With both the Okotoks Oilers and Brooks Bandits enjoying a bye, there?s just two first-round playoff series in the AJHL South this season. The match-ups see three returning teams in the Drumheller Dragons, Camrose Kodiaks, and the Canmore Eagles while the Olds Grizzlys make their return to the post-season.
Another key change to the AJHL Playoffs this year, is the extension of the first round as each series will be a best-of-seven rather than a best-of-five. While the Oilers and Bandits lie in wait, the Dragons, Grizzlys, Kodiaks and Eagles form some intriguing combinations featuring some of the league?s very best talent.
(3) Drumheller Dragons 77 points VS (6) Olds Grizzlys 27 points
Dragons vs Grizzlys Head-to-Head
- Record: 5-1-1 in favour of Drumheller (1 OTW), outscoring Olds 41-18
- Dragons Home: 2-1-0 / Dragons Away: 3-0-1
- Grizzlys Home: 1-3-0 / Grizzlys Away: 1-2-0
- Dragons Power Play: 10/23, 43.5% Penalty Kill: 33/35, 94.3%
- Grizzlys Power Play: 2/35, 5.7% Penalty Kill: 13/23, 56.5%
- Post-Secondary Commitments: Dragons 6, Grizzlys 0
- Rookies: Dragons 12, Grizzlys 10
Why the Drumheller Dragons can win: The Drumheller Dragons are a team laden with veterans, and prior to consecutive losses against Okotoks and Brooks to end the season, were playing some of their best hockey with a ten-game win streak. In the course of the regular season series against Olds, the Dragons? special teams were red-hot with the power play clicking at nearly 50% while allowing only two Grizzlys goals with the man advantage in 35 opportunities. Long-time Dragons like Brady Risk, Eric Martin, and Derrick Budz have will to give everything they have on the back nine of their junior careers, and many Dragons on the roster will want to avenge being upset in the first round last season by the Canmore Eagles. This Dragons squad will be prepared and hungry to get to the second round.
Why the Olds Grizzlys can win: After a few seasons of missing out on the post-season, the Olds Grizzlys make their return after a year of tremendous growth for the franchise on and off the ice. While the Grizzlys are still building towards something, this playoff series against the Dragons will be a big litmus test on just how far they?ve come since last year?s six-win season. If anyone knows what it?s like to be the underdog, it?s the Grizzlys, so the frame of mind will be there. Despite the 50-point difference in the standings, the Grizzlys did take two games from the Dragons in the regular season series, including two of their first three meetings. If the lopsided special teams play evens out over the course of the series and the balanced attack led by Logan Bromhead, Zafir Rawji and Hunter Floris gets hot, there?s no reason to think the Grizzlys can?t do what the Eagles did a year ago and upset Dragons.
(4) Camrose Kodiaks 65 points VS (5) Canmore Eagles 50 points
Kodiaks vs Eagles Head-to-Head
- Record: 4-2 in favour of Camrose, outscoring the Eagles 25-20
- Kodiaks Home: 2-1-0 / Kodiaks Away: 2-1-0
- Eagles Home: 1-2-0 / Eagles Away: 1-2-0
- Kodiaks Power Play: 6/31, 19.4% Penalty Kill: 25/31, 80.6%
- Eagles Power Play: 6/31, 19.4% Penalty Kill: 25/31, 80.6%
- Post-Secondary Commitments: Kodiaks 2, Eagles 2
- Rookies: Kodiaks 8, Eagles 8
Why the Camrose Kodiaks can win: The Camrose Kodiaks are the definition of consistency, as they finish fourth in the South Division for the third consecutive year and will now look to stretch their first round win streak to the same mark. This season, Cody Laskosky has blossomed into a game-breaker for the Kodiaks as his 40 goals and 86 points are both team highs and he starts the playoffs riding a torrid 14-game point streak. While the Kodiaks and Eagles were relatively close in their season series, the Kodiaks have a key nucleus of players that have been in this exact situation numerous times before and often times the best indicator of future performance is past performance. The Kodiaks also took the last three meetings of the season series against Canmore.
Why the Canmore Eagles can win: Alex Young (82 points) and Connor Lyons (77 points) lead the Canmore Eagles into their first round matchup against the Camrose Kodiaks. The two offensive stars were a key part of the Eagles team which upended the Dragons in a thrilling series last year, and will look to do that again this year though in a much tighter matchup. The Eagles may have only picked up two wins in six games against Camrose, but the underlying numbers indicate much closer results. Only 5 goals separated the two clubs while the power play and penalty kill numbers are exactly the same. This series may come down to which teams? best players outperform their counterparts, and the Canmore Eagles certainly have enough experience and talent to do just that.