With the trade deadline behind us for another season, we can now look at these teams and get a good idea of what we can expect over the final two months of the OHL season. Some teams seem primed for a long playoff run, some may not see the playoffs in their future, and many find themselves somewhere in between.

Beginning in the Western Conference, the London Knights appear to be comfortably settled into the number one-seed for the OHL playoffs after an impressive 28-game point streak that saw them leap ahead of anyone else in the race. From there, things get more interesting. The battle for the league’s West Division is shaping up to be an interesting one, as Sarnia currently sits three points ahead of Plymouth and four points ahead of Sault Ste. Marie for the division lead. Whoever wins the division will take the number two seed in the Conference, while the Midwest Division seems ready to provide the third, fourth, and fifth seed. Owen Sound is 11 points behind London for the division lead, but four points ahead of Kitchener in third. Owen Sound will try to hold the third seed over the final twenty games of the season, while Kitchener and Guelph, currently separated by a single point, will battle for home ice advantage. Plymouth and Sault Ste. Marie will look to improve on current standings which show them sixth and seventh, respectively, while the Windsor Spitfires will look to make a charge down the stretch to make the playoffs. Windsor currently sits in 9th place, but are just two points behind Saginaw, who have also been playing good hockey as of late.

Moving over into the Eastern Conference, things don’t look quite so clear. The Barrie Colts do hold a six-point lead on the rest of the conference, and a twelve point lead in their division, and should find themselves one of the top teams in the conference. Belleville and Oshawa appear to be tangled in a real good race for the East Division crown, as Oshawa currently holds a one point lead, while the Bulls still have three games in hand on the Generals. The division winner will likely become the second seed in the conference, while whichever team cannot win the division will look to avoid being caught for third place by a pack of teams behind them. The Bulls are currently five points ahead of fourth place, which is where things tighten up in the East. The Sudbury Wolves, Brampton Battalion, and Niagara Icedogs are all separated by just one point, an ever-slim margin between home-advantage in fourth place and a sixth place finish. Mississauga and Kingston appear set to battle for the final two playoff spots, the Steelheads with a one-point edge on the Fronts for seventh place. With Ottawa well out of contention, sixteen points out, the Peterborough Petes in ninth place would like to make a late-season run, but sitting ten points behind Kingston with only 22 games left may be too much to overcome.

Players Of The Week

Top Forward

J.P. Labardo (Erie Otters) – Much of the recent success of the Erie Otters can be attributed to strong work of their forward group, and overager J.P. Labardo plays a big role in helping with underage phenom Connor McDavid. Labardo brings his veteran experience every night, and had a strong week, despite only playing a pair of games. Friday night in Sarnia, J.P. helped keep the Otters close by scoring twice as part of a four point night, which he followed a night later by tallying three helpers in a 4-2 victory in Saginaw. In his two games, Labardo’s seven points led all OHL players, many of whom would play an additional game, and he is our choice as the league’s Top Forward this week.

Top Defenceman

Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia Sting) – No stranger to this spot in the Players of the Week, Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting earns himself another nod as our Top Defender after an impressive performance over the weekend. The draft-eligible native of Sewell, New Jersey was a force to be reckoned with on Friday night, as he would score once and add three helpers to lead the Sting past a stiff challenge from the Erie Otters. While held off of the scoresheet on Sunday afternoon in Windsor, Anthony could not be held responsible for the loss, as he was up to the challenge of playing big minutes. His four points in two games led all league defencemen this week, and he ended the week with a +3 rating.

Top Goaltender

Ken Appleby (Oshawa Generals) – A very good week for goaltenders also saw Garret Sparks and Jaroslav Pavelka post perfect three-game weeks, our choice as the league’s top goaltender goes to rookie 17-year old Ken Appleby of the Oshawa Generals. After seeing action in only eight games so far this season, Ken was called into action when Oshawa starter Dan Altshuller came down with the flu. Appleby responded with a solid 28-save effort in Barrie on Thursday night, helping to keep the Generals in the game until a shootout loss. Returning to home ice, Ken was solid in a pair of weekend victories, allowing just one goal in each contest. Appleby stopped 15 against Kingston on Saturday, and turned away 24 the next night versus Mississauga. In three games relief, Ken posted a GAA of 1.30 and a save percentage of .944 to help keep the Generals in the Eastern race.

OHL Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) Still no change atop the OHL Power Rankings this week, as the London Knights remain at number one after an incredible two-month run. A loss in their only game this past week, Friday night at home to Windsor, extended their losing streak to three in a row, and the gap between them and those behind them in the rankings is getting slimmer. London gets back on the ice with three games away from home this week, beginning on Thursday night in Ottawa. The Knights continue a trip through Eastern Ontario over the weekend, playing in Belleville on Saturday night, and in Kingston on Sunday afternoon.

2. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 3) The Barrie Colts continue to see the rest of the Eastern Conference chasing them for the lead down the stretch, and, with five points in three games this week, show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Barrie’s first two games this week both wound up decided in a shootout, first a Colts victory over Oshawa at home on Thursday night, followed by a loss in Sudbury on Friday. Wrapping up the three-game stretch, Barrie returned home to defeat Kitchener on Saturday. The Colts play three games in four nights in the week ahead, starting in Owen Sound on Wednesday night. Barrie moves on to play in Niagara a night later, then come home to take on Peterborough Saturday night.

3. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 12) A huge leap sees the Guelph Storm enter the top three this week, after sitting outside of the top ten in last week’s rankings. The Storm won all three contests this week away from home, extending a winning streak to five games in the process. Guelph won games Thursday night in Peterborough and Friday night in Ottawa, then wrapped up a perfect week with a victory in Kingston on Sunday night. The Storm open up a three-game weekend on Friday night, back at home to Owen Sound, before the teams travel to Owen Sound for the rematch on Saturday night. Guelph returns home to end the weekend Sunday evening against Kitchener.

4. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 2) The Belleville Bulls split a pair of games this week, and though they only slide two spots in the OHL Power Rankings, they lost the lead in the East Division, though they hold three games in hand. Friday night the Bulls impressed in front of a national audience, winning a blowout in Niagara. A night later, however, they found themselves on the wrong end of a shutout on home ice, defeated by Owen Sound. Looking ahead, Belleville has a huge home game on Wednesday night, taking on Oshawa with first place on the line. The next night, the Bulls play in Peterborough, before finishing the week with a game at home to London on Saturday night.

5. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 10) The Owen Sound Attack refuse to go away in the Western Conference chase, and climb five spots this week after a perfect three-game road trip over the weekend. Friday night, the Attack needed a shootout to win in Kingston, but extra time wouldn’t be needed a night later, when Owen Sound shutout Belleville, or on Sunday in Ottawa. The Attack can focus on Guelph this week, as both of their games are against their divisional rivals. Friday night, the teams play in Guelph, before returning to Owen Sound for another the next night.

6. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 5)  The Sudbury Wolves are down one spot this week in the OHL Power Rankings, but did earn three out of four possible points at home over the last seven days. Friday night, the Wolves won at home, defeating Barrie in a shootout, but lost in overtime to Kitchener on Sunday afternoon. Sudbury remains at home for three more games this week, and will look to keep their recent good play going with games against Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday, Oshawa on Friday, and Windsor on Sunday afternoon.

7. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 7) One of the few teams to see no change on this week’s OHL Power Rankings, the Sarnia Sting hold at number seven this week after splitting a pair of games. Friday night, Sarnia won a wild game at home over Erie, but the Sting couldn’t pull off another on Sunday afternoon, losing in Windsor. Sarnia looks to continue their fight in the Western Conference with three games this week, beginning in Mississauga on Wednesday. Friday night, the Sting are at home, taking on Plymouth, before the same two teams play again in Plymouth on Saturday.

8. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 9) The Kitchener Rangers rode extra time to victory in two of their three games over the past week, and move up one spot this week in the process, landing at number eight. At home on Friday, the Rangers needed a shootout to defeat Brampton, but Kitchener would lose in Barrie on Saturday night. In Sudbury on Sunday afternoon, a tired Rangers squad picked up an overtime win. There’s another three-game weekend in the future for Kitchener, who begin play on Friday night at home to Erie. The Rangers hit the road for a rematch in Erie a night later, before wrapping up the weekend in Guelph on Sunday evening.

9. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 6) Seems tough circumstance to see the Oshawa Generals down three spots this week, as, dealing with illness to their starting goaltender, the Gens would take five out of six possible points, and retake the lead, at least temporarily, in the East Division. Thursday night, Oshawa picked up a point when they lost a shootout in Barrie, and returning home, the Generals won games Saturday night over Kingston, and Sunday evening against Mississauga. Oshawa looks to continue rolling with the return of Lucas Lessio, and begin a road-trip with three games this week. The Generals battle for the division lead in Belleville on Wednesday night before heading north, with games in Sudbury on Friday, and Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday.

10. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 4) With a win and a loss away from home this week, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds cannot keep pace in a tight race up the Power Rankings, falling six spots this week. Friday night, the Greyhounds lost in Saginaw, but replied by impressing in Plymouth a night later. Sault Ste. Marie has one more game on the road before returning home this week, as they play in Sudbury on Wednesday night, before getting back on home ice Friday night against Windsor. The next night, the Hounds play host to Oshawa, putting an end to their week’s schedule.

11. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 8) The Plymouth Whalers fall three spots out of the top ten in the OHL Power Rankings, with a split in their two home games last week. Friday night, the Whalers came out on top against Mississauga, but couldn’t make it two in a row when Sault Ste. Marie visited on Saturday. It will be a busy week for Plymouth this week, as they play host to Erie on Monday (after time of writing), before beginning three games in three days Thursday night in Windsor. On Friday, the Whalers play in Sarnia, before returning home for a rematch with Sarnia a night later.

12. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 11) The Saginaw Spirit split the final two games of a seven-game home stand over the past week, falling one spot to number twelve while they were at it. Friday night, Saginaw was able to withstand the attack of a hot team from Sault Ste. Marie, before losing the next night when Erie visited. The Spirit now head out on the road for three games this week, which begins on Wednesday night, a chance for revenge in Erie. Friday night, Saginaw plays in Mississauga, and travels a day later to play in Niagara.

13. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 18) The return of Alexander Khokhlachev has paid big-time dividends in Windsor, and the Spitfires are up five spots to number thirteen this week after three wins extended a point-streak to six games. Thursday night, the Spits won at home over Mississauga, and a night later, would go into London and come away with the victory. Back at home Sunday afternoon, Windsor defeated Sarnia to wrap up the perfect week. The Spitfires play three more games this week, heading out on the road after hosting Plymouth on Thursday night. Friday night, Windsor plays in Sault Ste. Marie, and Sunday afternoon, the Spitfires play in Sudbury.

14. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 13) Even grabbing three points in just two games this week wouldn’t be enough to hold the Brampton Battalion from slipping a spot in the rankings. A shootout loss in Kitchener on Friday night would prove costly, though the Troops rebounded Sunday afternoon, with a victory back at home over Peterborough. A quiet spell in the Brampton schedule sees them in action just once over the next week, as they don’t play again until Sunday afternoon, at home to Niagara.

15. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 14) One win and one loss away from home sees the Erie Otters drop one spot to fifteen, a far more respectable position than where the team has toiled as of late. Friday night, the Otters scored plenty, but couldn’t come up with the win in Sarnia, but found more success the next night, winning in Saginaw. Erie will continue to see plenty of the team bus this week, as they play Monday afternoon in Plymouth (after time of writing), before returning home to take on Saginaw again on Wednesday night. The Otters then begin a home and home series with Kitchener, playing on the road on Friday night, and back at home a night later.

16. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 17) The Kingston Frontenacs are a young, exciting team that many saw as being on the rise just a few short weeks ago, but three more losses this week sees the Fronts winless streak reach six games. Despite that, Kingston is up one spot this week, after earning a valuable bonus point Friday night, losing a shootout on home ice against Owen Sound. Saturday night, the Fronts lost in Oshawa, and they lost again back at home Sunday evening against Guelph. Kingston has a pair of home games this week to try and get back into the win column, with a big opportunity on Friday night when Ottawa comes to town. Sunday afternoon, the Fronts play host to London, no easy game to end the week.

17. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 19) Better play recently finally pays off for the Peterborough Petes, who climb two spots to rise to number seventeen in this week’s OHL Power Rankings. A loss at home to Guelph on Thursday night put an end to a six-game point-streak, but the Petes rebounded with another victory Saturday in Niagara. Peterborough failed to make it back to back wins on Sunday afternoon, losing in Brampton. The Petes play two games in the coming week, as they host Belleville on Thursday night before traveling to Barrie for a Saturday night affair.

18. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 15) Another pair of losses in their two home games this past week sees a winless streak reach four games for the Niagara Icedogs, who are trending the wrong direction in what is becoming a tough Eastern Conference race. The Dogs were bounced off of home ice on national television Friday night by Belleville, and, while better, lost again the next night when Peterborough came to visit. Niagara remains at home to begin the week, playing host to Barrie on Thursday and Saginaw on Saturday night, before ending the week Sunday afternoon in Brampton.

19. Mississauga Steelheads – (Last Week: 16) The Mississauga Steelheads will be glad to return to home ice, after a disastrous six-game road trip came to a conclusion this week with no wins to show for the trip. The Steelheads were unable to earn any points in their three games this week, losing contests Thursday in Windsor, Friday in Plymouth, and Sunday in Oshawa. Mississauga finally finds themselves back at home this week, playing all three in friendly confines, starting Wednesday against Sarnia. Friday night, the Steelheads host Saginaw, and Ottawa visits to end the weekend Sunday afternoon.

20. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 20) With hopes for the season mostly gone, the Ottawa 67’s show no signs of relinquishing the bottom of the OHL Power Rankings anytime soon. Two more losses this week sees their winless streak reach five games, with no points to show from any of the five losses. On Friday night, Ottawa found themselves shutout on home ice by Guelph, and they would lose another at home Sunday afternoon when Owen Sound visited. A tough start to the week awaits the 67’s on Thursday when they host London, before heading out on the road for games in Kingston on Friday, and in Mississauga on Sunday afternoon.

The ITO Players of the Week and OHL Power Rankings can be found every week for the rest of the season, right here at OHLWriters.com. Until then, you can regularly find my ramblings about the Ontario Hockey League, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs, @N24Nicholson.

Anthony Nicholson is the Sports Editor for Toronto News 24 covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and regular contributor to OHLWriters.com. Contact Anthony anytime for a conversation by joining him on Twitter, or send mail to anicholson@n24.ca.

Photo: J.P. Labardo of the Erie Otters dominated in two multi-point games over the past week, earning our Top Forward honors for week 17. (Photo Courtesy: Terry Wilson/OHLImages)