Memorial Cup Preview
The tournament to crown this year’s junior hockey champion kicks off tomorrow. The Regina Pats are set to host the 100th Memorial Cup.
Two teams from the WHL, one from the QMJHL and one from the OHL will compete for the trophy. The teams will each play 3 round robin games. From there a tie-breaker may or may not be needed, followed by a semi final and then a champion will be crowned Sunday, May 27th. Here is what you need to know about each of the participating teams.
Will it start to be a reoccurring theme for the Memorial Cup? For the second straight year, the tournament hosts didn't make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs. The Regina Pats were eliminated in the first round of this year's WHL Playoffs, much like last year’s eventual Mem Cup Champions, the Windsor Spitfires who were eliminated in the first round against the London Knights. Regina, the 7th ranked team in the WHL standings were eliminated by the 2nd seed team and WHL Champion Swift Current Broncos.
The Pats are led by centre Sam Steel, a first round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He only played 54 games this year scoring 33 goals and 50 assists, good for 83 points. Steel scored once and had 10 assists in the playoffs. The Pats will be counting on their captain to lead them all the way to the finals on home ice. It will be interesting to see the shape of the Regina Pats. By the time the tournament starts, they haven't played a game in 45 days.
Best goalie in the tournament?
For the WHL Champion Swift Current Broncos, they won't have to worry about many scored against goals. Stuart Skinner carried the Broncos all the way to the championship, but there might be another ring in the near future. The 3rd round pick of the Edmonton Oilers had 6 shutouts this postseason, and was able to outduel Carter Hart of the Everett Silvertips in the WHL Final. Skinner posted a league best 2.20 GAA average in the playoffs, with a record of 16-8-2.
Of the 4 teams in this year's Memorial Cup, I like the chances of the Hamilton Bulldogs. They defeated the Saint Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 6 games to become OHL Champions, in just their third year in the league. Beating the Hounds was no easy task, for most of the year the Soo was the top ranked team in the country.
They added Taylor Raddysh at the deadline to play with Flyers first round pick Morgan Frost and Boris Katchouk. Hamilton GM Steve Staios added Robert Thomas at the deadline, who will appear in his second Mem Cup after winning it in 2016 with the London Knights. He added Nicholas Caamano and Ryan Moore early in the season, and Riley Stillman was acquired from the Oshawa Generals, who was arguably the best defenceman in the OHL Playoffs.
All eyes on Dobson
Whenever the Acadie-Bathurst Titans are playing, expect to hear the name Noah Dobson over and over again. The star two-way defenceman can expect to hear his name called pretty quick in the NHL Entry Draft this year.
In 67 games played, he had 69 points including 17 goals. In the playoff run he had 3 goals and 10 assists. Dobson was a crucial factor of the Titans knocking off the top ranked Blainville-Boisbrand Armada in 6 games to win the President Cup. The Armada had 4 of the top 5 scorers in the playoffs on their team. The lone player who wasn't on Blainville-Boisbrand was Jeffrey Truchon-Viel of the Titans with 14 goals and 9 assists.
A long time in the making
Whoever this year's Champion will be is long overdue. The last time one of these 4 teams won a Memorial Cup was in 1993 when Swift Current raised the trophy. Regina hasn't won a Memorial Cup since 1974. You won't find a Memorial Cup Champion banner in Acadie-Bathurst or Hamilton. The Titans have never won, and neither have the Hamilton Bulldogs/ Belleville Bulls. The City of Hamilton has seen junior hockey champions when Hamilton was the Red Wings and later on the Fincups.