Nick Merkley's 3 points boost Rockets to 2-0 lead: Saturday & Sunday's 3 Stars

Merkley is NHL Central Scouting's 23rd-ranked North American skater (Getty Images)
Merkley is NHL Central Scouting's 23rd-ranked North American skater (Getty Images)

No. 1 star: Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

Merkley, who's been more playmaker than finisher in the post-season, was the latter as the Rockets won 5-3 at Brandon to take a 2-0 lead in the final as they wing west to the Okanagan. The centre shone brightest among the many higher-echelon NHL draft prospects involved in the championship, snapping a deadlock by scoring a short-handed game-winning goal on a setup from San Jose Sharks prospect Rourke Chartier with 9:44 left in the third period.


The first goal from Merkley (2G-1A, +3) was also deflating, as he converted a feed from 16-year-old rookie Dillon Dubé with three seconds left in the first period to give the Rockets their first lead. The 17-year-old Merkley, who is ranked No. 23 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, also fed Edmonton Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl for Kelowna's last-minute empty-net goal.

No. 3 star: Ken Appleby, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

As the old saw goes, the goalie was the most important penalty killer while Oshawa beat Erie 5-1 to take a two-game lead. Appleby made 32 saves and helped Oshawa's PK go 6-for-6 against Connor McDavid and his supporting cast, who merely had the most proficient power play in the OHL this century during the regular season.

Appleby robbed Erie's Alex DeBrincat with a glove save with the score tied early in the third period. Soon after, the Generals' Anthony Cirelli broke the deadlock. Shutting down Erie also meant the end of McDavid's 16-game playoff point streak.

No. 2 star: Samuel Laberge, Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)

The rookie broke out big-time for his first two playoffs goals on an afternoon where the Océanic played desperate and won 4-2 on Sunday over the Quebec Remparts to pare their President's Cup final lead to 2-1. The 18-year-old from Châteauguay, Que., put Rimouski up for good 2:32 into the second with a goal on a shot that appeared to ricochet off Ryan Graves and into the net.

The teams traded tallies before Laberge, a 15-goal man in the regular season, scored a deflating power-play goal on a setup from Winnipeg Jets signing Jan Kostalek with 9:29 left in the third. Louis-Philip Guindon's 26 saves helped Rimouski extend the trend of the road team winning in the series. 

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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