With the NHL regular season winding down, so is the regular season of each of the three major junior leagues that comprise the Candian Hockey League as well as the college hockey season. The Panthers have prospects playing in both the CHL and NCAA Division I, and most of them will be advancing to the playoffs with their respective teams beginning this week.
Thanks to the superb efforts of the Panthers’ scouting staff as well as Dale Tallon at the past several drafts, the prospect pipeline is filled to the brim with solid players that are not far off from vying for NHL roster spots. If you’ve been following along with our weekly Prospect Update posts, you’ve noticed that the players in the Panthers’ system have all been having great seasons for their junior and college teams and each have played a pivotal role in helping their teams make the playoffs.
In the Canadian Hockey League, the Panthers will have 6 prospects in the playoffs, including Jayce Hawryluk, Lawson Crouse, Samuel Montembeault, Juho Lammikko, Dryden Hunt, and Thomas Schemitsch.
Hawryluk wrapped up his WHL season on Saturday by recording a hat-trick against the Regina Pats, a team he has dominated all year long. The 20-year old forward put up career numbers this season for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL by tallying 47 goals, 59 assists, and 106 points to go along with a +59 rating in 58 games, good enough for 4th in the WHL in scoring. The Wheat Kings will face the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first round of the WHL Playoffs beginning this Thursday, March 24th. Brandon was an early season favorite to win the league title and advance to the Memorial Cup.
Dryden Hunt also finished his WHL season on Saturday by scoring his league-leading 58th goal of the season against the Swift Current Broncos giving him 8 goals in 9 March games. Hunt finished 2nd in the WHL in overall points with 116 and had 6 hat-tricks on the season, 5 of which came in a span of just 8 games in February before being signed to an entry-level contract with the Panthers. Hunt and the Moose Jaw Warriors will face the Prince Albert Raiders in the first round of the WHL Playoffs beginning this Friday, March 25th.
All 3 of the Panthers’ OHL prospects in Lawson Crouse, Juho Lammikko, and Thomas Schemitsch are headed to the playoffs with their respective teams. Crouse and Lammikko, who both play for the Kingston Frontenacs, had career years to help lead their team to an Eastern Conference title. Crouse recorded 23 goals and 39 assists in 49 games and while Lammikko registered 22 goals and 33 assists in 59 games. The Frontenacs will face the reigning Memorial Cup Champion Oshawa Generals in the first round of the playoffs beginning Friday, March 25th.
Schemitsch will head to the playoffs after putting up 9 goals and 22 assists in 51 games on the Owen Sound Attack’s blue line. He finished 13th in the OHL in primary points per game by a defenseman. Owen Sound will have a tough first round matchup as they’ll face the high-powered London Knights beginning on Friday.
In the QMJHL, Panthers’ goalie prospect Samuel Montembeault of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada will face the Val-d’Or Foreurs in the first round of the playoffs. His team finished 13th out of 18 in the league but managed to grab a division playoff spot despite a record that wasn’t very good. Montembeault’s own record dropped off this season after losing key offensive players, but for the most part, the rest of his statistics are either the same or better than last season. He finished the regular season with a .901 save percentage, which is several ticks higher than last year, and a goals-against average of 2.63, which is ever so slightly worse than last year. His series begins on Friday.
The Panthers also have several NCAA prospects that have made it to the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship. In the Northeast Regional, defenseman Ian McCoshen of Boston College will face Harvard on Friday. McCoshen finished the regular season with a career-high 14 assists and a career-high points total of 20 while his 6 goals tied his highest mark which was set last season.
In the West Regional, goaltender Evan Cowley of the University of Denver will face Boston University on Saturday night. Cowley lost the DU starting job at the beginning of the season, but settled in nicely by the end of the season with an 8-5-1 record, .929 save percentage, and a 2.07 goals-against average.
Finally, in the Midwest Regional, right winger Chris Wilkie of North Dakota will face Northeastern University on Friday, while defenseman Michael Downing of the University of Michigan will face left winger Joe Wegwerth of Notre Dame on Friday as well. Wilkie finished his first NCAA regular season with 5 goals and 4 assists in 35 games, Downing finished his junior year with 3 goals and tied a career-high of 16 assists, and Wegwerth registered a goal and 3 assists in 30 games during his freshman season.