The Memorial Cup begins this Friday:

Round-Robin  Game 1 – Friday, May 24 – Moose Jaw vs. Saginaw (7:30 p.m. ET)
Round-Robin  Game 2 – Saturday, May 25 – London vs. Drummondville (4 p.m. ET )
Round-Robin  Game 3 – Sunday, May 26 – Saginaw vs. Drummondville (7:30 p.m. ET)
Round-Robin  Game 4 – Monday, May 27 – London vs. Moose Jaw (7:30 p.m. ET)
Round-Robin  Game 5 – Tuesday, May 28 – Drummondville vs. Moose Jaw (7:30 p.m. ET )
Round-Robin  Game 6 – Wednesday, May 29 – Saginaw vs. London (7:30 p.m. ET )
Tie-Breaker (*if necessary) – Thursday, May 30 (7:30 p.m. ET)
Semi-Final – Friday, May 31 (7:30 p.m. ET )
Championship Final – Sunday, June 2 (7:30 p.m. ET )

And while Easton Cowan is the reason for the season, there are some players of interest as draft-eligible prospects.

Drummondville Voltigeurs

Drummondville has a few draft-eligible players, but their big names are are all previously drafted players. The most famous is defender Maveric Lamoureaux drafted by Utah. The team lead in points in the regular season was Ethan Gauthier, a Tampa Bay second-round pick.

Defender Simon-Pier Brunet, who played in 52 games and all 19 playoff games is ranked 185th by NHL Central Scouting for N.A. skaters. That puts him beyond the scope of the draft, once you factor in European skaters as well as the goalies. It's possible he'll be taken with a late round pick, but not a given.

However, Brunet is 6'2", and nothing impresses like a tall defender in the CHL. He is also a late birthday, so he's already 18. What that means is he's older than most of the players in the draft, and is closer in development to the players taken last year. That also makes him look good in junior play relative to his peers.

And that's not all: He shoots right. Brunet is worth watching to see what he's actually like as a defender. Because if he is actually a tall, right-shooting defender who can defend other than with just his reach, he's worth a late-round pick.

Winger Maxime Lafond is also a ranked prospect at 162nd on NHL SC's list. That makes him a bit more likely to actually be drafted. Noah Chadwick was ranked 154th last year, for example.

Lafond played a full season for Drummondville and all 19 playoff games. He ranks low in points for their forwards, marking him out as a depth player, and he doesn't score many goals. He is 6'4", though, and likely isn't his full weight yet. Every player over 6' is assumed to be a bad skater, but with this fellow, it might actually be true. He doesn't have a lot of penalty minutes, and the Q has the toughest anti-fighting rules in pro and quasi-pro hockey in Canada, so he's not racking up fighting majors.

He sounds like a player ranked because he's big who won't every be able to play at a high level in pro hockey, but seeing him play would tell that for sure.

Moose Jaw Warriors

Moose Jaw is a team full of drafted prospects and filled out at the margins by young players. They are led by three first-round draft picks, two from 2022, so presumably those fanbases are worried these guys are stagnating and not developing. But they are carrying the Warriors.

In draft eligible players, they have several, but only two are ranked, the same as with the Voltigeurs.

Pavel Mckenzie is a late 2005 birthdate player, so older than most other players in the draft. He's a forward, listed at 6' and only 176lbs, meaning he's got a lot of room to bulk up. He is ranked 176th by NHL SC for N.A. Skaters. Mckenzie is from the Cree nation at Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, which is a long way from the urban centres of southern Saskatchewan. This was his first year in the WHL after moving first a bit south to Tisdale to play in the SMAAAHL and then a little farther to Yorkton to play last season in the SJHL, the league below the WHL.

Mckenzie played in 63 WHL games, the most he's every played in a season, as well as all 20 playoff games. He ranked eighth in points for forwards, and had a good playoffs, scoring twice.

He's a fascinating player. A superficial look at his SJHL season would leave you surprised he made a WHL team as stacked as this one, but Moose Jaw's scouts must have seen what NHL CS sees. He's in the lineup on this stacked team, and he contributed to the tune of 15 goals. I assume he's not getting top power-play time or top line opportunities to do that in.

Jackson Unger is the other ranked player on the team. He's their starting goalie, and they had no doubt he was their guy, playing him in 54 regular season games and all 20 playoff games. His Save% of .908 ranks sixth in the WHL while his games played is second.

He is ranked 27th on the NHL SC list of N.A. Goalies, and because these lists are separated, that's hard to contextualize, but they only ranked 32 goalies this year in their final ranking. He is listed at 6'1", which makes him small by the current standards. You never can guess with goalies in the draft, but he might need another good junior year to get a shot at getting taken in 2025.

You should have no trouble getting a look at him, as Moose Jaw seems unlikely to play anyone else.

London Knights

If you're interested in the Memorial Cup, you're already watching London's games for Easton Cowan, but London has this knack of being a top team with an embarrassment of drafted stars while also having some impressive draft-eligible players as well.

One of the more interesting is the 20-year-old Ruslan Gazizov. He's from Omsk, so grew up in the Avangard club, but left after a scatter of games in the MHL (Russian junior league) to play for the Knights in 2021. He had a fantastic year for points in this his third season, coming in third behind Denver Barkey and Cowan, and he had 14 points in only 15 playoff games.

This is his first time ranked by NHL SC, and he's 192nd for N.A. Skaters. He's also 5'11" and well under 200 lbs. He plays a feisty game, and given that the Knights don't play a set lineup, he gets shifts with the top players some of the time.

He seems like a good bet for a free agent signing to go right to the AHL to me. But someone might use a seventh rounder to make sure.

Jared Woolley, a tall defender (6'4" and over 200 lbs), is ranked 73rd by NHL SC. He played only 37 games in the regular season for the big club, spending the rest of the time in the GOJHL. But he did play in 16 playoff games.

He's too far down the ranking order to turn up on most other scouting lists, and he's barely made an impact in the kinds of games that scouts pay attention to. He's said to be primarily defensive in ability, but the most impressive thing about him is that he got in that many games on a team absolutely drenched in top defender talent. He's a guy you have to watch to have any idea of what he can do.

Speaking of top defenders, Sam Dickinson is ranked in the top 10 by many scouting lists. He's seventh on Bob McKenzie's early list, so he is well out of the Leafs' wheelhouse on draft day. He sure is fun to watch, though. He's tall (the Hunters don't buy in on shorter defenders very often) and he's excellent offensively.

Sam O'Reilly is the Sam Toronto fans can actually imagine drafting. He's ranked in the second to third round on most lists, so you first have to imagine a trade bringing in the appropriate pick, but that's certainly not impossible.

O'Reilly is a right shooting forward who plays routinely with the big boys. He is a middle-six forward on the Knights. There's certainly a lot to like about him, but nothing that is exceptional. You won't see gifs of him every night, but his brain gets a lot of credit for his success.

This was his first season in the OHL, and he could have disappeared into the shade of the better players on the team, but he didn't. I find him an interesting if unexciting prospect. I think people use terms like ceiling and floor to disparage this kind of guy. I just think he can play hockey. The question is can he do that successfully at a higher level when he hasn't got noticeable speed or a shot to fall back on?

Saginaw Spirit

As the host team, Saginaw didn't have to wonder if they should build up for a playoff run. They have a solid secondary rank of drafted prospects, but their two top players by points are draft-eligible players who are both very exciting and unusual.

Saginaw looked like the second-best team in the OHL but they got that accolade (from me) by just making life occasionally imperfect for the Knights. The difference in quality seemed pretty marked. It's not actually a good thing that their best players are this young.

Zayne Parekh is eligible for this year's draft, and he's their number one goal scorer. He's also way out of Toronto's league for drafting. He's ranked in the top 10 – ninth on Bob McKenzie's list – and did you think he was a forward with 33 goals to lead the team? Nope. He's a defenceman, listed at 6' and 181lbs, and if you aren't wondering by now if everyone is high on shooting percentage, you should be.

He was second on the team in the playoffs in Shots on Goal, at 4.3 per game. He scored two goals, so his SH% was only 3.5%. In the regular season he led the team in shots, and had 3.4 per game. His SH% was 14.7%

Sam Dickinson, above, shot at 3.4 SOG per game as well, and his SH% was 7.7%.

It's really hard not to believe Parekh is overrated right now based on a heater of a year with the puck. If I was lucky enough to get to pick between the two, I'd go with Dickinson even though Parekh seems to be the more dynamic and exciting player.

Michael Misa is the real breakout star of the Spirit. He's only 17, and he's scoring goals like players a year older, notably like his brother Luke Misa, who Brigs will profile in June. By this time next year, Michael Misa will have played three OHL seasons (he had exceptional status that was obviously deserved), and will be very high up on the draft lists not least because he's taller than Luke and scores at about the same rate. Fun to watch, but highly unlikely this Oakville kid ever gets to play for the Leafs until he's a UFA.

And that's your incentive to watch the games with an eye to the draft. Also, Go London Go!