OHL Playoff Preview: Familiar faces set to square off in first-round

Tye Felhaber will look to continue his outstanding regular season in what the 67’s hope will be a long playoff run (Terry Willson / OHL Images).

With races going right down to the final day of the regular season, the Ontario Hockey League playoffs are set to open on Thursday with some familiar faces meeting up in round one.

Eastern Conference

Ottawa 67’s vs. Hamilton Bulldogs

Head-to-head: Ottawa 5-0-0-0

Last meeting: Ottawa beat Hamilton 5-3 on March 1.

Ottawa Player to Watch: Recently-signed Dallas Stars prospect Tye Felhaber will look to continue his outstanding regular season in what the 67’s hope will be a long playoff run as the top team in the conference.

Hamilton Player to Watch: Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matthew Strome posted solid numbers in the Bulldogs run to an OHL title one year ago. With a rebuilding Bulldogs club this season, the third member of the Strome family to play in the league carried that success over into another good regular season.

Niagara IceDogs vs. North Bay Battalion

Head-to-head: Niagara 4-1-1-0

Last meeting: Niagara beat North Bay 8-3 on March 17.

Niagara Player to Watch: Jason Robertson, a Dallas Stars prospect, finished the regular season strong to capture the league scoring title and has been outstanding since being acquired by the IceDogs from the Kingston Frontenacs earlier this year.

North Bay Player to Watch: Overage forward Justin Brazeau forced scouts to take notice this season. Undrafted, Brazeau proceeded to score 60 goals. It’s hard to ignore a big body with skill.

Oshawa Generals vs. Peterborough Petes

Head-to-head: Oshawa 6-1-1-0

Last meeting: Oshawa beat Peterborough 6-3 on Feb. 13.

Oshawa Player to Watch: Acquired at the trade deadline from Hamilton, Brandon Saigeon gives the Generals plenty of playoff experience. The Colorado Avalanche prospect has been a perfect fit in Oshawa.

Peterborough Player to Watch: A 2019 NHL draft prospect, Hunter Jones is considered among the top North American goaltenders available in the draft.

Sudbury Wolves vs. Mississauga Steelheads

Head-to-head: Sudbury 4-2-0-0

Last meeting: Sudbury beat Mississauga 2-1 on Jan. 27.

Sudbury Player to Watch: Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen posted great numbers in the regular season. Selected in the CHL Import Draft last summer, Luukkonen has provided stability in goal for the Wolves.

Mississauga Player to Watch: 2020 draft prospect Aidan Prueter was a key piece as the Steelheads moved Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers) and Ryan McLeod (Edmonton Oilers) ahead of the OHL trade deadline in January.

Western Conference

London Knights vs. Windsor Spitfires

Head-to-head: London 5-1-0-0

Last meeting: London beat Windsor 7-0 on Jan. 25.

London Player to Watch: Goaltenders Jordan Kooy and Joseph Raaymakers will be the key for the top team in the conference as it looks to go on a long playoff run.

Windsor Player to Watch: At 6-foot-9, it’s hard not to notice Dallas Stars prospect Curtis Douglas. Added offensive skill makes it even easier. Douglas posted 27 goals in 66 games this year.

Saginaw Spirit vs. Sarnia Sting

Head-to-head: Saginaw 3-2-0-1

Last meeting: Saginaw beat Sarnia 6-2 on Mar. 12.

Saginaw Player to Watch: Acquired ahead of the OHL trade deadline, Owen Tippett has settled in nicely on a line with Ryan McLeod and rookie Cole Perfetti. There are few lines in the league with as much skill as the Saginaw trio.

Sarnia Player to Watch: Overage defenceman Mitch Eliot (Vancouver Canucks) is a key piece to the Sting offensively. Eliot will see big minutes against the Spirit as he gets many of the key assignments on the blueline.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. Owen Sound Attack

Head-to-head: Sault Ste. Marie 2-0-0-0

Last meeting: Sault Ste. Marie beat Owen Sound 4-3 on Mar. 3.

Sault Ste. Marie Player to Watch: Arizona Coyotes prospect Barrett Hayton returned to the Greyhounds’ lineup for the last weekend of the regular season after missing nine games and scored four goals and six points in his first two games back.

Owen Sound Player to Watch: Goaltender Mack Guzda got into three playoff games last year, including a start in game seven against the Greyhounds last season in round two. This year, he’s the main man in goal.

Guelph Storm vs. Kitchener Rangers

Head-to-head: Guelph 4-3-1-0

Last meeting: Kitchener beat Guelph 5-3 on March 10.

Guelph Player to Watch: As the Storm added ahead of the OHL trade deadline, goaltender Anthony Popovich will be the key to the potential success of the Storm in the playoffs.

Kitchener Player to Watch: A free agent signing who played his first OHL game in January 2017, Jonathan Yantsis proceeded to score 50 goals this season in 68 games after scoring eight in his previous 83 career games.

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