The playoffs are underway in all three Canadian junior leagues, and some Montreal Canadiens prospects are turning some heads with their performances this spring.
The Montreal Canadiens currently have Kaiden Guhle (Edmonton), Arber Xhekaj & Jan Mysak (Hamilton), Daniil Sobolev (Windsor), William Trudeau & Xavier Simoneau (Charlottetown) and Joshua Roy (Sherbrooke) a still playing playoff hockey in their respective junior leagues. However, a group of Canadiens prospects have truly stood out with their performances so far, leading their teams to success and helping them move on in their respective playoff series.
Riley Kidney made a name for himself during the 2021 QMJHL playoffs last year, where he scored 17 points in just nine games for the Acadie-Bathurst Titans. His playoff performances were what got him on the Montreal Canadiens’ radar and eventually led to the club drafting him in the 2nd round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Well, Kidney has picked up right where he started, posting two goals and six assists for eight points in six games; while being the most used center on the team.
Coach Clarke leaned heavily on Kidney during the later stages of their first-round, best-of-five series against the Halifax Mooseheads, and Kidney came up clutch. The Titans looked like they were about to get swept by the Mooseheads, dropping the first two games. However, they roared back into the series with a commanding 8-1 win in Game 3, where Kidney recorded four points, and then an incredible triple-overtime 4-3 win in Game 4, where Kidney scored the game-winning goal. The Titans finally closed up the series in Game 5 with a 2-1 win over the Mooseheads, with Kidney being tasked with neutralizing some of Halifax’s top guns in the process.
— Titan d'Acadie-Bathurst (@ABTitan) May 12, 2022
Guhle has been a force for Edmonton Oil Kings; playing in all situations. He’s currently tied for second in team scoring on a very talented Oil Kings roster with three goals and six assists for nine points in eight games. Guhle has elevated his game during these playoffs, using his now-refined transition ability to quickly move the puck up the ice and make the smart play in front to feed his teammates. He activates far more from the blue line, allowing him to be even more aggressive in offensive zone possession, which has helped contribute to his impressive offensive output.
The Oil Kings are already waiting for the next opponent, having swept both the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Red Deer Rebels in the first two rounds of the WHL playoffs. They are set to play their biggest rivals for the WHL crown in the Winnipeg Ice, with top 2022 NHL Draft prospects Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekieand 2023 Draft prospect Zachary Benson leading the charge. This should be Guhle’s biggest test; shutting down the powerhouse Winnipeg club will not be easy, as the Oil Kings and the Ice are two of the top-5 teams in all of junior hockey.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) May 6, 2022
Joshua Roy really hasn’t missed a beat for the Sherbrooke Phoenix, who made quick work of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in four games where they outscored them 18 to 8. Of those 18 points, Joshua Roy participated on 12 of those goals, posting four goals and eight assists in the four games played, once again proving he is the offensive cornerstone of his team.
Roy has continued playing a very creative and intelligent game on the ice; spending a lot of time pickpocketing his opponents and forcing them to commit mistakes that he could capitalize on. In the series-clinching Game 4, the Phoenix won the games 3-2, and Roy participated on each of them. Most importantly, with Sherbrooke trailing the game 2-1 by the end of the third period, Roy put his team on his back and went to work. He potted the game-tying goal shortly before the end of the second period, and then followed up with a timely game-winning goal with less than two minutes to play in the game.
The Phoenix now await the start of their next series against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) May 11, 2022
Xhekaj has been quite the revelation this season since signing his entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens back in October. As an overager in the OHL, he quickly established himself as one of the more impactful players in the league and has been a force for the Hamilton Bulldogs on their march to the playoffs. The Bulldogs have won 18 straight games dating back to the end of the season (10 games) and during the playoffs (8 games). They’ve swept both the Peterborough Petes and Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL playoffs, and Xhekaj has been called on to shut down their top offensive weapons, which he’s done to perfection.
Despite his defensive prowess, he’s also contributing offensively, potting three goals and two assists for five points in seven games. No point was more important than Friday night’s series-clinching, overtime goal from Xhekaj, who wired home a wrist shot from the top of the slot to punch Hamilton’s ticket to the Eastern Conference finals in the OHL.
The @BulldogsOHL are moving on! 🤯@CanadiensMTL prospect Arber Xhekaj (@ArberXhekaj_) puts home the OT-winner to complete the sweep, sending the Bulldogs back to the Eastern Conference finals. #HAMvsMISS pic.twitter.com/o9vhML6yKP
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) May 14, 2022