UFHL Playoff Preview: Division Champs All Advance to Division Finals, Continue Quest for Klein Cup

Updated: May 31

That first round will be tough to top — both in the NHL and the UFHL, which also went to overtime in Game 7, producing the closest result in Klein Cup playoff history!

Johnny Gaudreau’s overtime winner — the final goal of the first round — propelled West Coast Express past the Gators by 1.47 fantasy points, the slimmest margin of victory to date in the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League that crowned the Monarchs inaugural champions in 2020 before Red Army claimed the Klein Cup in 2021.

Just how close was that nail-biter? The Gators had Jacob Markstrom, who got 2.50 fantasy points for the win, while Gaudreau racked up 4.70 fantasy points for his heroics (2.50 for the goal, 1.00 for the GWG, 1.00 for the plus rating, and 0.20 for the shot)! If any other Flame not rostered by West Coast Express had been the hero, the Gators would have been advancing to face the Founders’ Trophy-winning regular season champion Royals in the Howe Division Final. But Gaudreau sent both Calgary and West Coast Express to the second round — and now he is reunited with Markstrom thanks to the UFHL’s innovative playoff leasing system, where the advancing franchises can fill their empty roster spots with advancing players from the opponent they eliminated. So Markstrom joins Darcy Kuemper with West Coast Express — replacing Scott Wedgewood, who was eliminated with Dallas — to form the most formidable tandem going forward!

That is the marquee matchup on paper among the division finals — another fascinating battle between the Royals’ firepower up front and West Coast Express’ manpower advantage on defence and in goal, with starters on opposite nights. If defence — and goaltending — wins championships, West Coast Express might be the team to beat now, but the Royals could still outgun the remaining eight franchises. All of whom finished in the Top 10 during the regular season.

There were no real upsets in the first round — in either league, the NHL or the UFHL — with the higher seeds advancing in seven of the eight matchups for the Klein Cup Playoffs, with the Connor McDavid-led Yetis as the lone exception. They prevailed over the Ice Vikings as a third seed but were hardly underdogs — separated by only 34.95 fantasy points in the regular season standings, having battled for seventh overall down the stretch. And some might see the Yetis as the favourites to come out of the Allan Conference now, especially if McDavid can lead them over the Stingrays in a Battle of Alberta-themed Lemieux Division Final. If that happens and Edmonton wins, a conference final against the Leon Draisaitl-led Grizzlies would be incredibly intriguing. That is, if the Grizzlies can knock off the defending Klein Cup champion, Red Army, in a rematch of last year’s Gretzky Division Final!

Last but not least, the Titans are undermanned against Rock Republic in the Orr Division Final — after losing seven Leafs and two Bruins in those Game 7s, including David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews, the second overall pick in this year’s UFHL Playoff Draft — but the Titans are welcoming Nikita Kucherov to the fold for the second round, as the second overall pick from last year’s UFHL Playoff Draft when he powered Red Army to a Klein Cup championship. Rock Republic counters with Aleksander Barkov as their leased star, adding another layer of spotlight to that Battle of Florida — as evidenced by tonight’s $SCO Picks contest! That winner will be hard-pressed to come out of the Legends Conference, up against the powerhouse Howe Division in the next round!

For the record and for what it’s worth, the higher seeds advanced in six of the eight NHL matchups — the exceptions being a couple of recent Stanley Cup winners in St. Louis and Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champs. Both were third seeds that eliminated Toronto and Minnesota, respectively, with fairly even betting lines heading into those series.

The odds have yet to be determined for the division finals in the Klein Cup Playoffs — we’ll let the 16 contestants in the UFHL/NHL Playoff Pool set those lines ahead of today’s deadline (7 p.m. ET) — but this second round is sure to be intensely entertaining again. The UFHL has a unique and special way of keeping fantasy hockey fans on the edge of their seat, highlighted by our Klein Cup Playoffs Watch Parties on Twitch!

Here is a recap of the first-round results and a preview of the second-round matchups with the updated bracket for the Klein Cup Playoffs:

First Round Results

Allan Conference

L1) Stingrays defeated WC2) Battlehawks 319.46-283.47

L3) Yetis defeated L2) Ice Vikings 408.37-320.25

G1) Grizzlies defeated WC1) Stallions 343.27-262.17

G2) Red Army defeated G3) CanWest Generals 278.37-244.79

Legends Conference

H1) Royals defeated WC2) Outlaws 379.46-331.70

H2) West Coast Express defeated H3) Gators 343.46-341.99

O1) Titans defeated WC1) Bentley Jacks 426.85-273.15

O2) Rock Republic defeated O3) Kamikaze 320.72-313.64

Second Round Matchups

Allan Conference

Lemieux Division Final

L1) Stingrays vs. L3) Yetis

Gretzky Division Final

G1) Grizzlies vs. G2) Red Army

Legends Conference

Howe Division Final

H1) Royals vs. H2) West Coast Express

Orr Division Final

O1) Titans vs. O2) Rock Republic

Here is a closer look at how the franchises stack up heading into the second round, with a roster comparison followed by a bit of analysis.

NOTE: These eight remaining playoff franchises are leasing players from the 16 non-playoff franchises and the eight franchises that were eliminated in the first round (listed in parenthesis).

Lemieux Division Final

Stingrays

Forwards (10)

Elias Lindholm – Calgary vs. Edmonton

Calle Jarnkrok – Calgary vs. Edmonton

Dillon Dube – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Eliminators)

Brett Ritchie – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Blizzard)

Brayden Schenn – St. Louis vs. Colorado

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

Patrick Maroon – Tampa Bay vs. Florida

Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay vs. Florida (Dynasty)

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

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

Defenders (6)

Rasmus Andersson – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Dynasty)

Oliver Kylington – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Crypto Knights)

Erik Cernak – Tampa Bay vs. Florida

Zach Bogosian – Tampa Bay vs. Florida

Gustav Forsling – Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Adam Fox – New York Rangers vs. Carolina

Goaltenders (1)

Sergei Bobrovsky – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (Battlehawks)

Yetis

Forwards (13)

Connor McDavid – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Jesse Puljujarvi – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Warren Foegele – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Ryan McLeod – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Assassins)

Evander Kane – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Ice Vikings)

David Perron – St. Louis vs. Colorado

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

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

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

Ryan Strome – New York Rangers vs. Carolina (Ice Vikings)

Mika Zibanejad – New York Rangers vs. Carolina (Ice Vikings)

Ross Colton – Tampa Bay vs. Florida (Brutes)

Brandon Hagel – Tampa Bay vs. Florida (Ice Vikings)

Defenders (8)

Duncan Keith – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Snipers)

Kris Russell – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Eliminators)

Chris Tanev – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Tornadoes)

Michael Stone – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Warriors)

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

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

Ryan Lindgren – New York Rangers vs. Carolina

Radko Gudas – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (Ice Vikings)

Goaltenders (1)

Mike Smith – Edmonton vs. Calgary

ANALYSIS: Six Flames against eight Oilers, this Battle of Alberta is going to be a barnburner and that result from the Stanley Cup Playoffs could be a deciding factor for the Stingrays and Yetis here in the Klein Cup Playoffs. Stingrays will almost certainly need a convincing Calgary victory — with the Flames containing Connor McDavid, to some degree — in order to oust the Yetis, who will also get significant contributions from their Blues and Rangers. Stingrays do have some big guns — namely, Steven Stamkos and Adam Fox — but the Yetis are deeper with the manpower advantage in addition to McDavid as the biggest gamebreaker. If the Oilers win, the Yetis will roll on as the Lemieux Division representative in the Final Four!

Gretzky Division Final

Grizzlies

Forwards (13)

Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Zack Kassian – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Zach Hyman – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Brutes)

Kailer Yamamoto – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Stallions)

Trevor Lewis – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Stallions)

Nazem Kadri – Colorado vs. St. Louis

Gabriel Landeskog – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Blades of Steel)

J.T. Compher – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Godfathers)

Brandon Saad – St. Louis vs. Colorado (Stallions)

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

Patric Hornqvist – Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Anton Lundell – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (Stallions)

Defenders (6)

Darnell Nurse – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Evan Bouchard – Edmonton vs. Calgary

Robert Bortuzzo – St. Louis vs. Colorado (Stallions)

Ian Cole – Carolina vs. New York Rangers

Brett Pesce – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Stallions)

Brady Skjei – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Warriors)

Goaltenders (1)

Pyotr Kochetkov – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Tornadoes)

Red Army

Forwards (14)

Max Domi – Carolina vs. New York Rangers

Andrei Svechnikov – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Strong Island)

Seth Jarvis – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Assassins)

Jesper Fast – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Godfathers)

Steven Lorentz – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Mystics)

Alexis Lafreniere – New York Rangers vs. Carolina

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

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

Dryden Hunt – New York Rangers vs. Carolina (CanWest Generals)

Carter Verhaeghe – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (Monarchs)

Anthony Duclair – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (CanWest Generals)

Josh Archibald – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Crypto Knights)

Devin Shore – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Monarchs)

Artturi Lehkonen – Colorado vs. St. Louis

Defenders (7)

Ethan Bear – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Monarchs)

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

Lucas Carlsson – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (Godfathers)

Bowen Byram – Colorado vs. St. Louis

Erik Johnson – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Mystics)

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

Cody Ceci – Edmonton vs. Calgary (CanWest Generals)

Goaltenders (2)

Igor Shesterkin – New York Rangers vs. Carolina

Dan Vladar – Calgary vs. Edmonton

ANALYSIS: West versus East here — the Grizzlies are also loaded with Oilers as well as Avs and Blues, while Red Army counters with Hurricanes, Rangers and Panthers as their go-to guys. It’s quite the contrast between conferences and Red Army will be torn in that Metropolitan Division Final, which has their Hart Trophy-nominated goaltender Igor Shesterkin needing another Vezina-worthy performance against their handful of Carolina forwards. Red Army also have a handful of young guns — with Svechnikov, Jarvis, Lafreniere, Chytil and Byram — but the Grizzlies have plenty of grizzled veterans and that experience could be the difference here, led by Draisaitl, Landeskog and Tarasenko. However, this matchup becomes more interesting and perhaps much closer if Draisaitl is hurt or hobbled to deter his dominance. If he is healthy enough to be firing on all cylinders for the Oilers, the Grizzlies will be bound for the conference final!

Howe Division Final

Royals

Forwards (14)

Martin Necas – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Eliminators)

Vincent Trocheck – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Outlaws)

Teuvo Teravainen – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Outlaws)

Kaapo Kakko – New York Rangers vs. Carolina (Blizzard)

Artemi Panarin – New York Rangers vs. Carolina (Outlaws)

Andrew Copp – New York Rangers vs. Carolina (Outlaws)

Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Ryan Lomberg – Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Ondrej Palat – Tampa Bay vs. Florida

Corey Perry – Tampa Bay vs. Florida

Valeri Nichushkin – Colorado vs. St. Louis

Mikko Rantanen – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Godfathers)

Matthew Tkachuk – Calgary vs. Edmonton

Tyler Toffoli – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Outlaws)

Defenders (4)

Jaccob Slavin – Carolina vs. New York Rangers

Ben Chiarot – Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Brandon Montour – Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Devon Toews – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Warriors)

Goaltenders (0)

None

West Coast Express

Forwards (13)

Johnny Gaudreau – Calgary vs. Edmonton

Mikael Backlund – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Blades of Steel)

Milan Lucic – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Blizzard)

Andrew Mangiapane – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Crypto Knights)

Andrew Cogliano – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Norse Stars)

Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Gators)

Nico Sturm – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Dynasty)

Jordan Kyrou – St. Louis vs. Colorado

Dakota Joshua – St. Louis vs. Colorado (Norse Stars)

Joe Thornton – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (Blizzard)

Claude Giroux – Florida vs. Tampa Bay (Gators)

Alex Barre-Boulet – Tampa Bay vs. Florida (Gators)

Jordan Staal – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Godfathers)

Defenders (8)

Tony DeAngelo – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Godfathers)

Brendan Smith – Carolina vs. New York Rangers (Blizzard)

Braden Schneider – New York Rangers vs. Carolina (Norse Stars)

Aaron Ekblad – Florida vs. Tampa Bay

Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay vs. Florida (Mystics)

Noah Hanifin – Calgary vs. Edmonton

Tyson Barrie – Edmonton vs. Calgary (Gators)

Justin Faulk – St. Louis vs. Colorado (Gators)

Goaltenders (2)

Darcy Kuemper – Colorado vs. St. Louis (Duckman’s Domination)

Jacob Markstrom – Calgary vs. Edmonton (Gators)

ANALYSIS: That Royals’ forward group is as potent as it gets in the second round — with Huberdeau, Rantanen, Tkachuk and Panarin, plus a stellar supporting cast — but West Coast Express’ goaltending tandem is unrivalled in this round. The aforementioned fact that Kuemper and Markstrom are starting on opposite nights is troublesome for the Royals and their empty crease. Those goaltending points could sway this result, should Colorado and/or Calgary advance to the West Final. With Hedman and Ekblad anchoring a superior blue line, West Coast Express is going to be a tough out again. Getting the Gators’ two franchise players in Markstrom and MacKinnon might be enough to put West Coast Express over the top, but the Royals won’t go down without a fight as they continue to fill the net in all four of the NHL’s division finals! Expect fireworks here in the Howe Division!

Orr Division Final

Titans

Forwards (14)

Andre Burakovsky – Colorado vs. St. Louis

Logan O’Connor – Colorado vs. St. Louis

Nicolas Aube-Kubel – Colorado vs. St. Louis

Pavel Buchnevich – St. Louis vs. Colorado

Ivan Barbashev – St. Louis vs. Colorado