With the Memorial Cup set to begin on Friday, we are going to take a one day break from our draft previews and bring you a quick guide to the 2012 tournament. The Memorial Cup is one of the oldest and most sought after trophies in hockey, and one of the best traditions in Junior hockey. This year’s tournament is scheduled to start on Friday in Shawinigan, and the final is scheduled for May 27th. So without further ado, lets take a look at the participants in the 2012 Memorial Cup.
Saint John Sea Dogs
Record: 50-15-0-3, 1st in the QMJHL, Won QMJHL Presidents Cup with a 4-0 sweep of Rimouski Oceanic (16-1 in playoffs).
NHL Prospects: Jonathan Huberdeau (Fla), Charlie Coyle (Min) Nathan Beaulieu (Mtl), Zack Phillips (Min), Tomas Jurco (Det), Stanislav Galiev (Was), Ryan Tesink (StL), Charles-Olivier Roussel (Nas), Stephen MacAuley (StL), Mathieu Corbeil (CBJ), Danick Gauthier (UDFA – Tampa),
Saint John is back in the Memorial Cup after winning in 2011. They bring back the vast majority of the core of the team that won last year. The only key player missing is Simon Despres who graduated to play pro hockey in the AHL/NHL for Wilkes-Barre/Pittsburgh this season. However the Sea Dogs have also added to their potent lineup, picking up Charlie Coyle in January. Coyle only led the Sea Dogs in playoff scoring with 15 goals and 34 points in 17 games winning the QMJHL playoff MVP.
Saint John has the highest powered offence in the entire CHL. They come at teams in waves, and feature 3 lines that would be considered the “1st line” of many CHL clubs. Their defence led by Beaulieu and Roussel also contribute to this offensive juggernaut. They’ll be very tough to shut down. But even if someone can, they will have to contend with scoring against that experienced defence and goalie Mathieu Corbiel who put in an excellent performance in the QMJHL playoffs.
Record: 45-16-3-4, 2nd in QMJHL; 7-4 in playoffs (lost in 2nd round to Chicoutimi in 7 games). Qualified as Memorial Cup Host.
NHL Prospects: Kirill Kabanov (NYI), Michael Chaput (CBJ), Yannick Veilleux (StL), Michael Bournival (Mtl), Morgan Ellis (Mtl), Dillon Donnelly (Col-Avs), Jonathan Racine (Fla), Brandon Gormley (Phx),
2012 Draft Prospects: Anton Zlobin, Justin Hache
Shawinigan has been off for nearly a month after being upset by the Chicoutimi, Saguenéens in the 2nd round of the QMJHL playoffs. The playoff results were certainly unexpected and didn’t reflect the great season that the Cataractes had. Shawinigan is a strong club and should not be underestimated in this tournament. They have the ability to score goals and a very deep and balanced offence led by Zlobin, Kabanov, Chaput, Veilleux, and Bournival. However the strength of the team is on defence. The Cataractes added Brandon Gormley and Morgan Ellis at the QMJHL trade deadline, and really beefed up the squad at the backend. The fans will sure to be solidly behind the Cataractes, and the team could surprise, as they are capable of beating any of the other teams at the tourney.
Record: 49-18-0-1, 1st in OHL; 16-3 in playoffs (Won J. Ross Robertson Cup 4-1 over Niagara)
NHL Prospects: Vladislav Namestnikov (Tampa), Jared Knight (Bos), Greg McKegg (Tor), Jarred Tinordi (Mtl), Scott Harrington (Pit), Austin Watson (Nas),
2012 NHL Draft Prospects: Olli Maatta, Andreas Athanasiou, Seth Griffith, Ryan Rupert, Michael Houser, Chris Tierney
2013 NHL Draft Prospects: Max Domi
2012 wasn’t supposed to be London’s year. This London team is very young, and most experts had them pegged as a team that was being built to challenge in 2013. However, led by OHL MVP Michael Houser, the Knights stormed out of the gate and never looked back. The defence led by Captain Jarred Tinordi, Scott Harrington, and Olli Maatta is extremely stingy, and when they do give up a chance Houser is usually there to make the stop. The Knights however will be expected to play a strong defensive minded game and rely on their suffocating defence and strong goaltending to lead them to victories. When needed, The Knights can score goals too. Once it became obvious that they were a real contender this year, they bolstered the offence by trading for Greg McKegg and Austin Watson. They added two dynamic scorers to a team that already features Seth Griffith, Jared Knight, Vladislav Namestnikov, Max Domi, and Ryan Rupert, the Knights are not lacking for offence. The Hunter brothers have the Knights play a tough, disciplined game, and they will be a tough opponent in the tourney.
Edmonton Oil Kings
Record: 50-15-0-7, 1st in WHL; 16-4 playoffs (Won Ed Chynoweth Cup 4-3 over Portland)
NHL Prospects: Michael St. Croix (NYR), Martin Gernat (Edm), Kristians Pelss (Edm), Mark Pysyk (Buf), Keegan Lowe (Car), Laurent Brossoit (Cgy), Travis Ewanyk (Edm),
2012 NHL Draft Prospects: Griffin Reinhart, Henrik Samuelsson, Mitch Moroz, Ashton Sautner, Cody Corbett
2013 NHL Draft Prospects: Curtis Lazar
Like Saint John and London, the Oil Kings finished 1st overall in their league. However unlike the previous two teams they were not the best team in their league all season long. However they got incredibly hot in the second half of the season and were clearly the best team in the WHL down the stretch and through the playoffs. They put together a 22 game winning streak to end the season and start the playoffs (11 season games, 11 playoff games), the longest in the CHL this year, and came close to tying the best ever WHL streak (season and playoffs combined) of 27 set by Grant Fuhr’s Victoria Cougars in 1981, and the WHL playoffs record of 12 set by the 1989 Swift Current Broncos, and later tied by the 2006 Vancouver Giants, and 2009 Calgary Hitmen. In just their 5th year in the WHL, what they have done this season is quite remarkable, as the Oil Kings had not won a playoff round before this year. The Oil Kings are built on strong defence, featuring goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who is their team MVP, and might be the best goalie in this tournament. He’s an early favorite to be the Goalie for Team Canada at the 2013 World Juniors. They also feature Mark Pysyk and Griffin Reinhart, two outstanding defensive defenceman (both of whom can add offence as well). Upfront the team is led by St. Croix, Foster, Maxwell, and a young Curtis Lazar, a top 10 canadidate for 2013, and Henrik Samuelsson a first round candidate for 2012. On the back end Gernat is a big weapon who contributes a lot to the Oil Kings offence. Unfortunately Dylan Wruck was injured in the WHL playoffs and is not expected to be available in the tournament. The Oil Kings play tough Alberta hockey, and the combination of the team’s skill and grit will make them a challenge for anyone they face.
This is always a fun tournament, and one of the most difficult to predict in sports. You have junior aged players, and they can be unpredictable facing a big time pressure situation. You also have teams who don’t face each other during the year, and who don’t even face common opponents. With that said, I’m going to try and predict it anyway.
I predict that the Saint John Sea Dogs will repeat as Memorial Cup Champions defeating the London Knights in the final game.
… and thats the Last Word.