OHL Playoff Preview – Niagara vs. Oshawa
With the Regular season over, the OHL Playoffs are set so it’s time to take a look at the matchups starting with……
1st Round Matchup
#4 Niagara (35-23-7) vs. #5 Oshawa (36-29-3)
Niagara Ice Dogs finished the season on a 7 game winning streak. They split the season series 1-1 with Oshawa this year. Last time they met in the playoffs was 2014 when Oshawa led by Cole Cassels won the series 4-1.
PP: Niagara 19.5% (12th), Oshawa 18.8% (14th)
PK: Niagara 80.1% (8th), Oshawa 74.9% (18th)
Goals for: Niagara 240 (6th), Oshawa 250 (4th)
Goals against: Niagara 235 (4th), Oshawa 243 (6th)
Niagara Ice Dogs
Offensively, the Ice Dogs Top 6 is very good. Unlike last year where they got swept in the 1st round, this year’s team boasts two legit scoring lines. Edmonton Oilers draft pick Kirill Maksimov (34 goals) spearheads the Top line at RW with C Ben Jones (LV 7th rd) & Captain LW Johnny Corneil (undrafted overager) rounding out the unit. This trio isn’t the flashiest but they are very strong defensively and have great chemistry together. The 2nd line is one of the best 2nd lines in the OHL if not the best. Trade Deadline acquisition LW Sam Miletic (36 goals) has had a huge impact on this team and on C Akil Thomas (59 assists) in particular since coming over from London. Those two have developed some nice chemistry and give Niagara a real dynamic 2nd unit tough for other teams to match up against. 19 yr old undrafted Daniel Singer (22 goals) rounds out the group.
Defensively, Niagara gives up a ton of shots and frankly is not very good on the back end. Going into the playoffs the Ice Dogs will have to try and eliminate those 2nd and 3rd chances that they have really struggled with this year. They are missing that leader and big presence on the back end which was exactly what Ryan Mantha was for them last year. Their goalie Stephen Dhillon is asked to play miraculously sometimes and he usually does which is why Niagara is where they are in the standings. He doesn’t make all the saves but usually makes the big ones when they need it. This is a prototypical bend but don’t break kind of unit.
#30 Stephen Dhillon. COURTESY OF OHL IMAGES
Sam Miletic – 36G, 56A, 92 pts
Akil Thomas – 22G, 59A, 81 pts
Kirill Maksimov – 34G, 46A, 80 pts
Stephen Dhillon – 27-16-4, 3.34 GAA, .899 SV%
Offensively, the Generals have a balanced attack similar to that of the Ice Dogs however they play a much more speed game who likes to be on the attack at all times. They are led by Boston Bruins 2nd rd pick Jack Studnicka (72 points) and Vancouver 7th rounder D Matt Brassard (51 points) on the back end but also boast nice group of young players in draft eligibles Allen McShane, Serron Noel and 17 yr old Danil Antropov. They transition the puck exceptionally well from defence to offence and do a great job of creating turnovers in the offensive zone with their aggressive forecheck. The Niagara defenders will have their hands full trying to contain this fast aggressive group.
Defensively, Oshawa is well balanced on the back end with Matt Brassard leading the charge offensively and 17 yr old Nico Gross and the rest of the group holding the fort defensively. They are a big group who can be beat with speed so it will be interesting to see how they match up against the Miletic-Thomas line in particular. Their goalie Kyle Keyser is very solid capable of stealing a game or two himself the key is to get traffic in front of him and look for rebounds as he tends to give up his share of them.
#38 Kyle Keyser. Photo by Aaron Bell / OHL Images
Jack Studnicka – 22G, 50A, 72 pts
Allen McShane – 19G, 45A, 64 pts
Serron Noel – 28G, 25A, 53 pts
Matt Brassard – 16g, 35A, 51 pts
Kyle Keyser – 28-13-4, 3.16 GAA, .904 SV%
Difference in Series:
The should be a very tight series but the difference for me will be Niagara’s PP and Sam Miletic in particular. He’s the best player on both teams I expect he and Thomas to have a big series. As long as Dhillon can keep them in the games I think Niagara’s Power Play will be able to take advantage of Oshawa’s awful PK units and ultimately prove to be the difference in what should be a close series.
Niagara Ice Dogs in 7 games.
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