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ITO Hot-Stove: who will represent the East and West in the OHL finals?

Before we begin here, I'd like to thank Brandon Sudeyko and company for filling in for me for last week's ITO hot-stove and doing a great job. As you can tell, I'm back on the saddle here and ready to roll. Joining me today in this week's hot-stove is Matt Leacy, Brandon Sudeyko, Susan Tromanhauser and Trevor Miller.

Without further ado I'd like to introduce you all to this week's debate question: who will represent the East and West in the OHL finals and why?

Todd Cordell

In the East, I'm going to go out on a limb and go with the Barrie Colts. They have one of the most explosive forward groups in the Ontario Hockey League led by Mark Scheifele, Tanner Pearson and company. At the deadline the Colts added some grit up front with Anthony Camara, and upgraded their defense corps as well by bringing in Ryan O'Connor. 17 year old goaltender Alex Fotinos has been brought up to the big club due to the Clint Windsor trade and he's been playing some fantastic hockey. He's currently side-lined with concussion like symptoms, but he should be back relatively soon. In my opinion if the Colts can stay healthy and get solid goaltending from Mathias Niederberger and Alex Fotinos, they can compete with anyone in the East.

Now out west I'm going to go with the Sarnia Sting. I know they're struggling a little bit right now but I believe if and when they get healthy they can make a serious run at it. I love what they did at the deadline in bringing in Adrian Robertson, Ryan Spooner, JP Anderson and company and in my opinion each and every one of those acquisitions will payoff come playoff time. When Nail Yakupov, and possibly Alex Galchenyuk return, the Sting will be a force to be reckoned with. I think they'll show why in the post-season.

Matt Leacy

Talk about a hard question to answer. A lot of teams with great depth and skill in the league this year. There really is no clear cut favorite. That being said, I believe Niagara will win the East, and Plymouth will win the West.

Plymouth has tremendous skill, starting in net with Scott Wedgewood, and lots of players who can score including Richard Rakell and Stefan Noeson. Of course, London, Kitchener and Sarnia will give them a good run for their money, but my money's on the Whalers to take it this year.

Niagara again has strong goaltending from Mark Visinten, and guys like Ryan Strome plus the Hamilton brothers really make them a strong team and a force in the Eastern Conference. Just like in the west, there are very good teams such as Ottawa and Oshawa, but I don't think anyone has the same type of depth as the Ice Dogs.

Brandon Sudeyko

Pick the OHL Finals... but those are about 20 games away and several rounds. But the Trade deadline has passed and I would have to go into the archives to see if my personal pics have changed. They clearly have. When all is said and done, the Western Conference will go through Plymouth and Sarnia. I don’t know why I still give Sarnia credit, especially when they are looking like the same fire wagon team from last season... just more offensive power than the previous incarnation. But there is something about Sarnia. I will call it the mystique factor as I don’t think anyone has seen what this team is capable of. Brett Thompson is your veteran scorer. Sarault is a beast this year. Captain Charlitti is having an outstanding year on the back end. And the team will go deep enough to get both Gally and Yaki back. There is also a guy by the name of Spooner on that team too. There set back is JP Anderson but all you have to do is outscore your opponent by 1. But back to Plymouth, who has been the most complete team in the OHL all season. There is strength on the team, as exhibited by Tom Wilson and Jamie Devane. Skill with J.T. Miller, Stefan Noesen and Rickard Rakell. Their D is probably the 2nd best 6 pack in the league, and their goaltenders... well you know that story.

The East is probably filled with Niagara and Ottawa, but I have a feeling that Goaltending will hurt Niagara, while Ottawa will get stymied again by a hot goaltender and their shooters will hit nothing but iron. Call me Crazy but I am going to call Brampton in the OHL Finals... Their D can lock down the best shooters. Their forwards can play great defensive hockey and by all accounts... every team hates to play against them. ‘They just sit back and wait, I f*!#ing hate playing them. I’m glad it is over,’ said one eastern conference player after a game. The system acts to their strength, they have no problem with patience and contrary to belief... they can score too. OHL Finals... Brampton / Sarnia...

Susan Tromanhauser

I posed this question to the media room in St. Catharines. All were in agreement Niagara should be there representing the East. The key word is should. Niagara has by far the strongest team on paper but paper doesn't win championships.

The West was more difficult to decide. The media types could not agree between London and Plymouth. What they did agree upon was they hoped it was Plymouth as the Wedgewood versus Visentin goaltender dual will make a great story.
Trevor Miller

My pick to come out of the East is Ottawa. I picked them as my favourite early on in the year and I’m sticking with it. Their offense is spread nicely over the roster. Tyler Toffoli is having another banner year taking over the league lead in scoring recently. With Sean Monahan riding shotgun, the pair remind me a little of the Brampton days with Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchene. Add in Shane Prince and newly acquired John McFarland and it’s clear that this team should have no trouble scoring. The likes of Cody Ceci and Marc Zanetti will help the 67’s keep the puck out of their own net, as will the presence of Petr Mrazek in goal.

The easy thing to do for the Western Conference is to pick the London Knights, and it makes sense to do so. Since Dale Hunter moved on to coach the Washington Capitals, the Knights haven’t missed a beat, pacing the west with a league best 71 points.  Greg McKegg and Austin Watson have been huge additions to a London team that was already chock-full of talent. Max Domi has had a rough month of January, recording only two assists thus far, but will most definitely bounce back as the playoff picture becomes clearer. Michael Houser has also been a huge factor in goal for the Knights winning 33 of his 42 starts, five of which are shut-outs.

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