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Road to the Memorial Cup: Studnicka’s last ride and Keyser’s chance to prove himself

Moving to St. Catherines has put him in slightly better playoff position, but Studnicka’s probably final shot to see the Memorial Cup puts him up against some fierce competition.

Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

With but a weekend’s worth of work ahead of him, premiere prospect Jack Studnicka will join his fellow IceDogs and enter the OHL Playoffs to face the North Bay Battalion, their first step into hopeful contention for the Memorial Cup. Meanwhile, his former Teammate Kyle Keyser will be backstopping the Gens against the Mississauga Steelheads. Both pitched strong season the teams they played for...

...But they’re also teams they probably won’t be playing for or against ever again, if the Bruins have their say about it.

Studnicka’s season so far has been a firm success for the Oshawa Generals and Niagara IceDogs, the latter he joined at the beginning of the year as part of a trade, combining for 73 points in 55 games. His trade got him at the perfect time, as an earlier acquisition by the Gens had international Nando Eggenberger show up and immediately begin wrecking house. He’s slowed down a bit by now, but at the time, Eggenberger had started to take Studnicka’s ice-time with how well he took to the Gens’ system. Going to Niagara got him back into his point producing groove (not that he ever left it, just did it slightly better), back into the top line, and in much better playoff position as the IceDogs have committed to going all out for their push for the Robertson Cup.

Given that the seeding in Junior makes a hell of a lot more sense than it does in the NHL, the IceDogs get to beat up on the North Bay Battalion, who are every bit the sub-.500 team that they are, literally being 5-5-0 in their last 10 going into this. Granted, that means they can still be a mercurial bunch to face, but chances look good for Niagara to move on to the second round fairly easily if they all come ready to play.

Keyser meanwhile, has been chugging right along with the Oshawa Generals, taking the brunt of their starts and posting a .914 SV%, good for 2nd in the league amongst starters! His biggest stumble this season was a fairly unimpressive world juniors stint, but has been able to put that behind him and help get the Gens to 43 wins in a tight Eastern conference.

The Gens have drawn Mississauga who there an opposite to momentum? Because they definitely have that. The Gens are 7-2, and the Steelheads are...2-7. One can assume the Gens will be the ones with their heads held high going into the postseason.

What stands above all others in the OHL and indeed, the biggest challenge for any junior squad in Ontario this year is...get this...

A successful Ottawa Hockey team.

The Ottawa 67’s have been the toast of the OHL this year, only losing 12 times all year, having the lowest goals-against in the entire league; done with a murderer’s row of talent, starting with a pair of overagers absolutely wrecking house for them in Tye Felhaber and Austen Keating, as well as no less than 4 or 5 NHL prospects (from later rounds, mind you, but still), and a couple of really interesting prospects eligible for the 2020 draft in Austria-born Marco Rossi and Jack Quinn. Topped off with goalie Cedrick Andree, who’s right behind Keyser in goalie rankings.

With the way the playoff rankings go, there’s a pretty decent chance either one of these teams has to play dragonslayer at some point. The last team to do so in regulation was Kyle Keyser’s Oshawa Generals...who promptly dropped a 4-0 L on their record the next game against them. The IceDogs meanwhile only ever beat the 67’s once...and it was a 6-5 slugfest.

But hey, playoff time is magical. Anything can happen! And usually does!

So good luck to both Studnicka and Keyser as they gear up for their postseason!