Erie has the most experienced core in the playoffs as the Otters head into their second OHL final in the last three years, still in search of their first championship since 2002.
Mississauga on the other hand has never claimed the championship and the team advanced past the first round for the first time in Steelheads history.
While they’re still relatively young with a strong core group expected to return next year, they’ve caught fire with eight straight wins, including a sweep of the Petes in the Eastern final.
With a 68-game regular season and three playoff rounds in the books, it’s probably safe to say a lot of people know the leaders on each of these teams.
There probably doesn’t have to be much said about Erie’s Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Anthony Cirelli and brothers Darren and Taylor Raddysh. Ditto for Mississauga brothers Michael and Ryan McLeod, Spencer Watson, Owen Tippett and Vili Saarijarvi.
They’ll be counted on once again and will likely deliver on the big stage, but depth is the name of the game at this point.
Here’s a look at some of the secondary players who will be counted upon to sway the series in their team’s favour.
Warren Foegele: Cirelli rightfully gets credit for being Erie’s prized trade deadline pickup, but fellow acquisition Foegele has made a big difference as well.
The Carolina Hurricanes prospect has been a consistent presence through the playoffs with six multi-point games, including a three-point effort as the Otters eliminated the Attack.
Jordan Sambrook: The Detroit Red Wings draftee will likely be counted on as Erie’s top defender next season and he’s maturing just in time for their playoff run.
There’s enough offence to go around on the Otters’ depth chart, but he’s stepped up with goals in three straight games during the Western final series after a 40-point regular season.
Kyle Maksimovich: Highly underrated due to his 5-foot-9 frame, Maksimovich has been a silent assassin for the Otters for the last two seasons.
His point production has been somewhat spotty since the opening round against the Sarnia Sting, but perhaps the three assists he picked up in the conference-clinching game will be enough to get him going more consistently.
WILDCARD: Ivan Lodnia: He has the tools needed to be a team’s leading scorer within the next few seasons and he put together an impressive 57 points during the regular season in his NHL Draft year.
However, he’s been silent throughout the playoffs with only two goals to show through 17 games. The potential’s still there and it’s time to see if he’ll snap out of his slump against the Steelheads.
Nathan Bastian: The New Jersey Devils prospect has been counted on as a secondary producer in Mississauga’s high end offence. He’s also shown versatility in his ability to play mostly on the wing through the regular season before transitioning to the Steelheads’ second line centre through the playoffs. However, most of his points have come in the Steelheads’ opening-round series against Ottawa.
Nic Hague: A top defenceman eligible for this year’s NHL Draft, Hague is developing into a shutdown defender with a long reach thanks to his 6-foot-5 frame. He also has a booming slap shot and puts up a lot of points, 11 through 13 playoff games to be exact. Nine of those points came in the second round against the Generals as Hague led all players in scoring through that series.
Trent Fox: Picked up by the Steelheads on OHL trade deadline day to provide forward depth, Fox has been a reliable second liner through Mississauga’s playoff run. He carries a heavy shot and a strong work ethic that helps him contribute in games where the top line goes silent.
WILDCARD: Jacob Moverare: The Swedish defenceman has become one of the league’s best defensive players in his first OHL season. He’ll also partner with Saarijarvi in a top unit that can push the pace and transition from defence to offence seamlessly. While he scored only twice in the regular season, he matched that output during Mississauga’s four-game sweep over Peterborough.
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