Plymouth Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci, already well-liked in junior hockey circles, has a chance to become much more popular. His brethren behind the bench in Kitchener, Steve Spott, could win over Canadian hockey fans still chapped over the world junior championship.
Max Domi had 39 goals during his draft season (OHL Images)
The London Knights — "revered and reviled by every other team in the league," as Patrick puts it — are the odds-on fave to return to the Memorial Cup. Plymouth, with OHL's best post-trade deadline record thanks in large part to scoring champ Vince Trocheck, might not be the only roadblock from a repeat but a three-peat. After all, loaded London are already counting their revenue from the 2014 Memorial Cup, when its current cohort of Max Domi, Bo Horvat, the Tasmanian-devil twins Matt and Ryan Rupert, defencemen Olli Määttä and Nikita Zadorov and 6-foot-6 goalie Anthony Stolarz should be near their peaks as juniors. The crew heading into their last playoff spring — two-time Team Canada defenceman Scott Harrington, Boston Bruins draft pick Seth Griffith, et al. — brings a lot to the table, too.
While London lapped the league for the second year in a row with 105 points, that Whalers outfit with three WJC gold medallists in Trocheck, endlessly persistent Ryan Hartman and forward Rickard Rakell actually has the OHL's best record since Jan. 1. Plymouth missed its shot at London a year ago when it lost Game 7 at home to none other than Spott and the Rangers. Either team, along with the Owen Sound Attack and presumptive OHL goalie of the year Jordan Binnington, could give London a run. Here are capsules of the Western Conference series, making note of each team's record since trade deadline day on Jan. 10. Play begins Thursday.Read More »from Plymouth Whalers best bet to squelch London repeat: OHL Western Conference playoff preview