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Montreal Canadiens Prospects Canadian Hockey League Playoff Primer

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Montreal Canadiens prospect Florian hekaj

The Canadian Hockey League playoffs (CHL) get underway this week, which means a handful of Montreal Canadiens prospects will be involved.

The Habs have fewer prospects in the CHL than most years, owing to the fact that they have just one prospect in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and none in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

If you’re looking for which Montreal Canadiens prospects will feature in the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament you can click here.

OHL Playoffs

Saginaw Spirit (2) vs Owen Sound Attack (7)

Four prospects will take part in the OHL playoffs, but Canadiens fans will only have to keep an eye on three series given that Owen Beck (Saginaw) will face Cedrick Guindon (Owen Sound).

Beck has been dominant since joining the Spirit and has helped them secure the top spot in the West Division, just two points behind the London Knights for the most points in the entire league.

Expect Beck to play a starring role in the series, as he will look to maintain his impressive regular-season production, which saw him score 18 goals and 33 assists in just 32 games with the Spirit. Beyond his scoring prowess, Beck also possesses a strong defensive acumen and elite faceoff efficiency.

MUST READ: Canadiens Prospect Owen Beck Improves NHL Outlook

As for Guindon, his production has cooled down the final stretch of the season, just as it did last year. He’s still one of the most productive Habs prospects, but he will have to find a new gear in the playoffs if he’s to impress against a powerhouse team like the Spirit.

Junior hockey is always incredibly entertaining, and there’s a lot of room for upsets, but this does not project as a series that will go to the limit. Expect the Spirit to make quick work of the Attack.

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Thurs., March 28 – Owen Sound at Saginaw, 7:05 pm ET
Game 2: Sat., March 30 – Owen Sound at Saginaw, 7:05 pm ET
Game 3: Mon., April 1 – Saginaw at Owen Sound, 7:00 pm ET
Game 4: Wed., April 3 – Saginaw at Owen Sound, 7:00 pm ET
Game 5: Thurs., April 4 – Owen Sound at Saginaw, 7:05 pm ET*
Game 6: Sat., April 6 – Saginaw at Owen Sound, 7:00 pm ET*
Game 7: Mon., April 8 – Owen Sound at Saginaw, 7:05 pm ET*

(*= if necessary)

Brantford Bulldogs (3) vs Ottawa 67s (6)

Many raised an eyebrow when the Montreal Canadiens chose Florian Xhekaj in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, but if there’s one thing we have learned since Arber Xhekaj joined the NHL, it’s that you shouldn’t bet against members of that family exceeding all expectations.

Florian didn’t just improve his scoring rate from his draft season, he blew it out of the water.

While playing limited minutes in 2022-23, he managed to score 13 goals and 12 assists in 68 games for the Bulldogs. This season he received a well-deserved increase in ice time, and there’s no doubt he seized his opportunity, as evidenced by his 34 goals and 31 assists in 63 games.

In other words, his production rose from 0.37 points per game all the way to 1.03 points per game, a remarkable increase any way out cut it.

And to make matters more interesting, he scored in a variety of ways, including end-to-end goals and classic crease-crashing plays.

Xhekaj and the Bulldogs will face the Ottawa 67’s, a team that has taken a step back since Canadiens prospect Vinzenz Rohrer left to play in the National League (Switzerland).

This series will likely last longer than the one involving Beck and Guindon, but the Bulldogs still project as the heavy favourites. They have more talent in the lineup and they won the season series 3-1.

It’s also worth noting the Bulldogs faced the 67’s in the final game of the regular season, emerging with a 5-1 win that included an impressive five-point effort from Xhekaj.

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Fri., March 29 – Ottawa at Brantford, 7:00 pm ET
Game 2: Sun., March 31 – Ottawa at Brantford, 7:00 pm ET
Game 3: Tues., April 2 – Brantford at Ottawa, 7:00 pm ET
Game 4: Thurs., April 4 – Brantford at Ottawa, 7:00 pm ET
Game 5: Sat., April 6 – Ottawa at Brantford, 4:00 pm ET*
Game 6: Sun., April 7 – Brantford at Ottawa, 7:00 pm ET*
Game 7: Tues., April 9 – Ottawa at Brantford, 7:00 pm ET*

(*= if necessary)

 

(4) Kitchener Rangers vs. (5) Erie Otters

Filip Mesar and the Kitchener Rangers will face the Erie Otters in what should be a hard-fought series. Kitchener was the better team during the regular season and they held a 4-1-1 advantage in the season series, however, Erie won the last two match-ups, including the final game of the regular season.

As for Mesar, he’s had a better year from a production standpoint, improving his points per game pace from 0.98 to 1.16, but there’s still something left to be desired when you watch him in action. Generally speaking, first-round picks are expected to dominate the OHL, especially once they turn 20.

That has not been the case for Mesar. As it stands, he’s yet to take a significant step forward in his development, which is certainly concerning. On that note, fans would be best off forgetting that the Montreal Canadiens chose Mesar in the first round.  He will take a year or two (or three) in the AHL before he’s ready for NHL action. He has the talent, but he’ll need time to put it all together.

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Fri., March 29 – Erie at Kitchener, 7:00 pm ET
Game 2: Sun., March 31 – Erie at Kitchener, 2:00 pm ET
Game 3: Tues., April 2 – Kitchener at Erie, 7:00 pm ET
Game 4: Thurs., April 4 – Kitchener at Erie, 7:00 pm ET
Game 5: Fri., April 5 – Erie at Kitchener, 7:00 pm ET*
Game 6: Mon., April 8 – Kitchener at Erie, 7:00 pm ET*
Game 7: Tues., April 9 – Erie at Kitchener, 7:00 pm ET*

QMJHL Playoffs

Cape Breton Eagles (4) vs Rimouski Oceanic (5)

The lone series featuring a Montreal Canadiens prospect outside of the OHL will see goaltender Quentin Miller and the Rimouski Oceanic face the Cape Breton Eagles.

Miller was traded by the Quebec Remparts earlier in the season, a good reminder that the situation in which prospects develop has a significant impact on their results. His save percentage rose from .901 to .,917 during a stretch of games in which he won 10 of his 14 starts.

Rimouski won both regular-season games versus Cape Breton, and neither game was close. Miller only participated in the second game, a 5-2 win that saw him save 23 of the 25 shots he faced.

But don’t expect the Oceanic to sweep, as Cape Breton is one of the hottest teams in the league, as evidenced by their season-ending nine-game winning streak.

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Fri., March 29 – Rimouski at Cape Breton, 7:00 pm ET
Game 2: Sat., March 30 – Rimouski at Cape Breton, 7:00 pm ET
Game 3: Tue., April 2 – Cape Breton at Rimouski, 7:00 pm ET
Game 4: Wed., April 3 – Cape Breton at Rimouski, 7:00 pm ET
Game 5: Fri., April 5 – Cape Breton at Rimouski, 7:00 pm ET
Game 6: Mon., April 8 – Rimouski at Cape Breton, 7:00 pm ET
Game 7: Tue., April 9 – Rimouski at Cape Breton, 7:00 pm ET

 

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Tyrone

That first series could be billed as Owen Beck vs Owen Sound.

Dana

You should be owing us an apology Tyrone, lol

Tyrone

It was sitting right there. I had to take the shot. 😁