Thursday, March 22, 2012

THE MATCHUPS
Eastern Conference
Edmonton (1) vs. Kootenay (8)
Moose Jaw (2) vs. Regina (7)
Calgary (3) vs. Brandon (6)
Medicine Hat (4) vs. Saskatoon (5)
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Western Conference
Tri-City (1) vs. Everett (8)
Kamloops (2) vs. Victoria (7)
Portland (3) vs. Kelowna (6)
Vancouver (4) vs. Spokane (5)
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The WHL playoffs open tonight with the Brandon Wheat Kings in Calgary to meet the Hitmen. The other seven series will begin Friday night.
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The Seattle Thunderbirds came out of the WHL’s draft lottery with the first pick on Wednesday.
The lottery involved the six non-playoff teams and when it was over, the WHL released this first-round order:
1. Seattle Thunderbirds
2. Prince Albert Raiders
3. Prince George Cougars
4. Lethbridge Hurricanes
5. Swift Current Broncos
6. Red Deer Rebels
7. Everett Silvertips
8. Victoria Royals
9. Kelowna Rockets
10. Kootenay Ice
11. Regina Pats
12. Brandon Wheat Kings
13. Saskatoon Blades
14. Spokane Chiefs
15. Vancouver Giants
16. Medicine Hat Tigers
17. Calgary Hitmen
18. Moose Jaw Warriors
19. Kamloops Blazers
20. Portland Winterhawks
21. Tri-City Americans
22. Edmonton Oil Kings
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The first-round order as released by the WHL doesn't include the four picks that have been traded. Here, courtesy of Alan Caldwell of Small Thoughts At Large, is the first round including trades:
1. Seattle
2. Prince Albert
3. Prince George
4. Lethbridge
5. Swift Current
6. Red Deer
7. Everett
8. Victoria
9. Kelowna
10. Kootenay
11. Prince George (from Regina in Marincin/Blidstrand deal, Jan. 10/12)
12. Brandon
13. Victoria (from Brandon in Kevin Sundher deal, Jan. 9/12; Brandon had acquired the selection from Saskatoon in Brayden Schenn deal, Jan. 10/11)
14. Spokane
15. Vancouver
16. Medicine Hat
17. Calgary
18. Lethbridge (from Moose Jaw in Cam Braes deal, Jan. 9/12)
19. Kamloops
20. Seattle (from Portland in Marcel Noebels deal, Jan. 10/12)
21. Tri-City
22. Edmonton
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The bantam draft is scheduled to be held on May 3.
Keep in mind that the order for the other rounds reverts to the reverse order of the final regular-season standings.
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The WHL also announced some of its Eastern Division individual award winners and its first and second all-star teams. For those, check out the WHL’s website.
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Earlier in the week, I reported here that D Cody Carlson of the Prince George Cougars was headed to the Central league’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. . . . I was told last night that Carlson and Prince George G Drew Owsley, both of whom completed their junior eligibility this season, are headed for the Central league’s Missouri Mavericks. . . . Meanwhile, F Spencer Asuchak, who was the Cougars’ third 20-year-old this season, apparently may be headed for the ECHL’s Ontario Reign.
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F John Persson of the Red Deer Rebels made his AHL debut last night with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who lost 3-0 to the host Binghamton Senators. Persson had four shots on goal, all in the first period. . . . Persson, a 19-year-old from Mora, Sweden, was selected by the New York Islanders in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2011 draft.
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F Justin Maylan, who played out his eligibility with the Prince Albert Raiders, has signed a tryout deal with the AHL’s Portland Pirates. Maylan is an undrafted free agent. He is joined in Portland by D Harrison Ruopp of the Raiders, who was a third-round selection by the Phoenix Coyotes in the NHL’s 2011 draft.
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The Kamloops Blazers have announced the signings of two players, including the son of Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston.
D Connor Clouston was a third-round selection in the 2011 WHL bantam draft. He had nine points and 90 penalty minutes in 29 games with the midget AAA Medicine Hat Tigers.
F Brayden Gelsinger, 16, ws listed by the Blazers in September. He had 42 points, including 22 goals, in 41 games with the midget AAA Tisdale, Sask., Trojans.
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There is an interesting line in a story written by Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist that appears in today’s paper and on the newspaper’s website.
Dheensaw, who has covered the Royals all season, noted that F Brandon Magee “appeared in good spirits as he leaned on the glass and offered playful encouragement to his teammates during practice Wednesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.”
Three paragraphs later, Dheensaw writes:
“The Royals prohibit media from interviewing injured players.”
What we do know is that Magee was injured in the third period of the Royals’ final regular-season game and isn’t expected to play in their first-round series against the Kamloops Blazers.
The Royals may also be without F Robin Soudek and D Zach Habscheid, both of whom missed late-season games with injuries.
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There can be no doubting that the best coaching matchup of the first round is in the series between the Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver Giants.
The two head coaches have combined for 1,073 WHL coaching victories – Don Hay of the Giants is No. 2 on the alltime list, with 556, while Spokane’s Don Nachbaur is sixth, at 517.
Nachbaur has been the WHL’s coach of the year three times, once each with Seattle, Tri-City and Spokane. You know he would trade those for Hay’s three Memorial Cup championships.
According to a Chiefs’ news release: Despite the two having coached against each other for the better part of the last 20-years, “they have met in the WHL playoffs just once – a 3-1 series win in the 1999 Western Conference semi-finals for Hay's Tri-City Americans over Nachbaur's Seattle Thunderbirds.”
The series opens Friday in Vancouver.

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