This Thursday and Friday will mark the beginning of the conference finals in the Western, Ontario and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs. Those who cultivate the requisite eight remaining wins to take the title in their respective leagues will join the host Saskatoon Blades in the Memorial Cup exactly one month from now.
Of the top 35 North American goalies and top 100 North American skaters eligible for the 2013 NHL entry draft, 20 are in the postseason semifinals of their Canadian League chapters. Those 20 players combine to represent 11 of the 12 teams vying for one of the three openings.
Not all of those prospects have seen substantive action. Some of them are currently backup goaltenders.
But of those who are taking regular shifts and moving on to the conference finals of their respective leagues, there are 12 with performances worth updating. They are encapsulated as follows in alphabetical order.
Max Domi, C, London (OHL)
Domi is tied with Alex Broadhurst for the team lead with five goals, including three game-winners, and is the Knights’ sole playoff point-getting leader with 14. So far, five of his first nine games in this tournament have been multi-point efforts, most recently a three-point night to polish off the Kitchener Rangers last Friday.
Domi has had a hand in three of London’s eight winning goals so far in these playoffs, including both series-clinchers.
Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)
The Mooseheads have swept clean to the halfway mark of the Quebec League playoffs and have generally put the opponent away without hesitation. Drouin has done his part with three assists on eventual game-clinchers and by compiling a 4-11-15 scoring log overall.
Zachary Fucale, G, Halifax (QMJHL)
Granted, Fucale has not been tested as much as his Quebec League competitors in this tournament, facing 144 shots in eight contests for an average of 18 per night. But he has dealt with what comes his way as expected and resisted any frostbite that might be brought on by protracted periods of inactivity.
His reward has been a league-best 1.12 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and pristine 8-0 record. That ought not to hurt his ranking among North American netminders.
He has most recently endured his only two multi-goal games in the latter half of the second round, but that may be more of a credit to the Gatineau Olympiques’ desperation. And Fucale never let them take a lead at any point in that series.
Jeremy Gregoire, C, Baie Comeau (QMJHL)
Curiously, Gregoire has pitched in a point in six out of eight games, the only two exceptions being the Drakkar’s two series-clinchers. With that said, he is tied with Petr Straka for the team led with eight tournament goals.
Bo Horvat, C, London (OHL)
A pair of unanswered goals from Horvat deleted a 2-0 deficit and set the stage for a 3-2 overtime triumph in Game 2 of the Knights’ first-round sweep of the Saginaw Spirit. He has since added four points in seven contests.
Seth Jones, D, Portland (WHL)
One of the top candidates for the top overall pick has been off-and-on when it comes to offensive productivity in the WHL playoffs, going without a set of consecutive games with a point. Although, he had two goals, including a 1-1 equalizer, in the first-round clincher and two assists the night his Winterhawks put away the Spokane Chiefs.
More critically, the sizeable defenseman did his part in Portland’s effort to stifle the fifth-most productive offense in the Western League. The Chiefs had scored 269 goals in 72 regular-season games but only mustered three tallies in four playoff bouts with Jones’ Winterhawks.
Curtis Lazar, RW/C, Edmonton (WHL)
Lazar gained timely traction in the opening round against the Kootenay Ice after the series was tied at a game apiece. He proceeded to amass four goals over the next three contests, all Edmonton victories to quickly put Kootenay away.
Of those goals, two were game-clinchers while another was an insurance tally on the power play.
Lazar was comparatively quiet in the conference semifinals, nailing but one assist in four bouts with Medicine Hat. Rebounding with more production in the next round against the rival Calgary Hitmen could help boost his stock.
Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
Likely to go among the single-digit picks opposite Drouin at the top of the draft chart, MacKinnon has matched his fellow Moosehead’s output of 15 points through eight postseason games. That included eight assists in their four-game, second-round sweep of the Gatineau Olympiques.
Etienne Marcoux, G, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
Third in the league in playoff GAA (2.09) and fourth in save percentage (.916), Marcoux’s only loss through nine outings was in overtime. Other than that setback, he has submitted one shutout, four one-goal games and one two-blemish effort.
Gabriel Paquin-Boudreau, LW, Baie Comeau (QMJHL)
Second among Quebec League rookies with six goals and 10 points, Paquin-Boudreau went cold for most of the second round, tallying all of his three points in Game 2. The rest of the time, the Victoriaville Tigres kept him silent on the scoresheet.
Nicolas Petan, C, Portland (WHL)
Amidst a 5-10-15 run through the Winterhawks’ first 10 playoff outings, Petan’s most prolific night was Game 3 of the opening round versus Everett. He drew a 1-1 knot on a power-play goal, had a hand in two more strikes to sculpt a 3-1 lead and effectively spelled the difference by night’s end with a four-point effort in a 7-3 victory.
Marc-Olivier Roy, C, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
Second on the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada with five goals and 16 points, Roy has flexed an abundance of ice-breaking and deal-sealing aptitude. Of those 16 postseason points in nine contests, five have contributed to the first goal of a game, seven to a power-play conversion and three to a game-clincher.
Roy has submitted five multi-point efforts, including a 2-2-4 performance as part of a 10-1 romp over Val-d’Or, the first installment of a second-round sweep. But his three-point night in a tight, seesaw, come-from-behind 3-2 victory that eliminated Acadie-Bathurst from the first round may be more telling.