1st round OHL playoff forecast

March 28, 2024

Opening face-offs in the 2024 Ontario Hockey League playoffs are slated to take place tonight. And following are one writer’s opening round predictions as to how the best of seven series will play out.


Michael Simpson

London (1) v. Flint (8). The Knights boast nine players who scored at least 20 goals during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Knights allowed the fewest goals in the OHL while finishing first overall among the 20 teams of the league. Notably, the Knights also led the league in penalties as the only OHL team to top 1,000 minutes in the sin bin. With star players such as forwards Easton Cowan, Ruslan Gazizov and Denver Barkey, defensemen Oliver Bonk and Sam Dickinson and goalie Michael Simpson, London is once again an OHL powerhouse. As London has the legendary Dale Hunter as its esteemed bench boss, Flint is well coached with rookie Paul Flache at the helm. While overall a younger team, the Firebirds do have a quality veteran presence led by its three overagers — top producing forwards Oliver Peer and Nolan Dann and retread defenseman Roberto Mancini. Then there is workhorse goalie Nathan Day, who has the ability to steal a game for Flint. But in the big picture, the Firebirds are more about the future than now. Look for Flint to play London tough but … PREDICTION: London in five.

Calem Mangone

Saginaw (2) v. Owen Sound (7). The Memorial Cup host Spirit of Saginaw simply has too much for the Attack with key components such as high scoring defenseman Zayne Perekh and his 33 goals, 63 assists 96 points and top end forwards such as Owen Beck, Alex Christopoulos, Michael Misa and the under-rated Calem Mangone. Saginaw also features a second offensive threat defenseman in overager Rodwin Dionicio. The Attack has top scorers Demi Goure, Ethan Burroughs and Colby Barlow. And between the pipes is plum National Hockey League goalie prospect Carter George. But overall, Saginaw has way, way, way more and it is tough to envision Owen Sound being much of a match, even with George between the pipes. Spirit head coach Chris Lazary cannot — and mostly likely will not — allow his star studded crew to relax. Saginaw general manager Dave Drinkill has gone to well planned lengths to ensure that Saginaw is not headed to the Memorial Cup championship tournament as just an average team. In fact, London was the only OHL team to have more points than Saginaw this season — and just barely. This is an exceptional Saginaw team that was well put together for this season as Memorial Cup hosts. PREDICTION: Saginaw in four.

Gavin Hayes

Soo (3) v. Guelph (6). Guelph has good goaltending with Brayden Gillespie and plays a good all around game. But the Storm does not have enough scoring to compete in a series against a Greyhound offense that features Jack Beck, Gavin Hayes, Bryce McConnell-Barker et al and a talented trio of dandy defensemen in NHL draft picks Kirill Kudryavstev (Vancouver Canucks), Arttu Karki (Vegas Golden Knights) and Andrew Gibson (Detroit Red Wings.) And between the pipes, workhorse starter Charlie Schenkel is as good as any starting goalie among the Western Conference contenders, except perhaps for London’s overage puck stopper Michael Simpson.¬†Guelph can keep games close but … PREDICTION: Greyhounds in five.

Kitchener (4) v. Erie (5). The Rangers can score led by forwards Carson Rehkopf and Matthew Sop and defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz while the Otters can counter with the likes of Dylan Edwards and Carey Terrance. This has the makings of a seven game series. PREDICTION: Kitchener in seven.


Very quickly: No. 1 seed Oshawa Generals over no. 8 Barrie Colts in four; no. 2 seed North Bay Battalion closes out no. 7 Kingston Frontenacs in five; no. 6 seed Ottawa 67’s upsets no. 3 seed Brantford Bulldogs in seven; no. 4 seed Mississauga Steelheads takes the measure of no. 5 seed Sudbury Wolves in six.

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