Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Panthers prospect Vince Trocheck won the scoring title with 109 points (Rena Laverty, Plymouth Whalers)

    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
  • Laughton has 23 points in 17 games since returning from the Philadelphia Flyers (OHL Images)

    People still watch those NCAA tournament games that ultimately might not figure in the final outcome. The same might apply to the Ontario Hockey League's own mid-major conference.

    An Eastern team has not won the J. Ross Robertson Cup since 2006, but its top three all bring compelling cases and name-brand stars to the party. In Belleville, Boston Bruins first-rounder Malcolm Subban is looking to lead a playoff run in his final OHL season, while the small-market Bulls might need a championship to restore faith in the team's long-term viability. In Barrie, Mark Scheifele has nothing left to prove as a junior — try 30 points in 15 games since the Winnipeg Jets sent him back to junior for the second time — except that he can lead a team into the spring. Last year, the Colts let a 3-1 second-round lead get away.

    Then there's the Oshawa Generals. The lot of the junior hockey life is that outside factors — injuries, the needs of NHL organizations, the world junior championship and, in David Branch's OHL, long suspensions — often compromise a team's lineup. The third-seeded Gens dealt with quite a bit of that in the regular season. It lost two-way centre Scott Laughton to a 10-game headshot ban and a stint with the Philadelphia Flyers. Two-thirds of its top line jetted off to a remote region of Russia when Tyler Biggs and Boone Jenner went to the WJC. Their most dynamic attacker, left wing Lucas Lessio, missed half the season and is just now getting back to form.

    The Generals are built more for the playoffs. They had a darkhorse look coming into the season. With Carolina Hurricanes pick Daniel Altshuller established as a starting goalie, they might come through the middle and win the conference. In the short run, here are capsules of the Eastern Conference series, making note of each team's record since trade deadline day on Jan. 10. Play begins Thursday.

    Read More »from Oshawa Generals might find a third wind in playoffs: OHL Eastern Conference playoff preview
  • Halifax Mooseheads top final BTN Dynamic Dozen ranking

    Halifax and Darcy Ashley tied QMJHL record with 58 wins in 68 games (Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images)

    The final Dynamic Dozen ended up being a good snapshot of all three major junior leagues.

    In short, that means the WHL banner was waved strongest by its Portland-Kelowna-Edmonton triple threat. The OHL was led by its three pick-'em playoff contenders in the Western Conference, London, Plymouth and Owen Sound. Farther to the east, the Halifax Mooseheads seem to stand head-and-shoulders above the Quebec league pack at the dawn of the playoffs, the only proving ground that matters.

    Read More »from Halifax Mooseheads top final BTN Dynamic Dozen ranking
  • Sissons (left) had 67 points in 61 games for Kelowna (Marissa Baecker, Getty Images)

    No team in the WHL does the no-superstars thing quite as well as the Kelowna Rockets, who finished second only to the loaded Portland Winterhawks in overall points, goals scored and fewer goals against across the regular season. Still, there's no denying that their likelihood of possibly wearing out Portland in a potential conference-final matchup — as the 2012 Edmonton Oil Kings and 2011 Kootenay Ice did in the past two championship series — is diminished without captain Colton Sissons.

    Portland's chances of coming out of the conference were already outstanding to begin with, at least on paper. The Rockets went 8-2 across a 10-game stretch in December when the Nashville Predators-drafted forward had another injury that caused him to miss Canada's national junior team training camp. Kelowna is certainly balanced, but winning while Sissons is out with a left arm injury in the playoffs could be tougher than it was in the regular season.

    Read More »from Kelowna Rockets’ record of winning without Colton Sissons will face playoff scrutiny
  • Windsor Spitfires’ Ben Johnson faces sexual assault charges

    Johnson was drafted by the Devils in 2012 (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)For the fourth time since 2010 the Windsor Spitfires are in the headlines for a story that involves the law and bars. It could be the most serious yet.

    Left wing Ben Johnson is in custody after being charged with two counts of sexual assault on Monday. One of the incidents reportedly came during Spitifires players' year-end party on Sunday after their last game of the OHL season. There is also a second complainant.

    From Claire Brownell:

    Johnson, 18, was arrested early [Monday] morning after one of the alleged sexual assaults, which sources say occurred in the washroom of Mynt nightclub during a combined St. Patrick’s Day party and end of season gathering that included other players. He appeared in [Ontario] provincial court this afternoon by video and was held in custody overnight, with bail set at $30,000.

    Windsor Police Sgt. Matt D’Asti said police attended the Metropolitan campus of the Windsor Regional Hospital at about 1:50 a.m. Monday and spoke with a 16-year-old girl, who told officers she had been sexually assaulted. Police then arrested the suspect in the 11000 block of Rockland Street just before 4 a.m.

    D’Asti said during the course of the investigation, a second woman, aged 20, came forward. That woman told police she had also been sexually assaulted by the accused in the washroom of The Tilted Kilt at 2135 Wyandotte St. W. about three weeks ago, D’Asti said. (Windsor Star)

    Read More »from Windsor Spitfires’ Ben Johnson faces sexual assault charges
  • Detroit Compuware defenceman Sean Day turned 15 in January (Paul Kidd photo)

    So much for the Sean Day sweepstakes? Or do we just wait a year? When it comes to a player who wants exceptional status and the needs of the team(s) with the first pick(s), the twain are not supposed to meet.

    Thanks to Erie Otters centre Connor McDavid and Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad, we know the drill. The Ontario Hockey League delegates the process to Hockey Canada, which oversees all the fact-finding — assessing the player's talent, but also his emotional and physical maturity and his support system — before coming back with a decision. It keeps up appearances, as far as making it seem double-blind and making it look like the OHL isn't rushing anyone into the league. The teams are not asked its opinion, in order to factor out potential bias.

    Both Ekblad and McDavid became a lock to go No. overall the second they declared eligible. It's been more ambiguous with Day, the latest predominantly accelerated puck-chaser who wants exceptional status. Word a few weeks ago was that the Ottawa 67's, who pick No. 1, thought that Day for all his gifts, might not be the most driven young athlete to ever come up the pipe. Rumblings are that centre Travis Konecny might be more of a sure thing for a rebuilding team; Ottawa has since confirmed they're still debating between Day, Konency and 6-foot-2 centre Dylan Strome.

    Opinions about young players will always vary widely. But there should be no doubt, so perhaps it's a sniff test.

    Read More »from Ottawa 67′s not sold on taking Sean Day No. 1, which might speak louder than it should
  • Everett Silvertips rookie Tyler Sandhu (Getty Images)

    No. 1 star: Tyler Sandhu, Everett Silvertips (WHL)

    When Silvertips GM Garry Davidson named himself coach earlier this season, he spoke of developing a more offensively exciting club. The rookie Sandhu, whom Davidson acquired as part of last spring's trade for top draft prospect Seth Jones, figured to be one of the centrepieces.

    Everett has remained a team which is often wanting for offence. Coming into Sunday, it had gone nearly two months without enjoying a five-goal game. With Sandhu scoring twice early on his way to his first Western Hockey League hat trick, the Silvertips scored five in the opening 20 minutes on their way to a 7-5 win over the Tri-City Americans.

    Read More »from Everett Silvertips’ Tyler Sandhu gets first WHL hat trick: Sunday’s 3 Stars
  • Tampa Bay Lightning pick Dylan Blujus (OHL Images)

    In the last go-around at the Bunker, the Peterborough Petes' urgency was AWOL.

    There is no fooling anyone that junior teams are just as prone as the pros are to to mailing it in at the end of the regular season, before the real hockey begins. Winning had no tangible importance for the Brampton Battalion, but they made their last regular-season game at the Powerade Centre memorable — bitterly so for Peterborough Petes partisans — by winning 5-2 to deny the Petes a playoff berth. Coming in, it seemed like the Petes had come too far to get tripped up by some Troops who had nothing at stake, but it happened.

    Brampton/North Bay merely had to get through the game before preparing for its series against its Northern Ontario rival, the Sudbury Wolves. The notable aspect of playing it out was they refused to go through the motions in front of the send-off crowd of 3,432, which was about double the size of the usual sparse turnout at the Powerade Centre.

    Read More »from Brampton Battalion give fans win in last regular-season game before North Bay move; push Peterborough Petes out of playoffs
  • Brampton Battalion right wing Matt MacLeod (OHL Images)

    No. 1 star: Matt MacLeod, Brampton Battalion (OHL)

    The 19-year-old right wing had a career-first hat trick and career-high four points to boost the Battalion to a 5-3 win over the Barrie Colts. The Battalion actually had their playoff seed locked in and the Colts had to win to retain hope of finishing first in their conference, so it was impressive that Brampton had its act together.

    MacLeod (3G-1A, +2) and his linemates, centre Patrik Machac (1G-3A, +2) and 16-year-old left wing Blake Clarke (3A, +2), combined for 11 points. The trio produced two goals three minutes apart in the opening period to help the Troops take command (heh) early in its next-to-last home game. The 19-year-old MacLeod was again in on two quick goals in the third period, setting up Machac for the 4-2 goal 6:48 into the third. Machac paid him back by setting up MacLeod's hat trick fewer than two minutes later.

    Brampton paid a big cost for the win, though. Forwards Connor Jarvis and Brandon Robinson each left with injuries.

    Read More »from Brampton Battalion’s Matt MacLeod helps settle conference race: Friday’s 3 Stars
  • Ryan Kujawinski and Kingston are tied for the OHL's final playoff spot with 1 game left (OHL Images)

    First Ryan Kujawinski sent shards flying, then the Kingston Frontenacs faithful's hearts were left lying in shards.

    Breaking a mirror? Seven years' bad luck. Breaking the glass as a member of the Fronts? That apparently means the franchise's hard luck dating back to the Seventies continues. Just kidding, but not really. It's all too easy to believe the hockey gods sent a message something sinister lurked for the Fronts on Friday when Kujawinski did his due diligence as a budding power foward by finishing his check. With the score tied late in the third period of a nearly must-win game for both Kingston and the Peterborough Petes on Friday, the NHL draft prospect drilled Colorado Avalanche selection Michael Clarke. The glass shattering resulted in a front-row fan requiring medical attention and an awesome visual.

    Then Kujawinski was on the same side of the rink in overtime when he blew a tire and fell down, leading to an odd-man rush for Peterborough's winning goal. Since he had also scored a goal to help Kingston reach overtime, that completed the bizarro world hat trick. Goal, glass-shattering check, turnover leading to the game-winner? Is that the Dion Phaneuf hat trick?

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    Read More »from Kingston Frontenacs’ Ryan Kujawinski breaks glass with crunching check, crushing loss follows


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