Canada’s junior teams are beginning their playoffs this weekend, with championships in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL at stake, plus a chance to play for the Memorial Cup in May. The Oilers have several kids playing and early results are very good.
OHL: DARNELL NURSE
his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds won 44 games (in a 68-game schedule) and finished with 95 points. They are expected to go on a deep run in the playoffs this spring. So far, Nurse is 2GP, 0-4-4 +3 as the Greyhounds are 1-1 so far against Owen Sound.
SSM GM Kyle Dubas: “Relative to the competition he plays [against], he does extremely
well. Far greater than 50 percent of the time, the puck is not in our
end. To me, it doesn’t get much bigger than that. If we’re taking the
other team’s best players and forcing them to play in their end and away
from the puck, that’s a successful day. The quality of competition he’s faced is higher than anyone else in our league, especially among defencemen.”
Kyle Platzer plays for Owen Sound these days, the Oilers 2013 draft pick was traded by London during the season. Platzer is 2GP, 1-1-2 in the series and has played a major part in the series. His goal in game one (overtime) gave OS the series lead.
Marco Roy had an injury-plagued season, and a deep run into the postseason might benefit his development as a prospect. Blainville-Boisbriand (Roy’s team) is also tied 1-1 in games with Moncton, with game three tomorrow. Roy is 2GP, 0-1-1 with 8 shots on goal.
Mitchell Moroz leads the way out west, his Edmonton Oil Kings won yesterday in the lid-lifter against Prince Albert. The two teams tangle again in Edmonton this afternoon (game just getting underway). Moroz had an assist in yesterday’s game (on a very nice play) and is a big part of the club’s offense this season.
Jujhar Khaira and Ben Betker are in the playoffs this season. They’ve played in 1 game (no boxcar numbers yet) and Everett is down 1-0 in their series against Seattle. Game two also goes later today.
Jackson Houck and his Vancouver Giants are already down 2-0 to the Portland Winterhawks and things aren’t likely going to get any better. Portland is a powerhouse in the western conference. In two games so far, Houck has a goal.
Greg Chase is 2GP, 1-1-2 so far in the Calgary Hitmen series against Kootenay. Things are tied 1-1, and Chase is one of the major players in the series.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The CHL kids are gaining valuable experience and for some of them this represents their final month (or so) of junior hockey. Mitchell Moroz and Jujhar Khaira are signed and will turn pro in the fall, Marco Roy is old enough to turn pro after one season, and Darnell Nurse may force his way onto the NHL roster in September.
These are important games for the Oilers. A large portion of their future is on display across the country this spring. A deep run—perhaps a trip to the Memorial Cup—means more opportunities to play and develop.
It’s also possible that some of the junior kids who will turn pro next season see some action in Oklahoma City, if the Barons can make the playoffs.