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Burning Questions to be answered as OHL Reaches Final Four

By Iain Colpitts on April 19, 2017

Dylan Wells and the Peterborough Petes will take an undefeated playoff record into their Eastern Conference final series against the Mississauga Steelheads. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

There are four teams remaining in the OHL playoffs as the Peterborough Petes, Mississauga Steelheads, Owen Sound Attack and Erie Otters have all earned their spot.

Each team’s key players are clearly defined and there’s a rough idea of what they’ll need to do to be successful.

Here’s a look at some burning questions surrounding each team as they look to make it to the final and contend for the Memorial Cup.

 

Can Dylan Wells continue to carry the Petes?

It’s no question Dylan Wells has been the heart of that team and will be relied upon again as the Petes take on the speedy Mississauga Steelheads.

During the regular season, the Edmonton Oilers prospect was the second busiest goalie in the league after facing an average of 35.5 shots per game, but he still anchored the Petes to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. 

That rate has continued into the playoffs and Wells has been almost unsolvable with a league-best save percentage of .944 as well as a 1.94 goals-against average, which is second only to the Owen Sound’s Michael McNiven.

He’ll have is hands full against an offensively gifted Mississauga squad that has scored more goals than anyone in the Eastern Conference and has recorded more than 40 or 50 shots a game on a number of occasions in the playoffs.

 

Does Mississauga have enough depth to go all the way?

There aren’t a lot of holes on the Steelheads, who are led by their dynamic top line of brothers Michael and Ryan McLeod and Spencer Watson. They’ve been red hot since the tail end of their first round series against the Ottawa 67’s and they helped the Steelheads get past the second round, in which many people expected they’d have a tougher time handling the gritty Oshawa Generals and their star goalie Jeremy Brodeur.

Players like Nathan Bastian, Owen Tippett, Trent Fox, Vili Saarijarvi and Nic Hague have helped fill the void in games where the top unit wasn’t producing and it’s now a matter of if they can continue that trend against Peterborough.

There’s also to be determined who Mississauga turns to in goal since overager Matt Mancina and rookie Jacob Ingham have both had the chance to shine through an entire playoff round while the other has been injured or sick. 

 

Will Owen Sound’s top guys produce against the Otters?

McNiven is the backbone of the Attack and he’s had enough experience against the top teams in the Western Conference to show that he can hold his own under the bright lights.

As well, the Attack have a strong core of players like Petrus Palmu, Nick Suzuki, Santino Centorame and Kevin Hancock who have produced in the playoffs as well.

Palmu and Suzuki came close to reaching 100 points this season and are among the top 10 scorers, but most of their production was frontloaded during the opening round against the Kitchener Rangers.

They had a tougher time as expected against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, as expected with a stronger team, but got better as the series went along as Owen Sound won the last four games after dropping the first two.

The top-ranked Otters will provide a similar challenge that they’ll have to prevail against to move on.

 

Is this the Erie team that can win it all?

The Otters have been in this spot before. They’ve made it past the second round four years in a row now. Captain Dylan Strome and defenceman of the year candidate Darren Raddysh have been part of all four of those runs.

Each year, it looked like Erie had a legitimate chance at contending for the Memorial Cup, but the closest they came was in 2015 when they lost in five games to the eventual national champion Generals in Connor McDavid’s final OHL season.

The Otters were also knocked out of the Western Conference finals twice, but you could say this team looks like the strongest yet since they were able to climb to the top of the league standings even before Strome was sent back from the Arizona Coyotes in mid November. 

Of course, there’s also Alex DeBrincat and Taylor Raddysh, who finished at the top of the league in scoring. Trade deadline acquisitions Anthony Cirelli and Warren Foegele have bolstered the squad too. 

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