The Memorial Cup is just around the corner. This year it is being hosted by Kamloops, which means Fraser Minten and the Blazers will be participating despite being eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual WHL champion. He'll look to make it the second straight season that Toronto has a prospect on the Memorial Cup champion team, after William Villeneuve and Saint John won it last year.
The other three teams involved are chosen by whoever won the WHL, QMJHL and OHL. Which means Kamloops will be battling with the Seattle Thunderbirds, who eliminated them a couple weeks ago, along with Quebec Remparts and the Peterborough Petes. Even though the QMJHL and OHL champions were only determined over the weekend, we've long known what the Memorial Cup schedule will look like:
All of the games are set to be broadcast on TSN and RDS, so you can jot down the above dates and times if you want to see Fraser Minten in action.
Otherwise, here is a quick preview of the four teams.
Kamloops, despite losing in the semi-finals to Seattle, are a pretty loaded team. In fact, Kamloops gave Seattle their biggest fight in the playoffs, as they swept the first two rounds and dispatched the regular season champions (Winnipeg) in only five games.
Despite playing one round and five games fewer than Seattle, they had the two highest scoring players in the playoffs. Logan Stankoven, uber prospect in his final WHL season, led the entire league in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 30 points in only 14 games. Right behind him was Olen Zellweger, a uber offensive defenseman prospect who had 29 points in 14 games.
That's both a strength and a weakness for Kamloops. They are very top heavy with a good amount of offensive stars, but they lacked the depth that Seattle had. Part of the problem was Fraser Minten seemed to be battling through an injury that kept him out of the end of the regular season and the entire first round. Minten and the rest of Kamloops' depth just didn't produce at all. They only had three goals scored by players not normally in their top 6. Their other weakness is they don't really have quality depth on defense outside of Zellweger, and maybe Masters.
The good news is that Kamloops has had an extra week's rest compared to the other three teams, so any banged up players will be a lot more healed up and energetic. It is not unusual for the host team to win the Memorial Cup because of this, even though they rarely win their league championship.
Seattle is a firewagon. They only lost three total games in their entire playoff run, and eliminated the regular season champions, the Winnipeg ICE, in only five games. They have
They have several NHL drafted prospects like Dylan Guenther, Brad Lambert, Kevin Korchinski, and others – for a total of 5 prospects drafted in the first round, and 9 in total. They also have two more players who will be drafted this year as their depth, in Gracyn Sawchyn and Nico Myatovic. That quality and that depth is part of the reason why they handled the WHL with ease. They also run one of the top WHL goalies in Thomas Milic, who has gone undrafted the previous two years but might just get picked or signed this year.
Guenther, Lambert and Korchinski are definitely the big three to watch for Seattle. They're a lot of fun to watch.
Quebec, coached by Patrick Roy, finished the regular season as the QMJHL's top team though by a slim margin. They beat the second best team in the league, Halifax, this past weekend in a six game series.
In total, Quebec has seven prospects drafted by NHL teams, but only two of them were in the first round. Three of them were in the fifth round. However, they do have quality overage guys who were undrafted, including Theo Rochette who had 106 pointsin the regular season, and 21 in 18 games in the playoffs.
On paper, Quebec looks like the weakest team of the four. But someone the QMJHL teams always seem to do better in the Memorial Cup. One factor I can guess at? They're a pretty old team. They have 10 players who are 20 or even 21 years old. They have no first time draft eligible players on their roster, not even guys on the bench.
For players to watch, the first round picks are Zachary Bolduc and Nathan Gaucher, but their top performing players these playoffs are Justin Robidas, Theo Rochette, and James Malatesta.
Peterborough is another case of a team that was pretty good and deep to begin with, then sold the farm to bring in a lot of quality stars. They traded for Brennan Othmann, Owen Beck, and Avery Hayes who are among their point leaders these playoffs.
They have eight players on their roster who were NHL draft picks, and one signed to an NHL contract. Two of them are first round picks (Brennan Othmann and Chase Stillman), and another (Beck) was 33rd overall last year. They also have a couple of players who may still be signed by NHL teams, like Avery Hayes and Samuel Mayer.
The Petes are not necessarily the strongest offensive team, but play good team defense. Even some of their top forwards have a two-way bent, including Owen Beck. This may be partly why they've played the most games in their playoff runs out of the others, only sweeping their first series but going at least six games in their other three.
For players to watch, the guys I mentioned above are the big stars that you'll notice the most. But I also want to mention a potential draft pick this year in Donovan McCoy. He's an older 2004 birthday, but first time eligible in this year's draft. He's a 6'1" right shot defenseman who will likely be taken in the later rounds this year, but has had a bit of a breakout these playoffs. He has 9 points in 21 games, after having only 13 points in 65 games during the regular season. He also plays a very solid defensive game, especially since he's a younger guy for these championship rosters.