Plenty of playoff possibilities remain in Western Conference going into final days of WHL regular season

Kelowna Rockets squaring off with the Seattle Thunderbirds is the lone first-round series that’s been determined.

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The WHL wraps up its regular season this weekend, but there are still more first-round playoff matchups in the Western Conference to be determined than ones that are solidified.

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The Everett Silvertips (45-11-5-4); Kamloops Blazers (47-16-3-0); and Portland Winterhawks (46-16-3-2) could all square off with any of the Vancouver Giants (24-37-4-0); Spokane Chiefs (23-38-4-1); Prince George Cougars (23-38-4-1); or Victoria Royals (22-38-5-1).

One team from that final quartet will miss the playoffs, joining the Tri-City Americans (18-42-6-0) out of the post-season.



Kelowna Rockets vs. Vancouver Giants

7:30 pm, Langley Events Centre. Radio: Sportsnet 650.

The only confirmed first-round series is the fourth-place Seattle Thunderbirds (42-18-4-2) facing the fifth-place Kelowna Rockets (40-20-1-5).

All statistics are as of Wednesday morning. Seattle was slated to face the Giants Wednesday evening at the Langley Events Center.

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Seven of the eight playoff teams in the WHL’s Eastern Conference had already been determined Wednesday morning, led by the Winnipeg Ice (51-10-3-2) and the Edmonton Oil Kings (48-14-3-1). There was no interlocking play between the West and East this season due to COVID-19. The top team from the East will face the West champion for the WHL’s berth in the Memorial Cup national tournament, a four-team event in Saint John, NB, that starts June 20.

Due to COVID, the WHL hasn’t had any playoffs since 2019. That year, Vancouver beat Seattle, Victoria and Spokane before falling to the Prince Albert Raiders in the league finale. Spokane defeated Portland and Everett before meeting Vancouver.

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Games remaining: At Portland on Friday, at Tri-City on Saturday.

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First-round storylines: The Silvertips have dominated Spokane (12-0-1-0); Prince George (4-0-0-0); and Victoria (3-0-1-0) this season, but have gone back-and-forth with Vancouver (2-2-0-0). The success against Spokane especially isn’t new. Everett is 30-2-3-1 against Spokane over the last five seasons.


Games remaining: Host Prince George on Friday, host Vancouver on Saturday.

First-round storylines: Kamloops has just four regulation losses combined against Vancouver (9-1-1-0); Victory (13-0-0-0); Spokane (2-1-0-0); and Prince George (9-2-0-0). They’re aiming to get past the first round for the first time since 2012-13, when they lost in the Western Conference final to Portland. They could still overtake Everett for top spot in the West and home ice throughout the first three rounds. For what it’s worth, Everett (26-4-1-3) had the league’s third-best home record as of Wednesday morning while Kamloops (23-6-3-0) was fifth.

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Game remaining: Host Everett on Friday.

First-round storylines: The Winterhawks (1-2-1-0) have had their struggles with the Giants but they did come away with a 7-2 win against them last week at the LEC. A Vancouver-Portland matchup would have history to it, what with former Vancouver Canucks associate coach Mike Johnston and former Giants bench boss Don Hay guiding the Winterhawks. Portland (1-1-1-0) has also had modest success against the Royals. They’ve been more dominant against both Prince George (4-0-0-0) and Spokane (10-2-0-0).


Games remaining: Visited Vancouver on Wednesday, at Tri-City on Friday.

First-round storylines: The Thunderbird and the Rockets open their best-of-seven first round set April 22 in Seattle. Seattle is 3-1-0-0 against Kelowna this season but all four games were one-goal affairs and that last meeting came way back on March 1, when Seattle triumphed 4-3 at home. Kelowna features 20-year-old defenseman Jake Lee, who was traded to the Rockets by the Thunderbirds in a multiplayer, multi-pick May 2019 swap designed to help Kelowna load up to host the 2020 Memorial Cup that was eventually canceled due to COVID. Lee, who played his first two seasons in the league with the Thunderbirds, has just one assist in the four games for Kelowna against Seattle this year but was 12th in defenseman scoring in the WHL as of Wednesday morning, thanks to his 45 points, including 16 goals. This is the eighth time in the past 25 years in the playoffs that Seattle and Kelowna have met, and the first time against each other since the 2017 Western Conference, which Seattle won in six games. Kelowna is at Vancouver on Friday and then finishes off the regular season by hosting the Cougars on Saturday.

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