above .550. But it’s really not about making the playoffs for Kingston, it’s about getting past the first round, which hasn’t happened since 1998.

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Niagara Ice Dogs

As has been the case for most of the season, the IceDogs have had issues scoring goals. Over their mediocre 14-game stretch they’re averaging just 2.42 goals per game. What has compounded the issue over that time, is the fact they’re not defending as well as they were earlier in the season, giving up 3.36 goals per game.

Individual Stats          
Top Scorers GP G A PTS Note
Josh Ho-Sang 52 16 48 62 18th OHL Pts
Stephen Harper 54 21 30 51  
Jordan Maletta 54 29 20 49  
Vince Dunn 48 11 30 41 4th OHL D
Brendan Perlini 43 20 15 35
In Goal
Alex Nedeljkovic (17-15-1-2, 2.93, .907%)

The desired effect from the acquisition of U.S. World junior goalie Alex Nedelkovic hasn’t been realized. His addition was to allow Niagara to use its mobile defence to help support the forward group, knowing that if odd-man chances were given up, Nedelkovic would be there to save the day. As has been stated previously, there’s still time for this to come to fruition, and if it does, Niagara will be a feared playoff team.

Five of Niagara’s defencemen are NHL draft picks and are more than capable of controlling a game. As a group, all the elements you would want are present: You have great skaters, puck movers, and stay-at-home types. At times the group can be guilty of trying to do too much because they’re so gifted. Part of making the jump to the next level is not forcing the issue and making the simple play when no other options are available.

Vince Dunn and Blake Siebenhaler are the skaters, Ryan Mantha is a hybrid while Josh Wesley and Aaron Haydon can lock it down in front of their own net. Alexander Mikulovich is a silver-medal winner from Russia’s world junior team.

The same goes for the versatility of Niagara’s forwards. Jordan Maletta and Anthony DeFruscia are worker bees that produce, Stephen Harper and Johnny Corneil are solid two-way players that are difficult to play against, Graham Knott, Tyler Boston and Pavel Jenys are big bodies and good skaters.

The leader of the scoring pack is Josh Ho-Sang, whose point production has slowed to less than a point per game over the last 15. He has to be at least a point-per-game player to spark the offence. He’s too talented not to be in that range. Brendan Perlini has just five points in his last eight games, but if there’s a positive he has scored in three straight and Niagara fans are hoping this is more like the player Arizona took 12th overall in 2014.

There are few teams that can handle the two of them when they’re at the top of their game. It just hasn’t happened consistently this season.

Team Stats     Rank
PP 42/211=19.9%   8th
PK 40/237=83.1%   4th
GF/gm 3.02   14th
GA/gm 2.96   7th

NHL Drafted/Signed Players
Brendan Perlini (ARI 12th 2014)
Josh Ho-Sang (NYI 28th 2014)
Alex Nedeljkovic (CAR 37th 2014)
Graham Knott (CHI 54th 2015)
Vince Dunn (STL 56th 2015)
Blake Siebenhaler (CLB 77th 2014)
Josh Wesley (CAR 96th 2014)
Ryan Mantha (NYR 104th 2014)
Aaron Haydon (DAL 154th 2014)
Pavel Jenys (MIN 199th 2014)

NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings
Christopher Paquette, No. 87
Stephen Dhillon, No. 25 (goalies)

Under the radar
Jordan Maletta has held up to his end of the bargain as the team's second leading scorer. He plays in all situations, plays with grease and rarely takes a shift off.

Kingston Frontenacs

Kingston has excelled lately in the goal-scoring department, averaging 4.17 goals per game over its last 12. Teams have been game-planning and line-matching against the Michael Dal Cole-Warren Foegele-Spencer Watson line and that has opened up the Lawson Crouse-Juho Lammikko-Jared Steege line which has been deadly.

Individual Stats          
Top Scorers GP G A PTS Note
Spencer Watson 53 31 39 70 10th OHL Pts
Michael Dal Colle 49 28 34 59 19th OHL Pts
Lawson Crouse 37 15 27 42  
Juho Lammikko 47 15 26 41  
Warren Foegele 41 8 32 40
In Goal
Lucas Peressini (23-13-2-1, 2.83, .908%)

Crouse has nine points in his last six games, Lammikko has eight in his last four, while Steege is two games back from injury but has two points. There’s no question, Kingston is interested in playing low-scoring, hard-hitting, grinding games, but you still have to score and in order to have playoff success, secondary scoring is essential. Steege’s return to the lineup pushes Connor McGlynn to the third line and that should give him some favourable match-ups. Other than rookie Jason Robertson, the rest of the forward group is to provide energy and plenty of physical play to fatigue the opposition and open up ice for the top six.

Kingston’s one-two punch of defencemen Roland McKewon and Stephen Desrocher can add scoring to support the top-six forwards. Those two eat plenty of minutes and are proficient in their own end. Rookie Jacob Paquette has cemented himself in the top four, while Chad Duchesne’s experience is a big asset. Liam Murray and Nathan Billitier are veterans that can play physically. Overall, the group is underrated.

There’s no question Kingston will ride 2015 goalie of the year Lucas Perissini into the playoffs. Jeremy Helvig has been brilliant when he’s played and he’s pushed Perissini. That should help on two fronts, one where Peressini will be expected to rise above the competition and another in that he shouldn’t be worn out going into the playoffs.

Team Stats     Rank
PP 42/207=20.3%   7th
PK 36/229=84.3%   1st
GF/gm 3.42   9th
GA/gm 2.89   5th

NHL Drafted/Signed Players
Michael Dal Colle (NYI 5th 2014)
Lawson Crouse (FLA 11th 2015)
Roland McKeown (LA 50th 2014)
Warren Foegele (CAR 67th 2014)
Juho Lammikko (FLA 65th 2014)
Stephen Desrocher (TOR 155th 2015)
Spencer Watson (LA 209th 2014)

NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings
Konstantin Chernyuk, No. 104

Under the radar
Juho Lammikko is one of the best two-way centres in the OHL. He has recently re-established his goal-scoring touch and will maintain it if the Frontenacs are to get by the first round of the playoffs.