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From the Press Box: The beginning of the end of the road to the playoffs

 

Where does the time go? It’s hard to believe we’re already more than halfway through the regular season with all eyes now looking firmly forward towards hockey’s second season.

With the trade deadline in all three leagues that make up the CHL now passed, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Some teams made some impressive upgrades in their push to the playoffs and possible Memorial Cup berth  at the deadline, with some already seeing the dividends of their wheeling and dealing paying off.

In the OHL, the Barrie Colts are poised for a deep run after prying Dylan Sadowy away from Saginaw at the eleventh hour on deadline day.

The Kingston Frontenacs also upgraded by landing Michael Dal Colle from a rebuilding Oshawa Generals squad and have a stranglehold on the Eastern Conference.  In the Western Conference, perennial powerhouses Erie, London and Kitchener are head and shoulders above the field with the Windsor Spitfires nipping at their heels.

In the WHL, no one made bigger waves than the soon-to-be Memorial Cup host Red Deer Rebels with a slew of moves landing them Adam Helewka, Luke Philp and Jake DeBrusk. The wins are already piling up for the Rebels since the moves as they chase the Eastern Conference-leading Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Kelowna Rockets are in their familiar position atop the Western Conference, with the Victoria Royals, Prince George Cougars and Everett Silvertips battling it out just behind.

The QMJHL saw a record number of trades on deadline day and like their CHL counterparts are beginning to see the top of the standings solidify. The Val-d'Or Foreurs are the team to beat at the moment, leading the league in points with division rival Rouyn-Noranda Huskies right there with them.  The Shawinigan Cataractes are pulling away from the field in the East Division with the Rimouski Océanic trying to play catch up, while the Moncton Wildcats are easily the pride of the Maritimes Division.

It may be a little too early yet to be crowning champions, but we have definitely reached the point of the season where the men are separating from the boys, so to speak.

With the regular season entering the home stretch at the AAA level, eyes are beginning to shift toward draft season. In Ontario, expect Toronto Jr. Canadiens standout Ryan Merkley and Niagara North’s Hunter Holmes to continue to gather steam leading up to the OHL Priority Selection Draft in April. Moving over to the WHL Bantam Draft, keep an eye on Peyton Krebs of the Rocky Mountain Raiders, who is having an outstanding season and should hear his name called at or near the top of the first round come early May.

Not coincidentally, all three of the aforementioned players are among the preliminary favourites for the 2016 HockeyNow Minor Hockey Player of the Year Award in Alberta and Ontario as we continue our season-long search for the country’s top minor hockey players.

Coming up in February, we’ll be bringing our all the news and updates from across the CHL, CJHL, collegiate, minor and women’s hockey spectrums as the playoffs continue to approach and races tighten up.

As always, head over to HockeyNow.ca for all that and more, including a whole new set of contests and giveaways. Visit the contest section on our website for details.

So, strap yourselves in for an exciting month of hockey ahead and talk to you all again in next issue!

By:Graeme Frisque| 28/01/16 | (0) Comments
Tags: Memorial Cup

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