Max Marko: The Canadian Hockey League has all three leagues fairly deep in their respective playoff schedule as the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL are all in their conference finals. The teams left in contention are the Rouyn Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL), Saint Johns Sea Dogs (QMJHL), Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL), Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Red Deer Rebels (WHL), Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL), Kelowna Rockets (WHL), Niagara IceDogs (OHL), Barrie Colts (OHL), Erie Otters (OHL) and London Knights (OHL).
Among the teams are highly touted prospects, but there are lesser known gems that deserve more attention. These players that had terrific postseason totals, but were unable to help their teams advance to the next round:
Samuel Blais (STL) and Daniel Sprong (PIT) were absolutely fantastic during the Charlottetown Islanders tenure in the QMJHL Playoffs, Blais scored 19 points in 12 games and Sprong added 15 points. Evgeny Svechnikov (DET) was solid in Cape Breton’s 13 games. He totaled four goals and eleven assists and is now on his way to Grand Rapids to join the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate in their quest for the Calder Cup.
Jack Walker (2016 eligible) followed up his terrific regular season with an equally impressive playoff performance, scoring eight goals and eight assists with just about half of them coming on the power play. Brayden Point (TBL) potted six goals and added 10 assists with Moose Jaw.
Mike Amadio (LAK) was determined to eliminate the Peterborough Petes single handedly. 10 goals during the seven game series the North Bay Battalion had with the Petes. 12 goals in 11 games total. Michael Dal Colle (NYI) and Spencer Watson (LAK) were a dynamic duo for the Kingston Frontenacs, scoring a total of 35 points between the pair in Kingston’s 11 games.
The 2016 U18 World Hockey Championship offers a preview of the top half of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. However, the front runner for the first overall selection, Nolan Patrick, is still playing with his junior team in the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Patrick is holding his own in the WHL Playoffs with seven goals and 10 assists in 13 games. Patrick boasts a strong playmaking ability that works well with his speed and quickness, but his skating could improve.
Timothy Liljegren surged into play for a top three pick this year with his play for Rögle BK. Playing for an SHL team for 19 games as a 17-year-old is a huge accomplishment and speaks to his quality play. Liljegren and Sweden are going to the gold medal game after sneaking past Canada in the semi-final. He has a goal and five assists in six games.
Kailer Yamamoto is another playmaking specialist that could see the draft stage within the top five picks of the 2017 draft. He has 10 points in six games with Team USA. Another American top watch for next June is Casey Mittelstadt. The University of Minnesota commit is small, but mighty. Much like Yamamoto, Mittelstadt is a speedy playmaker. He has four goals and two assists in the tournament. USA will play Canada in the bronze medal game.
The most intriguing prospect at the U18WHC eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft is Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen, a Finnish native, has a distinct knack for goal scoring. Earlier in the year, Tolvanen was an offensive dynamo with Finland at the 2015 U17 World Hockey Challenge, where he scored nine goals in five games. Tolvanen already has six goals in six games at the WHC, with the gold medal game against Sweden to go.
His shot is quick and comes from a professional caliber release. Tolvanen has not received a lot of discussion as a top five pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, but his tournament play offers a strong argument for him.
By Max Marko, follow on Twitter at: @MarkoFznFutures
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