The 2019 Memorial Cup is finally here as four teams try to earn the big prize of Canadian Junior Hockey. Kia Motorsports takes over from Mastercard as the title sponsor this season.
Four teams are vying for the right to hoist the Cup with round-robin playing starting on Friday. The host Halifax Mooseheads will take on the WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders. Prince Albert took home its first WHL crown since 1985 after beating the Vancouver Giants.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies beat Halifax for the QMJHL President’s Cup while the Guelph Storm upended the Ottawa 67s to take the Ross Robertson Cup to represent the OHL.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan won last year’s Memorial Cup, but were nowhere near contending this season. Last season’s victory broke a three-year run of OHL teams winning the title.
2019 Memorial Cup
Guelph Storm (OHL)
Regular season record: 40-18-6-4, 90 points, fourth in Western Conference
Leading scorer: Nate Schnarr– 34 goals, 68 assists for 102 points
Playoff record: 16-8
Leading playoff scorer: Nick Suzuki- 16 goals, 26 assists for 42 points
In net: Anthony Popovich– 30-13-5-2, 3,29 goals against average, .899 save percentage
NHL Prospects: Cam Hills, Montreal Canadiens (injured, third round, 2018); Nick Suzuki, Vegas Golden Knights (rights traded to Montreal) (first round, 2017); MacKenzie Entwshitle, Arizona Coyotes (rights traded to Chicago Blackhawks) (third round, 2017); Alexey Toropchenko, St. Louis Blues (fourth round, 2017); Liam Hawl, Dallas Stars (fourth round, 2017); Nate Schnarr, Arizona Coyotes (third round, 2017); Isaac Radcliffe, Philadelphia Flyers (second round, 2017); Dmitri Samorukov, Edmonton Oilers (third round, 2017); Sean Durzi, Toronto Maple Leafs (rights traded to Los Angeles Kings) (second round, 2018); Markus Phillips, Los Angeles Kings (fourth round, 2017); Fedor Gordeev, Toronto Maple Leafs (fifth round, 2017)
Schedule: Saturday vs. Rouyn-Noranda; Sunday vs. Halifax; Tuesday vs. Prince Albert
Previous Memorial Cup experience: Sixth appearance (2nd in 1998 and 2014)
Synopsis: The Storm has come to life since acquiring Suzuki and Durzi from the Owen Sound Attack earlier in the season. Suzuki has scored some highlight-reel goals to power the Storm. He has been dynamite in the post-season, leading all CHLers in scoring, and putting up one of the top ten scoring performances ever in the OHL playoffs. Dmitri Samorukov leads an experienced defence full of NHL prospects. Guelph loves to score goals and managed to get just enough to beat back Ottawa. Never say die, Guelph was down 3-0 in their series against London, 2-0 and 3-1 in the series against Plymouth, and 2-0 in the series against Ottawa. The goaltending will need to step up if they have any designs of getting the club’s first Memorial Cup.
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL- Host)
Regular season record: 49-15-2-2, 102 points, first in Eastern Conference
Leading scorer: Samuel Asselin– 48 goals, 38 assists for 86 points
Playoff record: 14-7
Leading playoff scorer: Raphael Lavoie– 20 goals, 12 assists for 32 points
In net: Alexis Gravel- 33-13-1-2, 2.49 GAA, .913 save percentage
NHL Prospects: Benoit Oliver-Groulx, Anaheim Ducks (second round, 2017); Arnaud Durandeau, New York Islanders (sixth round, 2017); Ostap Safin, Edmonton Oilers (fourth round, 2017); Jared McIsaac, Detroit Red Wings (second round, 2018); Antoine Morand, Anaheim Ducks (second round, 2017); Jake Ryczek, Chicago Blackhawks (seventh round, 2017); Jocktan Chainey, New Jersey Devils (seventh round, 2017); Alexis Gravel, Chicago Blackhawks (sixth round, 2018).
Schedule: Friday vs. Prince Albert; Sunday vs. Guelph; Wednesday vs. Rouyn-Noranda
Previous Memorial Cup experience: Once (2013 Memorial Cup Champions)
Synopsis: Halifax missed out on the QMJHL title, but they can still win the Memorial Cup as hosts. Lavoie has picked up his play in the post-season and became a dominant goal scorer. However, the Mooseheads lost in six games of the President’s Cup final. McIsaac has put together a fine season on the blueline for Halifax. In net, Gravel has the ability to steal games, something that is invaluable in this tournament’s format. As hosts, the Mooseheads have been loading up this roster for two years in preparation of the tournament and will have the crowd on their side.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Regular season record: 59-8-0-1; Best regular season record in QMJHL
Leading scorer: Peter Abbandonato– 29 goals, 82 assists for 111 points
Playoff record: 16-4
Leading playoff scorer: Joel Teasdale– 14 goals, 20 assists for 34 points
In net: Samuel Harvey- 35-8, 2.08 GAA, .926 save percentage
NHL prospects: Jakub Lauko, Boston Bruins (third round, 2018); Joel Teasdale, Montreal Canadiens; Noah Dobson, New York Islanders (first round, 2018); Zachary Edmond, San Jose Sharks (sixth round, 2018)
Schedule: Saturday vs. Guelph; Monday vs. Prince Albert; Wednesday vs. Halifax
Previous Memorial Cup experience: Once (2nd in 2016 Memorial Cup)
Synopsis: The Huskies may not have a lot of NHL prospects at this time, but they are arguably the best team in the tournament. Teasdale was another mid-season acquisition that gave the Huskies life after coming over from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. He’s stepped up his game in the post-season and led the entire QMJHL in playoff scoring. Rouyn-Noranda comes into the tournament on a roll and has only lost four times in the post-season. Noah Dobson led Acadie-Bathurst to a Memorial Cup win last year. The Islanders prospect was also part of the Huskies trade deadline moves and is arguably the best defenceman in the CHL. In goal, Samuel Harvey has peen outstanding all season long.
Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Regular season record: 54-10-2-2 (Best regular season record in WHL)
Leading scorer: Brett Leason– 36 goals, 53 assists for 89 points
Playoff record: 16-7
Leading playoff scorer: Leason- 10 goals, 15 assists for 25 points
In net: Ian Scott– 38-8-1-2, 1.83 GAA, .932 save percentage
NHL prospects: Cole Fonstad, Montreal Canadiens (fifth round, 2018); Noah Gregor, San Jose Sharks (fourth round, 2016); Parker Kelly, Ottawa Senators; Ian Scott, Toronto Maple Leafs (fourth round, 2017)
Schedule: Friday vs. Halifax; Monday vs. Rouyn-Noranda; Tuesday vs. Guelph
Previous Memorial Cup experience: Once (1985 champions)
Synopsis: It’s been a long time getting back to the Memorial Cup for the Raiders. Prince Albert doesn’t have a lot of drafted or signed NHL prospects, but they rolled through the WHL. Leason has been passed over in two previous drafts but has put together the type of season that has scouts debating using a first round pick on him. Scott is one of the best goalies in the junior ranks. The defence, led by five 19-year-olds has been a strong unit. The Raiders have a good shot of repeating the success of the beloved 1985 squad. The top WHL team all season, they needed overtime in Game 7 to get past the Vancouver Giants, and are coming into the tournament on an emotional high.
The 2019 Memorial Cup. (Getty Images)