The Memorial Cup returns to the ice today after an absence of two years. The annual championship of the Canadian Hockey League pits the host team against the winners of the OHL, WHL and QMJHL playoffs.
The Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL host this year and they will play the Shawinigan Cataractes, the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Saint John opens the round robin schedule with a game tonight against Hamilton at 6 pm Eastern Time. Toronto prospect William Villeneuve is a member of the Sea Dogs and is the only Leafs prospect in the event this year. The rest of the games are:
Tuesday, June 21: Shawinigan vs Edmonton
Wednesday, June 22: Saint John vs Edmonton
Thursday, June 23: Shawinigan vs Hamilton
Friday, June 24: Edmonton vs Hamilton
Saturday, June 25: Saint John vs Shawinigan
All games are at 6 pm, except the Saturday game which has a 4 pm start time.
If a tie-breaker is necessary, it will be on Sunday and the semifinal and final are on Monday, June 27 and Wednesday, June 29. Should the NHL SCF go to seven games, the Memorial Cup playoffs will bracket that last game, which would be on the Tuesday.
Edmonton won the WHL final without a single skater showing up on the leader board for the WHL. They don’t have a top scoring forward or defenceman, and no one player was racking up points. What they do have is Sebastian Cossa, a top five goalie in the WHL. The Detroit prospect was acquired last year at 15th overall after the Red Wings traded up to get him.
Edmonton isn’t without skater talent, however. Their best is Dylan Guenther, an Arizona prospect, who is sixth in the WHL in points and fifth for goals. However, he was injured in the WHL playoffs and won’t be appearing. They do have Kaiden Guhle, the Canadiens prospect on defence. He was taken 16th overall in 2020.
A player to watch on the Oil Kings is 21-year-old Josh Williams. Williams, undrafted, is 6’1”, a right wing, and hit 82 points in 67 games. The big, older player layering on the points in his last year of junior hockey is a cliché, but it’s also where a lot of top quality free agent signings come from. Most of them end up in the AHL or ECHL, but it never hurts to try.
If you prefer the 5’10” winger, the Oil Kings have one of those too: Carter Souch turns 21 this October, and had 71 points in 68 games.
Hamilton has two names on the leader board lists for the OHL. Defender Nathan Staios (familiar name) and goalie Marco Costantini. Staios is 21, and played some Swedish hockey in the 2020-2021 cancelled season. He also had a tryout with the Utica Comets before returning to junior this season. As a defender, he was clearly the setup man, with 51 of his 66 points assists.
The goal scoring on the Bulldogs came from Avery Hayes, Logan Morrison and Canadiens prospect Jan Mysak. Hayes is an undrafted winger who took a huge leap from his prior pre-cancellation season to score 41 goals in 66 games this year. Morrison made a less dramatic jump from 23 goals to 34 this year. Neither were drafted, and both would be AHL eligible this coming season.
Lurking down the stats list for the Bulldogs is Mason McTavish who only played 24 games this year, but looked like a third overall for the short time he was there. He had 29 points in 19 playoff games, so look out, he’s on a roll.
Shawinigan took a good, but not division-leading, regular season performance and turned it into playoff success with a big contribution from goalies Charles-Antoine Lavallée and Antoine Coulombe, both of whom had good regular seasons too. They are both 20, born three days apart, and are undrafted.
The goalies stepped up, and forwards Xavier Bourgault (Oilers) and Mavrik Bourque (Stars) both produced the points when it counted. In the mix was Pierrick Dubé, an undrafted winger born in Lyon, France. Dubé has played his entire career in Québec, but he represents France internationally. He is the 5’10” version of the undrafted forward, and he’s one of the oldest players in the CHL. With a January 7 birthdate, he’ll be 22 halfway through next season. He’s already on the Canadiens radar, and he played 10 games for their ECHL affiliate this year.
Saint John is a team that went through turmoil. The hosts got beat out in the first round of the playoffs, leading to the coach being fired. They will be led at the Memorial Cup by an interim head coach, Gardiner MacDougall of the University of New Brunswick team (going back 20 years). At least he’s familiar with young players.
Villeneuve had a very good year in Saint John by points, and he talks a lot about his growth here:
Also on the team is one of the Q’s best regular season scorers, William Dufour, and setup man, Josh Lawrence. Dufour is a fifth round pick of the Islanders, who have to be pretty happy with his final junior year, and Lawrence is another undrafted graduating player. He’s 5’9”, and is a right-shooting wing/centre who took a giant step after last season’s fractured playing schedule in the Q. With 101 points in 68 games, he’s going to have scouts watching him in the Cup.
Saint John has had a lot of time to work with the new coach and get ready. It will be interesting to see if that rest and rejuvenation helps or hurts them.
How to Watch
All games are on TSN on television and online streaming.