The puck drops on the WHL playoffs Friday, March 22. All five teams in the U.S. Division will enter the race for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Everett Silvertips – Division Champions.
The Silvertips are leading the charge in the division and goalie Dustin Wolf has been a big factor to their success. The 17-year-old leads goalies with at least 45 starts in Goals Against Average (1.69). Save Percentage (.936), and wins (41) He was also named the WHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending March 3rd. The Tustin, California native is also a noted prospect in this summer’s 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Goalie Max Volega leads the league in GAA (1.65) and SV% (.942). The duo in net could be the biggest weapon for Everett in the playoffs.
The Silvertips also possess the best penalty kill in the division at 84.9%, which is 3rd best in the league.
Everett finished their season with 99 points and a 5-1 victory over Victoria at home on March 16th. Martin Fasko-Rudas helped the ’Tips slam the door on the season with a hat-trick in the win.
The Silvertips will have home-ice advantage against the Tri-City Americans in the first round.
The league’s best powerplay (29.1%) belongs to the Spokane Chiefs. They accrue just over 10 penalty minutes per game; the fewest in the division.
Adam Beckman tallied a natural hat-trick in the 10-1 rout of Tri-City. Bear Hughes also made his debut for the Chiefs in this game. Hughes’ Junior B season ended in time to close out Spokane’s. He found the back of the net twice in his first game with the team.
20 year-old Joachim Blichfeld blew up the W this regular season. The San Jose prospect led the league in points with 114 and tied Moose Jaw Warrior Tristan Langan with 53 goals. Portland wrapped up the season against Seattle on March 17th. For the fifth time in his four year career, Freadrich tallied 3 points in the 6-5 loss to the Thunderbirds.
Joachim is the third Winterhawk in seven years to win the Bob Clarke Trophy for most points in a regular season. The previous two were Oliver Bjorkstrand and Brendan Leipsic.
Cody Glass, the first draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, is poised to put on a show in his last season with Portland. Despite missing some games with injuries, Glass scored 69 points in 38 games.
The American’s clinched a playoff spot on March 2nd when the Vancouver Giants defeated the Kamloops Blazers 5-4. This year was Tri-City’s fifth-straight 30-win season. 20-year-old Parker AuCoin leads the team with 84 points; an even split of goals and assists.
What could spell the doom for Tri-City early is their goals for total for the season. They have scored 214 goals, which is the fewest in the division. They are facing the red-hot Dustin Wolf and the Silvertips in the first round. Attacking the net early will be key for the Americans to take Everett the distance.
Seattle were the last team in the division to clinch a spot. Their overtime thriller against Tri-City on Wednesday, March 13th.
The NHL Central Scouting Report listed 48 players of the WHL in its midterm rankings. Seattle has the most skaters representing the division: defenseman Jake Lee and wingers Henrik Rybinski and Dillon Hamaliuk.
The Thunderbirds are currently on the back-end of a rebuild. Seattle won the Ed Chynoweth Cup in in 2016-17 and lost in the Cup final the year prior. At the conclusion of this season, the ‘Birds will loose their top three point scorers in Matthew Wedman (40G, 37A), Noah Philp (26G, 49A) and captain Nolan Volcan (27G, 30A).
Seattle is entering the playoffs with 70 points; the fewest in the division.