May 15, 2015:
The accolades keep pouring in for Cassels, but is he going to be able to translate this elite two-way game to the NHL, or is he just a product of having a physical advantage over his younger peers and playing on a stacked team? Find out after the jump.
Cassels' playoffs have been nothing short of spectacular. Playing on a line with Bradley Latour and Hunter Smith, coach D.J. Smith has been hard-matching Cassels against Connor McDavid so far in the first 4 games of the OHL final. It's been working for the Generals too, as Cassels has held the nearly unstoppable McDavid to 6 points in 4 games - a pedestrian total for the Otters' juggernaut. In games 1 and 2 when Smith had last change and was able to hard-match Cassels on McDavid even closer, the future Oiler was held to just 1 assist.
Cassels on the other hand has 8 points (4G, 4A) in the series, including the overtime winner in game 4.
So while saying "Cassels has shut down McDavid!" isn't at all accurate, he's definitely helped contain junior hockey's most dominant player better than any other opponent has so far been able to do. This really shouldn't come as a surprise though, as the Generals played better team defense than almost every other OHL team this season, allowing a league-low 157 goals against. They trailed only North Bay in total shots allowed as well, while generating the most shots on goal in the OHL. Put this together, and you have the junior hockey version of the (recently good) L.A. Kings, and Cole Cassels is their Anze Kopitar.
Cassels has played in all situations for the Generals, being a major contributor to their 4th ranked powerplay and a shutdown ace on their league-best penalty kill, and we can also infer that his two-way game is also legitimately great by CHL standards given Oshawa's team success and Cassels' major role.
Offensively, Cassels has found another gear this season after developing a legitimately good offensive game in 2013-14, finishing 2nd on the Generals and T-15th in the OHL with 81 points in 54 games.
If there is a concern about Cassels offensive production, it's that less than half of his total points came at even strength. Looking at even strength scoring rate, Cassels was 33rd in the OHL in ES points per game, and scored just 12 goals all year that weren't on special teams. This would seem to indicate that most of Cassels' offensive punch was helped by playing 1st unit powerplay minutes with a legitimately elite offensive CHLer in Michael Dal Colle.
Of course, there's also the fact that Cassels was 19 years old at the start of this season, which plays to his advantage too. Scoring 1.5 points per game like Cassels did this year is impressive, but not nearly as impressive as if someone is scoring at that rate at 17 or 18.
A Canuck that had a similar OHL development path as Cassels was Brad Richardson.
http://canucksarmy.com/2015/5/15/a-look ... ter-season