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  • Brandon Magee (18 in white) received a 12-game suspension, the longest in the WHL since 2010 (photo: thezone.fm)The series between the Portland Winterhawks and Victoria Royals effectively ended when Victoria’s Brandon Magee checked Portland’s Nic Petan in the head with 4:01 left in regulation of Game 5, which Portland led 4-1 at the time and won 5-1.

    The Winterhawks are moving on to face Kelowna in the highly anticipated Western Conference final, while the Royals franchise is a bit lighter in the wallet after stiff penalties were handed down by the WHL on Tuesday.

    Magee got a 12-game suspension for his actions, while Steven Hodges got five games for his role in a similarly ugly second-period brawl. Almost as eye-popping, the Royals were fined $10,000. That’s the WHL’s largest fine for on-ice conduct going back to 2007-08 (the previous high over that span was $3,500).

    Magee’s match penalty set off the second brawl of the night, a fracas that Petan unwisely reentered after getting up from the initial hit. Looking to get back at someone, Petan, jumped on the back of Royals defenceman Ryan Gagnon, who promptly battered Petan. The combination of Magee’s stick and Gagnon’s fists left the Hawks star recovering from a head injury this week (though Petan insists he’s fine after missing one practise).

    Magee’s suspension is the longest in the league since Tri-City’s Brendan Shinnimin received 12 games for a boarding major in October 2010.

    Read More »from Victoria Royals handed heavy fine, suspensions for actions in final playoff game
  • Colts blueliner Aaron Ekblad could be Florida bound. (OHL Images)

    In a year without a consensus top prospect, the Florida Panthers will dictate how the draft floor domino effect will start as their ball was picked at the annual NHL draft lottery.

    Only behind the Buffalo Sabres (25 per cent), Florida (18.8 per cent) had the second best odds of winning the lottery. It's ultimately fitting that the Panthers jumped over the Sabres to capture the top pick because they finished 30th overall last season, but drafted second as the Colorado Avalanche won the 2013 lottery.

    This is the second time in the history of the franchise that the Panthers hold the first overall selection. In 1994, they chose Ed Jovanovski with the top pick.

    Here is a look at how the lottery affected the draft and a projection of the top 10 selections.

    1. Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad, defence, Barrie Colts (OHL) – Since Florida is loaded up front with Alexsander Barkov, Jonathon Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, Ekblad is a no-brainer for the Panthers hockey brass. The 6-foot-4,

    Read More »from Aaron Ekblad the perfect fit for draft lottery winning Florida Panthers
  • Brown was originally a 13th-round choice out of minor hockey (OHL Images)

    Connor Brown and Matt Finn's hockey paths, which once diverged, have crossed again to create a diversion for Leafs fans.

    Finn bounced back from a season-ending knee injury last season (OHL Images)The two captains in the Western Conference final that many believe to be the true Ontario Hockey League final had a deep bond long before both heard their names called by the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2012 NHL draft. Brown, the Erie Otters captain who won the league scoring title, and Finn, the Guelph Storm's leader who posted the OHL's best plus-minus, also wore in blue and white throughout their formative years with the Marlboros minor hockey program. They'll likely see a lot of each other over the next two weeks, with the winner moving one step closer to the OHL title.

    "Even when we play against each other now, it's pretty cool," Brown says. "Sometimes you catch a bit of eye contact and you smile. You lose focus for a half-second there. It's awesome to see Matt have the success that he did. He didn't have many doubters. At the same time, nothing was given to him. He works hard day in, day out. It's going to be an interesting series, and who knows, we might even be matched up together.

    "Me and Matt had a conversation earlier in the week," added Brown, who had to wait until his likely final year of junior to experience the OHL playoffs. "We said that our friendship's going to be on hold while this series is going on. You get one shot at this. We're never going to hold back on each other."

    Read More »from Toronto Maple Leafs picks Connor Brown, Matt Finn rivals in Erie Otters-Guelph Storm showdown
  • A move from Kitchener to Oshawa revitalized Sterk's NHL draft prospects (OHL Images)

    Calling his coach's bluff, in a matter of speaking, led to the Oshawa Generals' Josh Sterk making the change that should lead to him landing in a NHL organization this summer.

    Aside from a select few, young players who put up points at will in minor hockey have to adapt in junior. After an up-and-down sophomore season with the Kitchener Rangers, Sterk capitalized on an opportunity to be the No. 2 centre with the Generals after coming east in a preseason trade. As the season went along, though, coach D.J. Smith, as a former pro defenceman, challenged Sterk to be more vigilant behind his own blueline. The message was received, eventually.

    "He pretty much told me that if I didn't start playing defence I wouldn't be playing," says Sterk, whose Gens begin the OHL Eastern Conference final vs. North Bay on Friday. "At first I didn't think he was serious and I saw my time going down and down with every game. When I started getting frustrated, that's when I started bearing down and now my numbers are up to 20, 25 minutes a game. I can't thank him enough for making him the player I am.

    "I wouldn't have had my breakout year if I didn't get that trade," adds Sterk, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound centre who is ranked No. 84 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. "Obviously [Generals GM] Jeff Twohey did a good job to get me. As for the opportunity I got in Oshawa, I worked hard this summer, but the OHL is all about opportunity. D.J. Smith put me on the second line with [surefire NHL first-rounder] Michael Dal Colle and Hunter Smith at the beginning of the year and I started off hot. Then they put me in more of a shutdown role in the second half because we knew we would need that coming into playoff time. He switched me over to over to Dal Colle and Cole Cassels."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Josh Sterk, Oshawa Generals
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    The Kootenay-Medicine Hat Game 7 will be the first the Tigers have hosted since the 2007 WHL final, and I think we all know how that turned out. (Medicine Hat News)

    Kootenay's Sam Reinhart is on top of at least one draft ranking. (Hockey's Future)

    The prospect neither Kelowna's nor Portland's scoring aces, Myles Bell and Nic Petan, will be ready for the Western final is very high. (Kelowna Capital News, Portland Tribune, The Oregonian)

    Colorado Avalanche defenceman Nick Holden is a pro without an old junior hockey haunt, since there was very little carryover from the Chilliwack Bruins to the Victoria Royals. (Vancouver Province)

    Portland rookie Tyson Predinchuk gave up being a Millionaire to join one of the Dub's mint franchises. (Regina Leader-Post)

    OHL

    Aaron Ekblad, on the possibility that Sunday was his final game in Barrie Colts navy and gold: “I hate to think about it and I love to think about it at the same time, because the future is pretty fun to look at." (Barrie Examiner)

    After falling one win shy of the 2013 final, Vancouver Canucks prospect Brendan Gaunce is a pivotal figure in the Erie-Guelph showdown. (Erie Times-News)

    Former Kitchener teammates Ben Thomson and Josh Sterk will renew acquaintances in the North Bay-Oshawa series. (Waterloo Region Record)

    Read More »from Rimouski, Medicine Hat hosting Game 7s: the coast-to-coast
  • Hawryluk is ranked 37th by NHL CSS. (WHL.ca)

    Following in the footsteps of Columbus Blue Jackets winger Matt Calvert and Dallas Stars first-rounder Scott Glennie, Jayce Hawryluk is the Brandon Wheat Kings’ latest highly-touted NHL draft prospect to hail from Manitoba.

    “I do feel fortunate (to stay in my home province),” says Hawryluk, who’s a native of Roblin, Man. “It’s nice to not have to move far away and get to be around family here. Some guys have to move far away from their homes, so I was happy when I got the chance to play in Brandon.”

    Hawryluk came into his sophomore season feeling some pressure on his shoulders. Besides the obvious pressure that comes with a draft year, the 18-year-old knew the rebuilding Wheat Kings were counting on him to help lead the offense after his 43-point rookie season.

    “I did feel a little bit of pressure,” says Hawryluk. “I knew we didn’t have a first-round pick or anything in our forward group, so guys like me would be expected to produce. But I have tried not to think about that and just

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Jayce Hawryluk, Brandon Wheat Kings
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Winnipeg Jets prospect Nic Petan has yet to practise for Portland since being cross-checked in the head last Thursday. (The Oregonian)

    Epic gets used way too loosely, but for a Portland-Kelowna matchup, it's permissible. (Castanet)

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    Amazing story if Medicine Hat comes back to beat Kootenay after losing Hunter Shinkaruk halfway through the season. (Medicine Hat News)

    Brandon's young group made huge strides over the season, and its core could still have two more seasons together. (Brandon Sun)

    Showing he could handle centre at the junior level helped Regina's Chandler Stephenson earn a contract with the Washington Capitals. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

    OHL

    Sudbury coach Paul Fixter isn't acknowledging that the team's midseason moves altered the dressing room chemistry: "I think it's a cop out. Mathew Campagna's production went down because we added a good player? Makes no sense." (Sudbury Star)

    It was a very quiet Sunday in London on what could have been Game 6 against Guelph. (Metro London, London Free Press)

    Which forward will Toronto Maple Leafs fans imbue with completely unrealistic expectations and not pay $25 to watch in the OHL? Niagara's Brendan Perlini? Peterborough's Nick Ritchie? (Toronto Star)

    Read More »from Petan not practising for Portland: the coast-to-coast
  • Devils pick Ben Thomson scored 2 goals in North Bay's clincher (OHL Images)

    New Jersey Devils pick Ben Thomson's short-hander midway through the third created just enough separation for North Bay to exorcise the ghosts of playoffs past against Barrie. The Battalion's 3-2 win wrapped up a six-game Eastern semifinal triumph and the second round of the OHL playoffs.

    Erie-Guelph will begin Thursday and North Bay-Oshawa commences the following night, with Generals star Scott Laughton slated to miss the opener due to the final game of a butt-ending suspension. On with the post-game questions:

    Read More »from North Bay Battalion bounce Barrie, reach Eastern Conference final: OHL post-game questions
  • Medicine Hat's Cole Sanford (Marissa Baecker, Getty Images)No. 1 star: Cole Sanford, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

    Now that's a reversal of future: Sanford (4G-2A, +4) pulled a Sam Reinhart, or a Jaedon Deschaneau if you need your reference to be obscure, by scoring six points during Medicine Hat's series-extending 9-2 win over the Kootenay Ice on Saturday. The 18-year-old Vernon, B.C., native who had 33 goals in the regular season had been flummoxed by Ice goalies during the Tigers' two losses in Kootenay that put it one loss from elimination. But everything Sanford and Trevor Cox (1G-3A, +4) sent toward the goal "just seemed to be going into the net" as the Tigers went from trailing 2-1 at the game's midpoint to winning by a touchdown.

    Sanford redirected a shot into the net for his second of the night to level 2-2 with 6:31 left in the second period. That caused the Ice to sag and Medicine Hat scored just 97 seconds later to take lead. In the third period, Sanford threw the floodgate open with a power-play goal 5:43 into the frame. The rest was cake.

    Game 6 of the series is on Monday, back in Cranbrook, B.C.

    Read More »from Medicine Hat’s Cole Sanford gets 6 points to force Game 6: weekend 3 Stars
  • Brett Pollock is the Oil Kings' top ranked draft prospect by Central Scouting (WHL.ca)

    Edmonton Oil Kings forward Brett Pollock wasn’t exactly on many NHL scouts’ radars at the beginning of the year. He was coming off a 44-game rookie season where he only scored two goals and four points on a limited fourth-line role.

    As his sophomore season has progressed, though, Pollock has continued to make headway in draft rankings. The proof is in the pudding in how the 18-year-old jumped to 34th among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting Service’s final ranking; he hurled over 37 prospect from his previous 71st mid-term ranking.

    The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Pollock's breakout year, which entailed notching 25 goals and 55 points in 71 contests, came together largely because his role with the Oil Kings significantly changed. He went from playing sparingly to being a key offensive contributor in their top six. This opportunity did come about for Pollock because Edmonton lost several key forwards in the offseason to the pros, but he also earned it by showing up to camp in good

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Brett Pollock, Edmonton Oil Kings

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