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Wednesday FTB: Maple Leafs prospects starting playoffs

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Finland v Russia: Bronze Medal Game - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The NCAA, Liiga and SHL all start their playoffs this week

With the end of winter and start of spring approaching, we’re getting close to playoff time in various leagues around the world. That means there are some Maple Leafs prospects who will start playoff action. Some of them may potentially sign ELCs with Toronto once their playoffs are over, as the Leafs were reported to want with Nick Abruzzese and Matthew Knies.

There are also other prospects who are already signed to ELCs who may come to North America to play in the AHL for the rest of their season. Pontus Holmberg is a good candidate for this, depending on deep a run he makes in the SHL playoffs.

Others might just be loaned to play a few games on the Marlies. That’s what Mikko Kokkonen did last year, and might be something any of the prospects in Finland could do this year. Especially if they plan on signing an ELC for next season and playing in North America.

NCAA Division I Regional Playoffs

The NCAA playoffs for men’s ice hockey technically started two weeks ago, as each conference determined their champions. Those playoffs in turn helped determine the teams and seeding for the Division I playoffs for all conferences. These playoffs are single game eliminations, like the NCAA March Madness tournament for basketball. Here are the Leafs’ prospects in this tournament:

Matthew Knies and Mike Koster on the University of Minnesota as the 2nd seed.

  • They play the University of Massachusetts (3rd seed) on Friday March 25th.
  • If they win, they will play the winner of Western Michigan (1st) and Northeastern (4th) on Sunday March 27th.

Nick Abruzzese and John Fusco on the Harvard Crimson as the 4th seed.

  • They are play Minnesota State (1st seed) on Thursday March 24th.
  • If they win, they will face the winner of North Dakota (2nd) and Notre Dame (4th) on Saturday March 26th.

Veeti Miettinen on St. Cloud University as the 2nd seed in their bracket.

  • They play Quinnipiac (3rd seed) on Friday March 25th.
  • If they win, they will play the winner of the University of Michigan (1st seed) and American International (4th) on Sunday March 27th.

If any of them win both games this weekend, they will advance to the Frozen Four (a.k.a. the final four), with the semi-finals and finals held on Thursday April 7th and Saturday April 9th.

Finnish Liiga Playoffs

The Liiga playoffs work differently than we’re used to. There’s no bracket, no top vs bottom seeds. Once the regular season is over, there are two tiers of teams: the top six seeds, then the next four seeds.

The bottom four seeds (7th to 10th) play short playoff rounds to determine who plays against the top two seeds.

There are three teams with Maple Leafs prospects who will be competing in some capacity in these playoffs.

Topi Niemelä and Axel Rindell on Kärpät are the 6th seed. They will play a best of seven series against the 3rd seed, Ilves.

  • Game 1: Sunday March 27th
  • Game 2: Monday March 28th
  • Game 3: Wednesday March 30th
  • Game 4: Friday April 1st
  • Game 5: Saturday April 2nd (if needed)
  • Game 6: Monday April 4th (if needed)
  • Game 7: Tuesday April 5th (if needed)

Roni Hirvonen on HIFK are the 5th seed. They will play a best of seven series against TPS.

  • Game 1: Sunday March 27th
  • Game 2: Tuesday March 29th
  • Game 3: Thursday March 31st
  • Game 4: Saturday April 2nd (if needed)
  • Game 5: Sunday April 4rd (if needed)
  • Game 6: Tuesday April 5th (if needed)
  • Game 7: Wednesday April 6th (if needed)

Mikko Kokkonen on the Pelicans are the 9th seed. They will play a short three game series against KooKoo, the 8th seed, to determine who will face the 2nd seeded Jukurit.

  • Game 1: Thursday March 24th
  • Game 2: Friday March 25th
  • Game 3: If needed, not scheduled yet

Swedish SHL Playoffs

The SHL uses the same playoff format as Liiga. The Leafs only have one prospect in Sweden, and that’s Pontus Holmberg on the Växjö Lakers. They are the defending SHL champions, and Holmberg the reigning playoff MVP. They are currently the fifth seed, with one more game to play to finish the regular season.

They are likely to face the third seed, Skellefteå AIK. The playoff games start on Friday March 25th, with the qualification round between the 7th to 10th seeds. The schedule has not been finalized, as the seeding of some teams still has to be finalized. Even with one game left, Växjö could finish as high as fourth or as low as sixth.

The full playoffs will start on the weekend.


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Have a great Wednesday everyone!



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