UFHL Playoff Preview: Division Winners Looking Strong to Start Pursuit of Klein Cup

Updated: May 8

The Klein Cup won’t be won on paper — it never is, nor the Stanley Cup.

So while the oddsmakers might favour the Founders’ Trophy-winning Royals — or fellow division winners from the regular season, the Titans, Stingrays and Grizzlies — there are plenty of contenders and potential for upsets, with the defending Klein Cup champion Red Army also in the mix again.

Parity has been improving year over year in the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League, which was more evident than ever in the first full season following two shortened campaigns that crowned the Monarchs as inaugural champs in 2020 before Red Army took the throne last year. Now the Royals enter the Klein Cup playoffs as the top seed and clear favourite after a record-setting regular season that was closely contested until the final two months when the Royals roared past the Titans and pulled away from the pack in convincing fashion to claim the Founders’ Trophy.


As dominant as the Royals were down the stretch — full marks to their management team for that regular-season title, along with their ownership, Crown Sports & Entertainment — the Klein Cup is the championship at stake now and the prestigious trophy that everyone wants to win for a summer celebration. Not to mention seeing their names engraved into UFHL history!


The quest for that UFHL glory gets underway tonight, so let’s take a look at the first-round bracket and the rosters coming out of Sunday’s playoff draft in previewing the matchups for the conference quarterfinals:

First Round Matchups

Allan Conference

L1) Stingrays vs. WC2) Battlehawks

L2) Ice Vikings vs. L3) Yetis

G1) Grizzlies vs. WC1) Stallions

G2) Red Army vs. G3) CanWest Generals

Legends Conference

H1) Royals vs. WC2) Outlaws

H2) West Coast Express vs. H3) Gators

O1) Titans vs. WC1) Bentley Jacks

O2) Rock Republic vs. O3) Kamikaze

These 16 franchises filled out their rosters in Sunday’s playoff draft, replacing their non-playoff players through an innovative leasing system, with UFHL Insider Larry Fisher hosting live coverage on the UFFS Twitch channel:

Here is how the franchises stack up for the first round, with a roster comparison followed by a bit of analysis.

NOTE: These 16 playoff franchises are leasing players from the 16 non-playoff franchises that are listed in parenthesis.

Lemieux Division

Stingrays

Forwards (14)

Elias Lindholm – Calgary vs. Dallas

Calle Jarnkrok – Calgary vs. Dallas

Dillon Dube – Calgary vs. Dallas (Eliminators)

Brett Ritchie – Calgary vs. Dallas (Blizzard)

Patrick Maroon – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto

Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto (Dynasty)

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto (Duckman’s Domination)

Jake Guentzel – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers

Kasperi Kapanen – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Godfathers)

Mitch Marner – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay

Taylor Hall – Boston vs. Carolina

Brayden Schenn – St. Louis vs. Minnesota

Viktor Arvidsson – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton

Michael McCarron – Nashville vs. Colorado

Defenders (7)

Erik Cernak – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto

Zach Bogosian – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto

Rasmus Andersson – Calgary vs. Dallas (Dynasty)

Oliver Kylington – Calgary vs. Dallas (Crypto Knights)

Adam Fox – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh

Gustav Forsling – Florida vs. Washington

Dmitry Kulikov – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Goaltenders (1)

Cam Talbot – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Battlehawks

Forwards (14)

Anthony Mantha – Washington vs. Florida

Nic Dowd – Washington vs. Florida

Lars Eller – Washington vs. Florida

Marcus Johansson – Washington vs. Florida

Johan Larsson – Washington vs. Florida

John Tavares – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay

Alex Kerfoot – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay (Brutes)

Jacob Peterson – Dallas vs. Calgary

Luke Glendening – Dallas vs. Calgary (Brutes)

Ryan Johansen – Nashville vs. Colorado (Norse Stars)

Colton Sissons – Nashville vs. Colorado (Mystics)

Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Mystics)

Ryan Reaves – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (Snipers)

Alexei Toropchenko – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Scout, Marcus Borkowsky)

Defenders (7)

Trevor van Riemsdyk – Washington vs. Florida

John Carlson – Washington vs. Florida (Godfathers)

Chad Ruhwedel – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers

Brian Dumoulin – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Norse Stars)

Justin Holl – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay

Jonas Brodin – Minnesota vs. St. Louis (Dynasty)

Olli Maatta – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton (Norse Stars)

Goaltenders (2)

Sergei Bobrovsky – Florida vs. Washington

Casey DeSmith – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers

ANALYSIS: Stingrays were already built for the playoffs — including the midseason acquisition of Brayden Schenn — and selected Steven Stamkos fourth overall as their primary ringer, with the captain of the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champs fresh off the first 100-point season of his career and primed for another playoff run. Stingrays will be a tough out and the Battlehawks will be in tough here, unless Washington upsets Florida, but even that result may not be enough to advance — especially with all those Capitals up against their Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Stingrays are hoping Bobrovsky makes short work of Washington, confidently leaving a goaltending spot open for Bobrovsky in the second round should both the Stingrays and Panthers prevail. A rematch of the 2004 final between Tampa Bay and Calgary would bode well for the Stingrays, if they go all the way.

Ice Vikings

Forwards (13)

Mika Zibanejad – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh

Ryan Strome – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh

Chris Kreider – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (Godfathers)

Barclay Goodrow – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (Monarchs)

Brandon Hagel – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto

Ross Colton – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto (Brutes)

Evander Kane – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Dustin Brown – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton

Joe Pavelski – Dallas vs. Calgary

Adam Ruzicka – Calgary vs. Dallas (Warriors)

Joel Eriksson Ek – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Tom Wilson – Washington vs. Florida

Teddy Blueger – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers

Defenders (8)

Radko Gudas – Florida vs. Washington

Robert Hagg – Florida vs. Washington

Chris Tanev – Calgary vs. Dallas (Tornadoes)

Michael Stone – Calgary vs. Dallas (Warriors)

Dante Fabbro – Nashville vs. Colorado

Niko Mikkola – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Dynasty)

Jan Rutta – Tampa Bay vs. Toronto (Blades of Steel)

Patrik Nemeth – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (Brutes)

Goaltenders (2)

Mikko Koskinen – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Frederik Andersen – Carolina vs. Boston (Crypto Knights)

Yetis

Forwards (14)

Connor McDavid – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Jesse Puljujarvi – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Warren Foegele – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Ryan McLeod – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles (Assassins)

David Perron – St. Louis vs. Minnesota

Ryan O’Reilly – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Assassins)

Tyler Bozak – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Snipers)

Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Brutes)

Brock McGinn – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Tornadoes)

Tyler Seguin – Dallas vs. Calgary (Blizzard)

Joel Kiviranta – Dallas vs. Calgary (Snipers)

Tyson Jost – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

T.J. Oshie – Washington vs. Florida (Brutes)

Jason Spezza – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay (Brutes)

Defenders (7)

John Klingberg – Dallas vs. Calgary

Ryan Suter – Dallas vs. Calgary

Duncan Keith – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles (Snipers)

Kris Russell – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles (Eliminators)

Charlie McAvoy – Boston vs. Carolina

Ryan Lindgren – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh

Nick Leddy – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Tornadoes)

Goaltenders (2)

Mike Smith – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Tristan Jarry – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers

ANALYSIS: These franchises were battling for that second seed down the stretch — which earned the Ice Vikings a higher pick in every round of the playoff draft, right in front of the Yetis — so this matchup should be a barnburner. Yetis were still able to select Sidney Crosby at eighth overall, pairing him with Connor McDavid for the generational duo to lead their offence, while the Ice Vikings welcomed cap casualty Chris Kreider back into the fold after being forced to trade him away last offseason. Ice Vikings are heavy on Rangers and Yetis are loaded with Oilers as their go-to teams. Ice Vikings do have Evander Kane to potentially offset some of McDavid’s impact, but goaltending could be the deciding factor here with the Edmonton tandem opposing each other — Mike Smith is the starter there for the Yetis, ahead of Mikko Koskinen for the Ice Vikings — and uncertainty surrounding Tristan Jarry and Frederik Andersen, both recovering from late-season injuries. If one of them gets healthy and hot, that could be the difference if the firepower balances out. But it’s hard to bet against a franchise boasting both McDavid and Crosby!

Gretzky Division

Grizzlies

Forwards (14)

Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Zack Kassian – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Zach Hyman – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles (Brutes)

Ryan Hartman – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Mats Zuccarello – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Brandon Duhaime – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Nazem Kadri – Colorado vs. Nashville

Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado vs. Nashville (Blades of Steel)

J.T. Compher – Colorado vs. Nashville (Godfathers)

Erik Haula – Boston vs. Carolina

Tomas Nosek – Boston vs. Carolina

Patric Hornqvist – Florida vs. Washington

David Kampf – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay (Blades of Steel)

Defenders (6)

Darnell Nurse – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Evan Bouchard – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Jon Merrill – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Jared Spurgeon – Minnesota vs. St. Louis (Warriors)

Ian Cole – Carolina vs. Boston

Nick Jensen – Washington vs. Florida

Goaltenders (2)

Linus Ullmark – Boston vs. Carolina (Mystics)

Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton (Assassins)

Stallions

Forwards (14)

Anze Kopitar – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton

Arthur Kaliyev – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton

Rasmus Kupari – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton

Quinton Byfield – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton

Trevor Moore – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton (Brutes)

Andreas Athanasiou – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton (Warriors)

Denis Gurianov – Dallas vs. Calgary

Roope Hintz – Dallas vs. Calgary (Brutes)

Radek Faksa – Dallas vs. Calgary (Eliminators)

Brandon Saad – St. Louis vs. Minnesota

Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Assassins)

Kailer Yamamoto – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Trevor Lewis – Calgary vs. Dallas

Anton Lundell – Florida vs. Washington

Defenders (7)

Brett Pesce – Carolina vs. Boston

Brady Skjei – Carolina vs. Boston (Warriors)

Michael Matheson – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Eliminators)

Marcus Pettersson – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Warriors)

Alex Goligoski – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Robert Bortuzzo – St. Louis vs. Minnesota

Matt Benning – Nashville vs. Colorado

Goaltenders (2)

David Rittich – Nashville vs. Colorado (Eliminators)

Pyotr Kochetkov – Carolina vs. Boston (Tornadoes)

ANALYSIS: Six Oilers against six Kings, that series will almost certainly determine the winner here. Stallions need Los Angeles to shut down Leon Draisaitl and Edmonton in general to stand a chance. Grizzlies also have a handful of Minnesota players and a few from Colorado, while the Stallions went with Dallas and St. Louis as their next wave. Stallions are the underdog but if L.A. wins, they might be able to come out on top too. If Edmonton wins, the Grizzlies will be going strong into the second round.

Red Army

Forwards (14)

Max Domi – Carolina vs. Boston

Andrei Svechnikov – Carolina vs. Boston (Strong Island)

Seth Jarvis – Carolina vs. Boston (Assassins)

Jesper Fast – Carolina vs. Boston (Godfathers)

Steven Lorentz – Carolina vs. Boston (Mystics)

Alexis Lafreniere – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh

Filip Chytil – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (Warriors)

Julien Gauthier – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (Snipers)

Marian Studenic – Dallas vs. Calgary

Jason Robertson – Dallas vs. Calgary (Norse Stars)

Artturi Lehkonen – Colorado vs. Nashville

Matt Luff – Nashville vs. Colorado

Kirill Kaprizov – Minnesota vs. St. Louis

Gabriel Vilardi – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton (Assassins)

Defenders (7)

Justin Schultz – Washington vs. Florida

Lucas Carlsson – Florida vs. Washington (Godfathers)

Ethan Bear – Carolina vs. Boston (Monarchs)

Derek Forbort – Boston vs. Carolina (Blizzard)

T.J. Brodie – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay (Brutes)

Justin Braun – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh (Blades of Steel)

Bowen Byram – Colorado vs. Nashville

Goaltenders (2)

Igor Shesterkin – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh

Dan Vladar – Calgary vs. Dallas

CanWest Generals

Forwards (14)

Carter Verhaeghe – Florida vs. Washington (Monarchs)

Anthony Duclair – Florida vs. Washington

Michael Bunting – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay

Kyle Clifford – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay (Monarchs)

Danton Heinen – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Duckman’s Domination)

Brian Boyle – Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers (Snipers)

Devin Shore – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles (Monarchs)

Josh Archibald – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles (Crypto Knights)

Blake Lizotte – Los Angeles vs. Edmonton (Assassins)

Alex Radulov – Dallas vs. Calgary (Warriors)

Ryan Carpenter – Calgary vs. Dallas (Brutes)

Logan Brown – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Tornadoes)

Dryden Hunt – New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh

Jake DeBrusk – Boston vs. Carolina (Blades of Steel)

Defenders (7)

Ilya Lyubushkin – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay

Timothy Liljegren – Toronto vs. Tampa Bay (Brutes)

Mattias Ekholm – Nashville vs. Colorado

Erik Johnson – Colorado vs. Nashville (Mystics)

Cody Ceci – Edmonton vs. Los Angeles

Marco Scandella – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Snipers)

Josh Brown – Boston vs. Carolina (Blades of Steel)

Goaltenders (2)

Pavel Francouz – Colorado vs. Nashville

Ville Husso – St. Louis vs. Minnesota (Norse Stars)

ANALYSIS: Generals carried over the least players from the regular season and their surprising top point-getter Michael Bunting is sidelined by injury to start the playoffs, so the outlook is a bit bleak against the defending champs. Red Army won with a little luck last year — loading up on Montreal players for their improbable run — but went with a safer bet this year by selecting a half-dozen Hurricanes, including Andrei Svechnikov to complement fellow Russian franchise players Kirill Kaprizov and Igor Shesterkin. That trio should help Red Army outgun the Generals, but CanWest projects as a force within this division in the years to come. Red Army went young with their draft and still have a lot of youth on the way, with hopes of Alexis Lafreniere taking another step in these playoffs as a potential X factor towards another deep run, if not a repeat.

Howe Division