Prospect Ramblings: Looking back on CHL Predictions

by Brayden Olafson on February 7, 2020

 

 

Last August I wrote a piece for DobberHockey’s The Journey discussing my predictions for the CHL season to be. With only a handful of weeks remaining in the regular season campaign, we’ve all but seen what will come of the year and it seems like as good of a time as any to review those predictions. 

 

So, here are some of the core sentiments that were highlighted in that piece, as well as how they look six months later. 

 

WHL 

 

Predictions

 

  • Despite offering a plethora of the first-round talent to the 2019 NHL draft, the WHL seemed to be headed for an overall, down-year among CHL leagues.
  • The Edmonton Oil Kings and Spokane Chiefs seemed to have the best odds of having success in the WHL.
  • Kelowna had some of the tools that would be required to be successful in their Memorial Cup host run, but some moves would be required. 
  • Lethbridge could be a dark-horse team 
  • Regina headed in the wrong direction

 

 

Reality

 

As far as having a “down-year” goes, the WHL hasn’t fared any worse than the other leagues this season. The Central and American divisions have largely dominated the other halves of their conferences and the odds of the league sending a second competitive team to the Memorial Cup in Kelowna is greater than I would have expected. 

 

Between Edmonton, and Spokane, The Oil Kings have done the best in fulfilling the August prediction. With only eight regulation losses through 51 contests, the team has been supported by strong defense and a quickly developing forward core. Rangers’ prospect Matthew Robertson has had a relatively quiet year offensively speaking, but has taken on a more significant 200-foot role for the team now that the pressure of his draft has passed. Former WHL first-overall selection Dylan Guenther has come into his own as a full-time rookie with the Oil Kings as well. His electric skating separates him from most other 16-year-old’s in the CHL and should put him in line for a top-15 selection at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. 

 

Spokane, on the other hand, has had significantly less success than I would have expected, considering the return of Ty Smith. Although Smith has only been a part of the Chief’s lineup for a little over half of their contests, the team hasn’t supplied a consistent enough offense to be considered dominant in the CHL. 

 

Rather, in their place, The Portland Winterhawks have become one of the top Major Junior squads since going on a wild run in the month of December. St. Louis prospect, and Canadian World Junior netminder Joel Hofer has strung together consistent quality starts for the Winterhawks, while potential 2020 first-round draft-pick Seth Jarvis has led the team offensively. 

 

Regina has indeed struggled, but none so much as the league’s bottom-dweller franchise, the Swift Current Broncos. The small-market team has faced an immense uphill battle in rebuilding their roster since the days of Aleksi Heponiemi, Glenn Gawdin, and Tyler Steenbergen, however with three 2020 Bantam Draft-eligible players throwing their names in for Exceptional Status, the Broncos’ could be lucky enough to get a jump-start on their extended rebuild. 

 

OHL

 

Predictions

  • Teams in the OHL looked to have some of the best overall grouped talents. 
  • Peterborough, Saginaw, London, and Oshawa had the best chances of making a push.
  • Flint and Niagara could be dark-horses
  • Kingston and North Bay headed in the wrong direction.

 

Reality 

 

Disappointingly, the OHL has truly only had one powerhouse squad in a year where they should’ve had several. The Ottawa 67’s have trampled their competition, in particular, since the trade deadline in which they remained extremely quiet. The team, who I did not have an eye for in August, has overthrown more mature offenses with the brute force talent of two uber-talented draft-eligible forwards in Marco Rossi and Jack Quinn. The former, while sitting a few spots back in the ladder of OHL draft-eligibles, has proven himself to be an ELITE playmaker (I’m using caps to emphasize the fact that this term is not being thrown around lightly). The 18-year-old center not only makes regular dazzling plays but creates offense with a maturity that I think could translate to the NHL sooner than many other top-15 players of this class. 

 

Peterborough, Saginaw, London, and Oshawa have had their moments throughout the year, with the Knights seemingly being able to capitalize most on their eb’s. The others, however, while still in favorable postseason bound positions have come nowhere near where I would have expected them to, considering their experienced and highly regarded offenses. With the exception of Oshawa, each of the four teams feature a scorer in the league’s top-5, however, individual accolades have evidently not translated into team dominance. 

 

The dark-horse picks of the Niagara Ice Dogs and Flint Firebirds have struggled, and the former seems to be on the cusp of an impending rebuild. Flint remains in the race for the OHL playoffs, however, 20-year-old Ty Dellandrea hasn’t been enough to put the team into contender status. 

 

QMJHL 

 

Predictions

  • Among QMJHL teams, Rimouski, Moncton, Sherbrooke, and Baie Comeau seemed to have the most promising rosters, but I also thought Halifax could have some left in the tank. 
  • Bathurst headed in the wrong direction.

 

Reality

 

With the QMJHL being my recently adopted home CHL league, I am proud to see the accuracy of my predictions looking back to August. With the exception of Halifax, who, in my defense DID indeed have plenty left in the tank until they decided to sell off their 20-year-olds, the majority of my predictions were quite accurate. 

 

I probed Rimouski as having potentially the most formidable roster to open the season, led by projected first overall selection Alexis Lafreniere and all. For the first half of the season, the Oceanic held down the top-three spots in OHL scoring with AL leading their top line along with Cedric Pare and Dmitry Zavgorodniy. While Rimouski has been successful, and as a team even more so of late, they’ve certainly not been the top team in the Q. 

 

That honor rests shared by the hands of the Moncton Wildcats and the Sherbrooke Phoenix. The Wildcats,  who have less than quietly built themselves a powerhouse roster with which to bulldoze their way to the Memorial Cup. With 10+ NHL-affiliated names featured on the Cats’ roster, Moncton appeared spoiled when 2021 eligible forward Zachary L’Heureux quickly emerged as the league’s most dynamic rookie. Despite being pushed down the lineup by recent acquisitions, the momentum brought on by the 16-year-old’s debut could have been a significant factor in the optimism that has surrounded the Moncton squad since September. 

 

Sherbrooke, on the other hand, has relied heavily on their top line led by Penguins’ draft-pick Samuel Poulin. The dynamic power forward has been a minute muncher for the Phoenix but makes the team seem less diverse than the competition they might face in the playoffs.  

 

Last… and least, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, two years removed from a Memorial Cup victory find themselves conclusively at the bottom of the league, and not far behind the likes of Swift Current in the WHL, and North Bay in the OHL. Having retained most of their talent until their National victory it will likely take another couple of years before the team is able to once again capitalize on the fruits of their rebuild. 

 

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I hope you enjoyed reading this piece as much as I genuinely enjoyed writing it. If you’ve got any thoughts on my former predictions or current analysis of CHL happenings, I’d love to hear from you on Twitter @olaf1393.