Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2017 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
With the 2017 Memorial Cup set to begin Friday, we are going to bring you a quick guide to the tournament. The Memorial Cup is one of the oldest and most sought-after trophies in hockey, and one of the best traditions in the Junior game. This year’s tournament is scheduled to start on Friday in Windsor, Ontario and the final is scheduled for May 28th. The Tournament features a number of previously drafted, top NHL prospects, as well as some eligible for the 2017 draft. So without further ado, lets take a look at the participants in the 2017 Memorial Cup.
The teams are ordered geographically from West to East, not based on who we think will win the tourney.
2016 Memorial Cup Preview and Predictions
Record: 46-20-6, 98 points, 2nd in WHL U.S. Division; 16-4 in playoffs. Won the Ed Chynoweth Cup 4-2 over the Regina Pats.
NHL Drafted Prospects: Mathew Barzal, Ryan Gropp, Ethan Bear, Keegan Kolesar,
2017 Draft Eligible to Watch: Alexander True (Re-Entry)
Seattle barely lost out to the Everett Silvertips for the regular season title in the U.S. Division. They became a freight train in the WHL playoffs though, rolling on their way to the title.
They got a big boost when the New York Islanders returned Mathew Barzal to the WHL. Barzal had 79 points in just 41 games in the regular season. The Thunderbirds most dangerous offensive player put up 25 points in 16 playoff games and took home the WHL Playoff MVP. Rangers prospect Ryan Gropp was the team’s leading scorer in the regular season and had 84 points in 66 games. He added 19 points in the playoffs. However, it was Columbus prospect Keegan Kolesar who led the playoffs in scoring. He had 12 goals and 31 points in 19 games.
On defence, Oilers prospect Ethan Bear had 70 points in the regular season and 26 points in the playoffs to lead the way. Overage goaltender Rylan Toth had a solid season between the pipes, but lost his job to 17-year-old Carl Stankowski in the playoffs. The team wouldn’t be in the Memorial Cup without the undersized goalie putting up a strong playoff.
Windsor Spitfires (Host City)
Record: 41-19-0-8, 90 points, 2nd in the OHL West Division. Lost to the London Knights in the first round of the OHL Playoffs, in seven games.
NHL Drafted Prospects: Mikhail Sergachev, Logan Brown, Logan Stanley, Sean Day, Graham Knott, Jeremiah Addison, Jeremy Bracco, Julius Nattinen,
Noteable Draft Eligible Prospects: Gabriel Vilardi, Michael DiPietro
On paper, the Windsor Spitfires had a stacked roster. They have multiple NHL drafted prospects, including three 2017 first rounders; a likely top five pick in 2017 in Gabriel Vilardi; and one of the draft’s best goalies in Michael DiPietro. They also added big time OHL names over the course of the year in Sean Day, Graham Knott and Jeremy Bracco.
However the season didn’t go as planned. Injury problems, and underwhelming performances plagued the Spitfires. As a team they got good individual seasons from notables Vilardi, Sergachev, and DiPietro; but the end result was always less than the sum of the parts. It culminated in blowing a 3-1 series lead and a first round loss to the London Knights. The Spitfires then had seven weeks to sit on the sidelines. They now get an opportunity for redemption. If the Spitfires can win the Memorial Cup on home ice, all the bad memories will be erased.
If Windsor is to pull the upset, their defence must lead the way. Mikhail Sergachev is a stud on the blue line. He’s had to play against opponents top line, and still has put up a lot of offence. The return of Logan Stanley might ease some defensive assignments and free up Sergachev to generate offence. Day was better in Windsor than he was in Mississauga, and can anchor the second pair and create offense as well.
Record: 50-15-3, 103 points, 1st in the Mid-West Divison; 16-6 in playoffs; Won the J. Ross Robertson Cup 4-1 over the Mississauga Steelheads
NHL Prospects: Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat, Taylor Raddysh, Darren Raddysh, Warren Foegele, Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, Jordan Sambrook, Kyle Pettit,
Notable Draft Eligible Prospects: Ivan Lodnia
The Erie Otters were clearly the best team in the OHL all season long, and they proved it again in the Playoffs, marching to the J. Ross Robertson Cup. Chicago draftee Alex DeBrincat was the best player in the league, putting up 65 goals and 127 points in just 63 games. He added 13 goals and 38 points in 22 playoff games. The Arizona Coyotes returned Dylan Strome to the team. He had 75 points in just 35 regular season games and added 14 goals and 34 points in the playoffs. Taylor Raddysh, Anthony Cirelli, Warren Foegele, Kyle Maksimovich, and Ivan Lodnia give the team a ton of scoring depth.
On defence Darren Raddysh was the OHL Defenceman of the Year, and put up big numbers with 16 goals and 81 points this year. Erik Cernak anchors things at the defensive end, as one of the best defensive defencemen in the league. In net, Troy Timpano was solid this year. In comparison to how good the forwards and defence are, he is the biggest question mark for the Otters in the tournament.
Saint John Sea Dogs
Record: 48-14-6, 1st overall in QMJHL; 16-2 in Playoffs; Won Presidents Trophy 4-0 over Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
NHL Drafted Prospects: Thomas Chabot, Jakob Zboril, Julien Gauthier, Nathan Noel, Mathieu Joseph, Bokondji Imama, Spencer Smallman, Samuel Dove-McFalls, Simon Bourque, Callum Booth
Notable NHL Draft Eligibles: Joseph Veleno (2018)
This team’s strength is their outstanding blue line. Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot had a World Junior coming out party, and has been one of the best players in the CHL. He had 45 points in just 34 QMJHL games, adding 23 points in 18 playoff games. Boston Bruins prospect Jakob Zboril would be the top defenceman on any other team in the QMJHL. He had 44 points in 50 games during the season, and added seven points in the playoffs. Montreal Canadiens prospect Simon Bourque was added at the trade deadline, and brings Memorial Cup experience. He had 28 points in 30 regular season games with the Sea Dogs and added 13 points in the playoffs. David Comeau and Alexandre Bernier bring depth.
With 89 points, overager Matthew Highmore was the team’s leading scorer. He certainly gets plenty of support from a team that rolls three strong offensive lines. Trade deadline pickup Julien Gauthier is a strong power forward who had 11 goals in the playoffs. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mathieu Joseph had 80 points in just 54 games and 34 points in 18 playoff games. Fellow Tampa draftee Bokondji Imama stunned many with 41 goals this year and 8 more in the playoffs. Spencer Smallman, Samuel Dove-McFalls, Nathan Noel, and exceptional player Joseph Veleno can all chip in with added scoring.
Backstopping it all is Callum Booth, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect. He might be the best goaltender in the tournament. A trade deadline acquisition, he had a .923 save percentage in the playoffs.
Two teams stand out coming into this tournament. The Erie Otters and Saint John Sea Dogs both went wire-to-wire as the best teams in their league. They could be set for an epic showdown in the Memorial Cup Final. The Otters have the edge in offence, but the Sea Dogs are no slouches up front. Meanwhile Saint John has the advantage on the back end and in goal.
Saint John wins the Memorial Cup with a 4-2 win in the final over the Erie Otters. Thomas Chabot is tournament MVP.