Mikey DiPietro continues to roll in the OHL playoffs.
His Ottawa 67's are now 11-0 in the postseason and one win away from advancing to the league final after 7-3 and 5-1 wins over the Oshawa Generals over the weekend. DiPietro has been in goal for every game; he's getting lots of run support but his personal GAA of 2.37 and .911 save percentage are also solid.
After out-duelling Finland's world junior gold medal-winning goalie Uko-Pekka Luukkonen and the Sudbury Wolves in a second-round sweep, DiPietro is now getting the better of Kyle Keyser, who played two games and won a silver medal with Team USA at World Juniors this year before Cayden Primeau took over in net for the Americans.
This playoff run must be offering a huge measure of satisfaction for DiPietro, who famously deleted all his social media after going home without a medal following Canada's stunning quarterfinal elimination by Finland back in January.
Offensively, Ottawa has been led by undrafted, undersized 20-year-old winger Lucas Chiodo, who's listed at 5'6" and 168 pounds and has 20 points in 11 playoff games so far. Like DiPietro, Chiodo was a midseason acquisition by Ottawa.
Also putting up points: 20-year-old winger Tye Felhaber (9-10-19), who was signed as a free agent on March 1 by the Dallas Stars, and U.S. World Junior star Sasha Chmelevski (6-13-19), who looks like he was a steal as a sixth-round pick by San Jose in 2017.
Ottawa was expected to make a strong run for a championship when DiPietro was acquired to lock down their goaltending position last December. If they win the OHL title, DiPietro will get to compete for his second Memorial Cup next month in Halifax after a winning when his Windsor Spitfires were the host city in 2017, before he was drafted 64th overall by the Canucks.
Continuing with goaltending for a moment, it's now official: both Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko will be representing their countries in Slovakia next month at the World Championship.
Reprising the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Markstrom will be joining Henrik Lundqvist in net for Team Sweden. I saw a report a few days ago that last year's gold medal-winning goalie, Anders Nilsson, had also been asked but hadn't given an answer.
Even if Nilsson doesn't join, I wonder how the duties will shake out in net? According to
, at the World Cup, Lundqvist played three games, going 1-1-1 with a .940 save percentage, while Markstrom played just one, giving up only one goal for a win and a .964 save percentage.
This year, Markstrom went 28-23-9 with a .912 save percentage and 2.77 GAA with the Canucks, while Lundqvist, now 37, was 18-23-10 with a .907 save percentage and 3.07 GAA with the New York Rangers.
If Markstrom ends up playing key minutes over Lundqvist this year, that will mark a true changing of the guard for Swedish hockey.
for the full list of Swedes that have accepted and declined so far, from TSN.
Two other Canucks are confirmed: Elias Pettersson has said yes after taking some time to think about whether he wanted to play after a season that wore him down toward the end. More of a surprise, Loui Eriksson also said yes.
Now 33, Eriksson has played in five previous World Championships and already has a full complement of medals. He won gold while teaming up with the Sedins in 2013, earned a silver in 2011 and won bronze in 2009. He came home without a medal in 2012 and 2015 but produced well in both. He was named one of Sweden's top three players in both of those years. He finished fourth in tournament scoring with 13 points in 2012 and was the top-scoring Swedish forward with 10 points in 2015—second on his team behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
As the Swedes try to three-peat, maybe this will be a positive experience that will set Eriksson back on a more positive track going forward?
It's still mind-blowing to me how the top end of Eriksson's 2016 free agent class has crashed and burned so universally since signing their big deals. Props, for the most part, to Michael Traikos of the National Post
. He errantly praised the Calgary Flames for their four-year, $18-million signing of Troy Brouwer and the Florida Panthers for their five-year, $17-million gamble on James Reimer on July 1, 2016. But he did ID Alexander Radulov (Montreal) and Eric Staal (Minnesota) as savvy deals—and correctly skewered all the albatrosses: Eriksson in Vancouver as well as Milan Lucic in Edmonton, Kyle Okposo in Buffalo, Dale Weise in Philadelphia, Andrew Ladd with the Islanders and David Backes with Boston.
Out of those players whose teams are still in the playoffs — Boston coach Bruce Cassidy opted to go for speed over grit when he scratched Backes for Game 6 against the Leafs on Sunday, and got the win his team needed to stay alive. Ladd's not helping the Islanders, either—after playing just 26 regular-season games this year, he tore his ACL in March and is out for the season.
With all their cap hits about the same, I wonder if we'll see some of these players get swapped for each other this offseason? Maybe a change of scenery could help?
The Canucks' other representation at Worlds will be on Team USA, where Thatcher Demko and Quinn Hughes will suit up. Both are returnees to the Worlds stage: Demko served as the third U.S. goalie as he was coming out of college in 2016 and Hughes took part as a draft-eligible player last year in Denmark.
This year, Demko will be platooning with another Boston College alumnus—our old pal Cory Schneider, who's making his first World Championship appearance since he was coming out of college back in 2007. Schneider has a pretty sparse international resume: he won silver at U18s in 2004, then failed to medal in two World Junior appearances. Behind Jonathan Quick and Ben Bishop, he also played 18 minutes in relief for the ill-fated Team USA at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where he didn't give up a goal.
After undergoing his hip surgery a year ago, Schneider took some time to find his form again this season. He didn't get his first win until mid-February but was pretty good from there on out, finishing the year at 6-7-2 through his last 15 appearances with a 2.46 GAA and .922 save percentage.
Schneider's also now 33, believe it or not. The tournament will be a chance for him to continue to work on his form in hopes of coming back stronger next season.
The third goalie for USA this year will be their world junior standout Cayden Primeau, another draft steal who was taken in the seventh round by Montreal in 2017 and who signed his entry-level contract with the Canadiens on March 31.
Three other Canucks declined invitations to play. Alex Edler won't suit up for Sweden due to his status as an impending UFA, while RFA Markus Granlund said no to Finland and Sven Baertschi declined Switzerland—presumably because he wants to spend time with his new bundle of joy.
Congrats to the Baertschis on their first child, and to the Biegas on the newest addition to their brood!