The 2019 Memorial Cup begins Friday in Halifax and it’s a fairly enjoyable area this 12 months. The host Mooseheads are attempting to win their first title since Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin led the squad to glory in 2013, whereas QMJHL champion Rouyn-Noranda is on the lookout for its first Cup ever. The final time a Guelph workforce took all of it was again in 1986 when the Platers reigned victorious and the 12 months earlier than that was Prince Albert’s one and solely championship.
So how will this 12 months’s event shake out? In a event the place whenever you win is commonly extra necessary than how typically you win, it’s at all times powerful to handicap. However to get a way of the sector, I interviewed a entrance workplace exec from rival groups in all three junior leagues to get the within scoop on the 4 contributors. If I used to be a betting man, I’d take Prince Albert over Rouyn-Noranda within the last – however I additionally wouldn’t depend out any permutation of those 4 squads. Right here’s how they stack up:
Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (host)
The hosts made it to the QMJHL last earlier than falling to Rouyn-Noranda, in order that they earned their spot within the last 4. Apparently sufficient, the Mooseheads didn’t make any splashy trades on the deadline this season, one thing that has normally been a relentless for Memorial Cup host groups. As an alternative, they obtained most of their work completed early in the summertime and fall. Anaheim Geese prospect Antoine Morand, overager Samuel Asselin and Edmonton Oilers prospect Ostap Safin had been the principle acquisitions, although Safin actually struggled within the QMJHL playoffs.
In internet, Halifax entrusted the keys to Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alexis Gravel, who rewarded them with an excellent common season and a good, however not spectacular playoff run.
“Their goalie was a query mark coming into the playoffs, as he didn’t have quite a lot of post-season expertise,” stated the QMJHL exec. “However their protection corps may be very offensively-driven, so Gravel must be sharp.”
That protection is led by Detroit Pink Wings decide Jared McIsaac, with Jocktan Chainey (NJ) and Jake Ryczek (CHI) additionally having NHL prospect standing. Justin Barron is one to look at for the 2020 draft.
Up entrance, it’s been all about 2019 draft prospect Raphael Lavoie within the playoffs. He led the workforce with 32 factors in 23 video games after a daily season wracked by inconsistency. Looks like a bit powerful love from his coach made a big effect.
“Eric Veilleux made it powerful on him, switching traces and placing him in numerous roles,” stated the insider. “Nevertheless it labored and Lavoie is scoring the large targets for them within the playoffs. Typically these ability gamers should be pushed.”
The Mooseheads couldn’t sustain with Rouyn-Noranda within the QMJHL last, getting outscored 25-17 in six video games, however they did come by a pair occasions. Will home-ice benefit propel them to a different Memorial Cup title?
“They’ve ability and Lavoie has been scorching for them,” stated the insider. “However they lack a little bit of depth for a Memorial Cup host, in my view.”
Guelph Storm, OHL
It’s been a fully wild experience for the Storm. They had been down Three-Zero to London within the second spherical of the OHL playoffs earlier than forcing a Sport 7. They went down Three-1 in that recreation earlier than successful 6-Three. Then they dug 2-Zero holes towards Saginaw and Ottawa earlier than coming again to win each of these collection (and within the course of handing the 67’s their first losses of the complete post-season). In order that they weren’t the favorites, however now they’re wanting unbreakable. And it began again in January with a mega-deal.
“The largest issue was (GM/coach) George Burnett making that Nick Suzuki (MTL) commerce, that additionally introduced in Sean Durzi (LA),” stated the OHL exec. “Each got here in and did very effectively. There was no reply for Suzuki within the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what you tried to do. And he at all times dominated possession. He and Isaac Ratcliffe (PHI) grew up collectively, so there was immediate chemistry there. That was the distinction.”
Together with Chicago Blackhawks prospect MacKenzie Entwistle, Suzuki and Ratcliffe had been a drive in all three zones, with Suzuki breaking the franchise playoff scoring file of 35, netting 42 factors in 24 video games. The Storm additionally has a star on the again finish in Edmonton Oilers decide Dmitri Samorukov, together with NHL draft picks Durzi (LA), Markus Phillips (LA) and Fedor Gordeev (TOR).
“Samorukov has been glorious,” stated the insider. “He’s extremely exhausting to play towards on protection, and he brings some offense. Anytime their backs had been towards the wall and had been about to get eradicated, I might take a look at the scoresheet and he would have a aim and two assists, or one-and-one. His recreation rises when issues get exhausting. He’s the anchor on that ‘D’ corps and so they’ve obtained quite a lot of expertise again there.”
However goaltending will likely be essential. Starter Anthony Popovich has OK measurement, however he hasn’t needed to steal video games.
“That’s the one factor that may harm them within the Memorial Cup,” stated the insider. “Popovich has had good video games and unhealthy video games. He could be beat glove-side. That’s their wild card.”
The Storm’s penchant for falling behind early within the post-season gained’t wash on the Memorial Cup, both.
“Will they arrive out prepared, or a bit sleepy?” stated the insider. “It’s an entire totally different animal on the market – it’s a must to win one to get into the playoff spherical after which it’s one-and-done.”
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL
The Huskies misplaced solely 4 video games whole en path to the QMJHL championship – two within the first spherical towards Shawinigan and two within the last spherical towards Halifax. In any other case, they’ve been a juggernaut. “They’re a really well-balanced workforce,” stated the QMJHL exec.
“Two good goalies, a stable ‘D’ corps led by Noah Dobson (NYI) and an offense that doesn’t have huge NHL names – although Joel Teasdale (MTL) has been actually good – however they’re skilled. A few of them are nonetheless round from the ultimate three years in the past. They play the sport the precise means.”
Certainly, the Huskies gained the ‘Q’ in 2016 and that was the beginning of Peter Abbandonato’s profession – now he’s an overager piling up factors. Teasdale led this 12 months’s post-season in scoring with 34 factors and he’s one other ahead to look at on the workforce, however the actual star energy is on the again finish with one explicit Islanders prospect.
“Dobson is fairly good at every part,” stated the insider. “He’s one of the vital harmful gamers within the CHL when he has the puck on his stick. And he’s at all times on the ice. I don’t know what his ice time is, but it surely’s loads. He’s an unimaginable participant.”
Samuel Harvey has been glorious in internet for the Huskies and if he ought to falter for any purpose, the squad has San Jose Sharks decide Zachary Emond to fill the void – that’s an excellent luxurious.
If there’s one fly within the ointment for Rouyn-Noranda, it’s the absence of veteran defenseman Jacob Neveu, who broke his jaw whereas blocking a shot within the QMJHL last.
“I don’t know if he’ll be again,” stated the insider. “He’s very environment friendly and will get these little particulars proper on the ice.”
Prince Albert Raiders, WHL
The Raiders are available with an older, larger lineup, repping the ‘Dub’ in a really conventional means.
“They’ve a giant, veteran ‘D’ that play powerful and take gaps away,” stated the WHL exec. “Not the most effective puckmovers within the league, however nasty and exhausting to play towards. Zach Hayes and Brayden Pachal are a really powerful shutdown pair.”
Up entrance, Prince Albert has three traces that may harm you offensively, headlined by San Jose prospect Noah Gregor and 2019 draft prospect Brett Leason. Gregor was a famous person within the WHL playoffs, with game-breaking velocity and ability.
“Leason will attempt to shoot Eight-10 occasions a recreation,” stated the insider. “Normally up excessive. And he has a lethal backhand.”
In aim, the Raiders have the most effective netminder within the event in Toronto Maple Leafs decide Ian Scott. “He does have some off nights the place he appears to be like shaky, however when he’s on he’s virtually unbeatable,” stated the insider.
“He both will get a shutout or permits one, or you possibly can catch him on an evening the place he’s an .800 goalie. Not a lot center floor and normally he’s nearer to the shutout man.”
If there’s a weak point to Prince Albert, it’s that they’ve been undisciplined with penalties – although their PK is superb – they’re aggressive shorthanded and can attempt totally different appears to be like to mess with the enemy’s energy play. Workforce velocity is simply OK, although they will catch opponents off-guard and rush out for a breakaway.
“They need to management the ‘O’ zone and play huge boy hockey,” stated the insider. “However they’ve just a few guys who can fly.”
Tags: draft, main junior, Memorial Cup, prospectsConnect: Concerning the AuthorRyan KennedyRyan Kennedy is the affiliate senior author and draft/prospect skilled at The Hockey Information. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all referred to as his home. He lives in Toronto together with his spouse and children the place he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.