Hamilton Bulldogs’ OHL playoff seeding is in flux
The Hamilton Bulldogs might well have been Frozen out of home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs, who have been sustained in the Ontario league (OHL) points push by the likes of goalie Matteo Drobac, fellow Oakville-native and left-shot wing Nick Lardis, and two-way Lawson Sherk, of Halton Hills, will embark on their last regular-season road trip with their playoff seeding undetermined. The Bulldogs, who could be a tough out in their final playoff trip before heading out of town, could slot into anywhere from the fourth through seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
A scheduling conflict at FirstOntario Centre arena — which hosted Disney on Ice’s Frozen last week — played into the Bulldogs having five consecutive away games, and two longish trips, before the playoffs. (It might also read as a microcosm of why the club will play as the Brantford Bulldogs for the next three seasons.) Three outright defeats on an interconference swing last week might have put fourth, and home ice to start, out of reach of Hamilton.
The only Eastern seeding that is written with a Sharpie is the Ottawa 67’s, who added former Bulldogs captain Logan Morrison for a title push, have clinched the No. 1 overall seed. The North Bay Battalion have a magic number of one win to secure a No. 2 seed, with the Barrie Colts taking No. 3. The Oshawa Generals are also one win, or a Kingston loss, from earning the final spot.
The middle includes Hamilton, the Peterborough Petes, Mississauga Steelheads, and Sudbury Wolves. Here is a quick rundown on each team’s situation.
- Points / games remaining (home, away): 72 / 3 (1H, 2A)
- Opponents: vs. Ottawa (Thursday), @ Ottawa (Friday), @ Mississauga (Saturday, 4 p.m.).
- Max points achievable: 78
- Outlook: There is always one team whose deadline loading-up lead-balloons and can cause a case of sticksqueezeitis (or, at least one have projected on to it by observers). Peterborough, which brought wing Avery Hayes and Dallas Stars-signed defenceman Gavin White from Hamilton, is trying not to be it.
- Points / games remaining (home, away): 70 / 2 (2A)
- Opponents: @ North Bay (Thursday), @ Sudbury (Friday).
- Max points achievable: 74
- Outlook: Their roll of house money is not as thick as it was a week ago. The Bulldogs’ back-to-backs include North Bay as it tries to clinch the Central Division, and Sudbury, who is 3-0 in the season series against Hamilton with a 14-6 goal differential.
- Points / games remaining (home, away): 68 / 3 (2H, 1A)
- Opponents: vs. Oshawa (Friday), vs. Peterborough (Saturday), @ North Bay (Sunday)
- Max points: 76
- Outlook: The Steelheads have a game in hand on Hamilton. The Bulldogs appear to have a head-to-head tiebreaker. They split their six games against Mississauga, but cadged the overtime-loss point twice.
- Points / games remaining (home, away): 67 / 3 (1H, 2A)
- Opponents: @ Barrie (Thursday), vs. Hamilton (Friday), @ Sault Ste. Marie (Sunday)
- Max points: 73
- Outlook: If the playoffs started tonight, there would be a Highway 17 series between Sudbury and North Bay. One need not be from the north to get the significance of that. The Wolves do deserve nice things. Case in point: Sudbury governor Dario Zulich is literally a shirt-off-his-back guy. Earlier this season, Zulich wore the Wolves distinct royal blue-and-silver jersey at an away game in Kingston. Following the Kingston overtime win, he took the jersey off, signed it, and gave it to a fan in the same section.
The Bulldogs have carried on for over two weeks without Ottawa Senators-drafted defenceman Jorian Donovan, the club’s top back-end offensive contributor. Donovan, who has 45 points across 55 games, has been out of the lineup with an injury since March 2.
While the NHL playoff format is division-based, the OHL uses a 1-through-8 conference format, and reseeds for the second round.
The Bulldogs, who won the OHL championship in 2022 and were the last league champion standing at the Memorial Cup, restarted their development cycle in January by trading with Ottawa and Peterborough. The latter deal brought over Lardis and overage centre Sahil Panwar.
Hamilton has ended up in the 4 vs. 5 first-round matchup just once since relocating here in 2015 from Belleville. In 2017, as a 5 seed, they nearly pulled off a Game 7 road win against the Kingston Frontenacs. Jason Robertson, who is now a 40-goal scorer with Dallas in the NHL, scored once and notching primary assists on the game-tying and series-winning goals in Kingston’s 3-2 overtime win.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising