With the 2018 WHL Playoffs set to begin Thursday, March 22, WHL.ca provides a look in at each of the eight head-to-head matchups across the league.
With a general introduction, vital statistics and keys to the series, we’ve got everything you need to know heading into the 2018 WHL Playoffs. While the usual suspects are known, our ‘Players to Watch’ section will take a deeper dive into some of the supporting characters set to take on a big role in the post-season.
Finally, we close each of our series previews with a quick look to the past for a brief historical take on the rivalry that exists – or stands to ignite.
In our third of eight opening round 2018 WHL Playoffs previews, we examine the Victoria Royals and the Vancouver Giants.
In terms of natural geographical rivalries, does it get much better than Vancouver and Victoria?
Fans have watched these two teams clash time and again throughout the WHL regular season, but never has the Georgia Strait seen the same post-season party grace both its shores. All of that changes beginning this Friday as the Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants get set to meet in the WHL Playoffs for the first time.
Now, I know what you’re going to say – “Hey now! These teams have met in the playoffs before!”
On one hand, you are correct. On the other, you are incorrect.
Technically speaking, the Giants defeated the old Lower Mainland ghost of the Royals – the former Chilliwack Bruins – during the first round of the 2008 WHL Playoffs. But, years later, the Bruins picked up their bags and carried them over to B.C.’s capital city where they became the Royals. And since then, these two Clubs have not met.
So, it can be said with 100 per cent accuracy, the Royals and Giants have never met in post-season action.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to the next batch of fun.
Given slick Anaheim Ducks prospect Tyler Soy and diminutive Calgary Flames prospect Matthew Phillips – 48 goals and 112 points to his credit – versus Edmonton Oilers prospect Tyler Benson and speedy 61-goal man Ty Ronning – a prospect of the New York Rangers – who do you take?
Good news! You can take in all four beginning Friday night and make that decision for yourself. If all goes well, fans will be treated to a seven-game sample in order to make the most informed decision possible.
Game 1 – Friday, March 23 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 2 – Saturday, March 24 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 3 – Tuesday, March 27 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7 p.m. PT
Game 4 – Thursday, March 29 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7 p.m. PT
Game 5* – Saturday, March 31 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 6* – Monday, April 2 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 2 p.m. PT
Game 7* – Tuesday, April 3 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7 p.m. PT *if necessary
Goals on goals on goals: As the second-highest scoring team in the WHL, the Royals will need to rely on outgunning the Giants. With a questionable penalty kill that ranked 21st during the regular season and a goals-for total that ranks worst among all qualified playoff teams, the Royals have two choices – buckle down below their own blueline, or fill the opposition net until it bursts. They’re definitely capable of the latter with the likes of Matthew Phillips, Tyler Soy and Dante Hannoun providing the punch.
Key to the Series – Vancouver Giants
Shutdown Matthew Phillips & Company: Lost within the hype of Ty Ronning’s 61-goal campaign was the Giants quiet, yet effective work on limiting the opposition, particularly on special teams. With a 79.2-per-cent success rate killing penalties, the Giants were stingy when outnumbered. That is the place where Phillips and friends will do the most damage. Key to shut down for Vancouver is Dylan Plouffe, Matt Barberis and veteran tough guy Darian Skeoch.
Forward to Watch – Victoria Royals
LW Igor Martynov (18-25–43): Enjoying a successful rookie campaign in North American, the 19-year-old product of Krasnoye, Belarus, has proven to be a bit of a flashy highlight reel during his first season in Victoria. His secondary scoring has gone a long way to helping the Royals stake out their place as one of the most powerful offenses in the entire WHL and continuing that in the post-season will play a vital role if Victoria aims to advance beyond the first round.
Forward to Watch – Vancouver Giants
C Milos Roman (10-22–32): Another import forward enjoying success in his first year overseas, Roman produced at nearly a point-per-game rate – 32 points in 39 appearances – despite missing significant time due to injury. A product of Kysucke Nove Mesto, Slovakia, the Giants import was ranked 40th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft. A healthy return to action by Roman could prove an ‘X’ factor for the G-Men.
Defenceman to Watch – Victoria Royals
Chaz Reddekopp (7-24–31): He may have only dressed in 46 games this season, but make no bones about it, Reddekopp is a force on the backend for Victoria. A 20-year-old veteran of five WHL campaigns and a prospect of the Los Angeles Kings (7-187, 2015), Reddekopp’s 6-foot-4, 227-pound is set to stand in the way of the high-flying Ronning and crafty Benson.
Defenceman to Watch – Vancouver Giants
Bowen Byram (6-21–27): The 16-year-old product of Cranbrook, B.C. has shown in WHL rookie campaign that the Giants were wise to call his name with the third-overall selection back at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. With 27 points to his name and a respectable minus-3 rating in 60 contests, Byram seems to find himself on the ice in all situations – power play, penalty kill, against top players. Not many 16-year-olds are relied upon so heavily by their coach. This kid is a star in the making.
Goaltender to Watch – Victoria Royals
Griffen Outhouse (60 GP, 35-17-4-1, 3.08 GAA, .914 SV%, 2 SO): The 20-year-old product of Williams Lake, B.C. has long been known as a human highlight reel, with a quick glove and cat-like reflexes getting cross-crease. With shifty Giants forwards on the prowl, Outhouse will need to be dominant. He put up solid numbers during the 2017 Playoffs, owning a 2.10 GAA and .923 SV% despite his Royals being ousted in six games by the Everett Silvertips.
Goaltender to Watch – Vancouver Giants
David Tendeck (48 GP, 25-16-3-2, 3.02 GAA, .912 SV%, 3 SO): In his first season in charge of the Giants crease, Tendeck grew immensely and instilled himself as a true WHL No. 1 netminder. The 6-foot-2, 173-pound product of North Vancouver is at home in his hometown and his performance thus far in 2017-18 earned him a ranking of eighth among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft. With some valuable regular season experience under his belt, the test rises taller for Tendeck as he embarks on his first WHL Playoffs.
Playoff History – Victoria Royals
In 2016-17, the Royals – and fans alike – had their hearts broken during the first round. After battling tooth and nail with the Everett Silvertips through what eventually went into the record books as the longest game in CHL history at 151 minutes and 36 seconds, the Royals suffered bitter defeat at the hands of Cal Babych, who ended Game 6 in the fifth overtime period and sent Victoria home for the season. It was the second straight season the Royals were stunned in the post-season. The 2016 WHL Playoffs saw Victoria seconds away from advancing to the Western Conference Championship only to have the Kelowna Rockets tie the contest in the dying seconds before going on to win Game 7 in overtime. Perhaps 2018 is finally the year for the Royals/Chilliwack Bruins franchise to take the next step and compete in a franchise-first Conference Championship?
Playoff History – Vancouver Giants
It’s been three years since the Vancouver Giants graced the WHL Playoffs with their presence, and the 2017-18 edition of the G-Men is nothing to fool with. The last time the Giants visited the post-season, they were playing in the Pacific Coliseum and they dropped a first-round matchup with the Portland Winterhawks, quietly exiting in four games. While recent playoff history hasn’t been kind to the Giants, there’s no shortage of highlights in their relatively short time in the WHL. The 2009 and 2010 WHL Playoffs saw the Giants advance to back-to-back Western Conference Championships before bowing out. In 2007, Vancouver advanced to the WHL Championship but lost to Medicine Hat before winning the Memorial Cup as the tournament host that same year. One season prior, the Giants were crowned 2006 WHL Champions.
Head-to-Head Playoff History – Victoria and Vancouver
2007-08: Vancouver Giants defeat Chilliwack Bruins 4-0 in Western Conference first round
2006-07: Vancouver Giants defeat Chilliwack Bruins 4-1 in Western Conference first round