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Road to the 2017 OHL Cup: A look at the GTHL
Troy Shantz/OHL Images

Courtesy of OHL.com

Producing front line OHL talent in Owen Tippett (Mississauga Steelheads), Michael McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads) and Adam Mascherin (Kitchener Rangers) in recent years, the GTHL is once again a big draw for scouts in the months leading up to the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.

An entertaining first round of the GTHL Playoffs has seen three clubs punch their ticket to the 2017 OHL Cup Powered by Under Armour as the Toronto Marlboros, Mississauga Rebels and Vaughan Kings have all cemented their spot in the annual showcase that begins March 14th in Toronto.

Of those three teams, two (Mississauga and Vaughan) won as the lower seeded club in their first round matchup, pointing to the parity throughout the GTHL minor midget ranks this season.

“There’s really no clear cut favourite,” said Director of OHL Central Scouting Darrell Woodley. “You’ve got about eight teams that are capable and that’s why the league was so close and first place came down to the last game of the season. Any one of these teams can win on any given night.”

The biggest surprise of the first round featured the seventh place Vaughan Kings knocking off the second place Mississauga Reps 8-4 in points to return to the OHL Cup after a two year absence.

After overcoming injuries out of the gate, the Kings rebounded from a slow start to the season, relying on the contributions of speedy forward Nicholas Porco along with the leadership of Nathan Staios and Thomas Harley on the back end.

The fifth place Mississauga Rebels also defeated a higher seeded club in the crosstown rival Mississauga Senators.

The Rebels, who won the International Silver Stick in Whitby this past November, defeated the Sens 8-2 in points. They boast one of the best defence corps in the province this season, with the big trio of Michael Vukojevic, Evan Brand and Arthur Kowara leading the way. Up front, dynamic centreman Philip Tomasino is seen as one of the top draft eligible forwards for the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.

As always, the Toronto Marlboros are in the thick of things again, finishing third in the GTHL before eliminating the Toronto Titans 8-2 in the first round. High-end talent is the Marlboros’ calling card and there’s plenty of that to go around.

“The Marlboros are the quickest minor midget team I’ve seen in some time,” Woodley noted. “Team speed-wise they’d compete with last year’s OHL Cup Champion from York-Simcoe.”

Elite forwards Jack Hughes and Graeme Clarke are in their second minor midget seasons after serving as underage talent in last year’s OHL Cup showcase. Fleet-footed centreman Nicholas Zabaneh and well-rounded forward Kyle Harris are also ones to watch in blue and white.

The first place Toronto Nationals and eighth place Toronto Jr. Canadiens will play Game 7 of their first round series on Thursday to decide the fourth GTHL club that will secure a spot at the 2017 OHL Cup.

Known as a tight-checking team that has excelled in one-goal games all season, the Nationals boast the solid trio of Mason Primeau, Brandon Coe and Ethan Keppen on forward while defenceman Robert Calisti does the heavy lifting on the back end. North Bay native Zachary Roy is among the top eligible 2017 OHL Priority Selection targets in the crease.

The Jr. Canadiens have benefited from the strong play of go-to scorer Cody Morgan who has been their offensive leader all season. TJC has given the Nats all they can handle, entering Thursday’s Game 7 with the series knotted at six in points.

Though four teams will secure a spot at the 2017 OHL Cup, other avenues remain for GTHL clubs to gain entry into the showcase. The winners of the GTHL Wild Card Play-In Series (currently including the Mississauga Reps, Mississauga Senators and Toronto Titans) will serve as two of the eight Wild Card Play-In Game entries that will play on the afternoon of Tuesday March 14th. Three teams will also be chosen by way of a selection committee, with the names of those clubs being revealed one week before the play-in date.

GTHL:

***The four teams that reach the GTHL semi-finals earn a 2017 OHL Cup berth. (Mississauga Rebels, Toronto Marlboros, Vaughan Kings)

QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES A
(1) Toronto Nationals vs. (8) Toronto Jr. Canadiens
Series tied 6-6 in points

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Nationals: Brandon Coe (RW)
Jr. Canadiens: Cody Morgan (C)

QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES B
(2) Mississauga Reps vs. (7) Vaughan Kings
Vaughan wins series 8-4 in points

QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES C
(3) Toronto Marlboros vs. (6) Toronto Titans
Marlboros wins series 8-2 in points

QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES D
(4) Mississauga Senators vs. (5) Mississauga Rebels
Rebels win series 8-2 in points

ALLIANCE:

*** The champion, finalist and third place team qualify for the 2017 OHL Cup

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES A
(1) London Jr. Knights vs. (4) Cambridge Hawks
London leads series 1-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
London: Ryan Suzuki (C) (32 GP, 19G, 40A, 59 PTS.)
Cambridge: Ryan Campbell (C) (33 GP, 11G, 15A, 26 PTS.)

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES B
(2) Waterloo Wolves vs. (3) Kitchener Jr. Rangers
series begins Friday

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Waterloo: Nate Allensen (D) (32 GP, 10G, 20A, 30 PTS.)
Kitchener: Cole MacKay (C) (32 GP, 30G, 16A, 46 PTS.)

OMHA – ETA:

***The champion and finalist in the ETA Championship, along with the host Whitby Wildcats and champion and finalist from the SCTA will compete in the 2017 OMHA Championship in Whitby from March 3-5. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams at the OMHA Championship will qualify for the 2017 OHL Cup.

EAST
QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES A
(1) Whitby Wildcats vs. (4) Peterborough Petes
Whitby leads series 4-0 in points

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Whitby: Blake Murray (C) (37 GP, 31G, 28A, 59 PTS.)
Peterborough: Kieran Flynn (LW) (36 GP, 18G, 21A, 39 PTS.)

QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES B
(2) Quinte Red Devils vs. (3) Kingston Jr. Frontenacs
Quinte wins series 6-0 in points

WEST
QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES C
(1) York-Simcoe Express vs. (4) Markham Waxers
York-Simcoe wins series 6-0 in points

QUARTER-FINALS – SERIES D
(2) Ajax-Pickering Raiders vs. (3) Barrie Jr. Colts
Series tied 2-2 in points

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ajax-Pickering: Connor McMichael (C) (36 GP, 37G, 28A, 65 PTS.)
Barrie: Mitchell Russell (RW) (35 GP, 30G, 19A, 49 PTS.)

OMHA – SCTA:

***The SCTA qualifier weekend is slated for February 11-12 in Hamilton, Ont. The champion and finalist from that tournament will compete against the champion and finalist from the ETA along with the host Whitby Wildcats in the 2017 OMHA Championships in Whitby, Ont. from March 3-5. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams at the OMHA Championship will qualify for the 2017 OHL Cup.

The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs finished the season in first place in the SCTA with a record of 28-6-2, followed closely by the Brampton 45’s in second place with a record of 27-6-3.

SCTA PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Brampton: Andrew Horsley (LW) (35 GP, 27G, 22A, 49 PTS.)
Guelph: Matthew Gordon (C) (34 GP, 18G, 11A, 29 PTS.)
Hamilton: Ryan Stepien (C) (32 GP, 26G, 15A, 41 PTS.)
Halton: Lucas Peric (D) (34 GP, 6G, 19A, 25 PTS.)

For more information on the 2017 OHL Cup Showcase Tournament Powered by Under Armour, visit ohlcup.ca.

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