Got to admit it has been very interesting the last few days watching New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects going head to head in the OHL playoffs. Neither team has been able to get any real advantage and maybe that is a good thing for now.
Sunday was JT Miller's (NYR 2011 1st)
turn to come up big and he did scoring the series winning goal in overtime to send his Plymouth Whalers onto the second round of the OHL Western Conference Playoffs. Miller put in a rebound of linemate Andy Bathgate's shot at 5:58 of the first overtime to give Plymouth a 2-1 win as well as winning the series 4-2.
It was the kind of the game play we have been wanting to see out of Miller since the Rangers drafted him last year. Have to give Miller some credit because we had not been impressed with his play until tonight and surprisingly one cannot ignore how Miller has very quietly put up a 2-5-7 first round.
We wanted to see improved play from Miller and we got it as Miller is establishing a trend where he gets better the longer a series goes; very much like how he plays the third game of a three in three weekend. Hard not to enjoy that kind of performance.
The season ends for Islander prospect Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd)
and his Guelph Storm and quite honestly it is a very fair way for them to go out. They have only themselves to blame for how things worked out for them.
Pedan has talent that much is clear but as someone pointed out to us; Pedan is too much of a loose cannon and is very frustrating to see such a talented player that you can never know whether he will show up or not.
When Pedan wanted to, he could be as good a defenseman as you could find in the OHL. However too often Pedan would make the kind of plays that would hurt his own team; take your pick from bad penalties, bad on ice decisions or quite honestly the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality.
Pedan if they can get through to him and get him to fly right has a lot to offer the New York Islanders, he has size that they badly need for the blueline to go along with solid defensive skills. There is no reason why Pedan should not make it to the NHL but if he doesn't the blame belongs squarely on the face that Pedan sees in the mirror.
Pedan finishes his second season with the Storm 10-30-40 in the regular season and a 1-3-4 playoff. But next year Pedan's first priority has to be to cut the number penalty minutes he took in half from the 152 he took the season (note the OHL doesn't include misconducts or Pedan would be close to 200 PIMS).
It's kind of funny but in the second round, JT Miller and his Plymouth Whalers will be taking on the Kitchener Rangers. It's gonna sound kind of funny wanting to see a Ranger team lose.
In Oshawa, Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st)
and teammate Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th)
are also heading to the OHL's second round after their Niagara IceDogs eliminated Christian Thomas (NYR 2010 2nd)
and his Oshawa Generals in six games after a 4-1 win. To tell the truth, we didn't think that this series would actually have lasted this long.
While Strome and Theoret had quiet games with both going scoreless, their play in this first-round has to be graded out as very good. Especially Strome who stepped up in crunch time for the IceDogs so a quiet game today was nothing to worry about.
Theoret we never realized how important he can be to the IceDogs until we saw his return to the lineup in game four of the series. Theoret is not going to be a big-time scorer but his versatility allows Niagara to use him in a variety of roles that help the team.
Strome if you use our "Staal Standard" has earned 6 of the "Staal Standard" points out of the 10 points he has scored. In plain English, any time you record a goal or an assist under the circumstances (i.e. power-play goal or assist, game-winning goal or assist, or any other play that has a direct link to the outcome of the game) gets ranked higher than say scoring a goal when you're up 8-1.
While Ryan Strome enjoyed a good first round, Christian Thomas at best one could say was "so-so" at best as he struggled to find his offense going 2-2-4 in the six games but did not score on a power-play or in any of the critical areas. Thomas doesn't get the blame for why the Generals had the kind of season that they did but overall the season for Thomas right now would have to be graded as a "C-."
In our book, Thomas never really recovered from a slow Traverse City that led to his being cut earlier than anyone expected and the schizophrenic play of the Generals did not help matters either. Everybody said that the Generals were not true 8th seed but they were wrong as their play in the series proved.
Good teams find ways to win, bad teams find ways to lose and that will sum up the Oshawa General's season. Thomas finishes his OHL season 34-33-67 which is down from 54-45-99 but we suggest to Thomas to erase everything as happened during this past season and look at the future.
Thomas is going to be needed by the CT Whale who can't stop having players getting hurt. The latest to join the injury list is Andrew Yogan who was just signed to his Ranger contract last week. Yogan we hear suffered an ankle injury on Friday night and looks like he's finished for the year.
Thomas is being given a wonderful opportunity that we hope he takes full advantage of because he will be playing for his place on next year's roster. He definitely wants to leave a good impression on Ken Germander during this year's AHL playoffs.
As for Strome and Theoret, they are in "hurry up and wait" mode as they do not know who they are facing in the second round just yet.
How quickly do the number prospects shrink at the end of the first round of the playoffs.
Ryan Strome and Mitchell Theoret (Niagara), Kirill Kabanov (Shawinigan), Brendan Kichton (Spokane)-- (not fair to not include him because of his injury, his team is still alive so we will include him because we never know it's the playoffs)
Chris Kreider (Boston College), Dylan McIlrath (Moose Jaw), JT Miller (Plymouth), Michael St. Croix (Edmonton), Steven Fogarty (Penticton), and Samuel Noreau (Baie-Comeau)
(Miller - Aaron Bell of OHL images)