With the Oilers on a three-game winning streak after last night's win over the Dynasties I thought it might be fun to take this new-found positive energy and turn our eyes to the playoffs. Not that the Oilers are going to make the playoffs; they've had a miss mathematically locked in for weeks. But look at those prospects go! The Thunder aren't out of the woods yet but seven of the eight teams in their Conference make the playoffs so I'd say they have a pretty good chance. Plus, as Derek mentioned earlier this week, Riley Nash (Cornell) and Chris Vande Velde (North Dakota) will also be playing playoff hockey in the Frozen Four which starts this weekend. On top of that, there are a few other players in the CHL and Europe who have either already started, already finished or are just starting their playoff drive. After the jump, we'll take a look at how these playoff-playing prospects (and their teams) are doing.
Troy Hesketh and the Minnetonka Skippers - Believe it or not, this team is already finished their playoffs. Going into the state tournament Minnetonka were the top-ranked team in the state and had only lost once in thirty games all season. So losing in the state tournament final probably didn't feel too good. As for Hesketh, he ended up with no goals and two assists in the three games Minnetonka played in the tournament and he was not named to the All-Tournament team (the four spots on defence went to players on three different teams including two of his teammates). I'm going to guess that Hesketh didn't have a great week.
Toni Rajala and th e Brandon Wheat Kings - The Wheat Kings are in great shape up 3-0 on Stepan Novotny's Swift Current Broncos (another camp invite). Novotny's had a pretty rough series going 1-1-2 with a -4 in the three games, which is certainly bad but considering his team is -8, he's certainly not the only guy bleeding. As for the Wheaties, not only are they winning their series 3-0 but the top-ranked Calgary Hitmen (their prospective opponent in the next round) are losing theirs three games to one. Delighting in a Calgary loss is something Rajala will need to learn well so I'm glad the Hitmen are helping us out here. As you may have guessed from Novotny's stat-line the Wheat Kings have scored a lot of goals so far, 15 in three games to be exact. Rajala has points on exactly one of them: 0-1-1 and +1 in three games against an inferior opponent. He's basically living up to the clutch reputation that he established in the World Junior Championships this past December.
Linus Omark and Moscow Dynamo - Dynamo began the playoffs as the third seed in the KHL's Western Conference and promptly flamed out, losing their first round series to sixth-ranked Spartak three games to one. And you better believe Omark was the match that lit the fire. 0-0-0 and -4 in four playoff games. Exactly one Dynamo forward had more than one point in the four games so it's not like Omark was alone in his defecation (Jiri Hudler's 0-1-1 and -4 make that clear) but it certainly isn't encouraging. What I mean to say is, bring that man over stat!
Olivier Roy and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles - As we move over to the QMJHL and Olivier Roy, we begin to see individual failure matched by team failure. In his three games, all Cape Breton losses, Roy has allowed fifteen goals and posted a sterling save percentage of .854. Roy allowed six goals in each of the first two games before losing allowing three in an overtime loss at home. This post-season looks like it will be a quick one for Roy. Despite the poor numbers over the last week, Roy has had a good season overall and it might be an idea to send him to Stockton and carry the Thunder into the playoffs.
Philippe Cornet and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies - The Huskies traded for our man Cornet before the season with an eye on competing for the Memorial Cup. They went on to win their division handily and are currently taking on the terrible Val D'or Foreurs in the first round (regular season winning percentage: .324). The Huskies then lost their first game at home to give themselves a scare but have since won the next two to take a 2-1 series lead. Like the Huskies, Cornet is off to a slow start with two points (a goal and an assist) in the three games so far which puts him sixth in team scoring. He's also one of five Huskies with a +/- of -2 or worse.
Teemu Hartikainen and KalPa - They've qualified for the playoffs but Hartikainen hasn't yet been given the opportunity to screw up which makes his performance a bright spot so far. Because KalPa finished second overall they get a bye into the final eight and will begin the playoffs shortly.
Anton Lander, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and the Timra Red Eagles - The golden boys! After qualifying for the post-season on the last day of the season thanks to an Anton Lander game-winner. Of course, that means they're getting matched up against the league's top team. So far they're down in the best-of-seven series two games to one while Lander has two assists in the series and Paajarvi-Svensson has one. It looks to me like these guys are doing well.
Go Huskies! Go Eagles! Both Screaming and Red. On Kalpa! On Giants! Let's go Cornell! To the top of the standings! To the Memorial Cup! Go win that gold medal! Save a souvenir puck!