Typically Memorial Cup participants are veteran teams and do not offer much in terms of draft eligible viewing. However in this year’s group there are several 2019 and even a few options for 2020 and beyond taking stage. Perhaps more importantly many players who were passed over in the draft one or more times will have the opportunity to leave a lasting impression such as Brandon Saigeon did on the Colorado Avalanche scouts in last year’s competition. As truly the last prospect event in the 2018-19 season all eyes will focus on these players hoping to have one big goal or moment on the way to winning the grand prize.
The Memorial Cup tournament kicks off on Friday, May 17th at 7pm eastern with Halifax hosting Prince Albert and continues each day until a pause and then the championship final on Sunday, May 26th. The rest of the schedule can be found HERE. Games will be televised on Sportsnet, TVA and on NHL Network in some capacity.
Halifax Mooseheads (49-15-4)
As the hosts the Mooseheads were guaranteed appearance in the tournament but they did their part nearly to win their way into the party anyhow before they fell in the league finals to the eventual QMJHL champion in six games. After three straight years of the host team bowing out in the first round of the playoffs, Halifax proved that they will be just as favored as anyone in the tournament. Halifax last appeared in and won the Memorial Cup in 2013 with that guy Nathan MacKinnon winning MVP.
Raphael Lavoie is the highest ranked participant by NHL Central Scouting at 20th and will receive a lot of coverage. As a late birthday 2000 born player and standing at 6-foot-4 and nearly 200 lbs he is possibly physically mature enough to play at the next level next season. With that maturity comes expectations and many had hoped to see a touch more production and domination from Lavoie this season as he put up 73 points in 62 games. He possesses a big shot and attacks the net but can also be passive away from the puck. Lavoie came alive in the postseason and owned the competition with 32 points including 20 goals in 23 games, which was good for second in the league in playoff scoring. As a bit of a polarizing player, the lasting impression he leaves at the Memorial Cup will swing draft opinions.
It is likely Xavier Parent won’t get drafted because at 5-foot-8 he just hasn’t had enough production with 34 points on the season to make him a serious NHL prospect but he’s fun to watch as a fire bug of energy and could still become a hyper late steal for some team who appreciates his type of skillset. For what it’s worth, Central Scouting has Parent ranked 209th.
Justin Barron is someone to keep in serious mind for next season’s draft as one of the top draft eligible defensemen for 2020. As a late birthday 2001 born player he has been on the radar for quite some time and already has a pro ready size at 6-foot-2 and 187 lbs. His 41 points in the regular season and 13 in the playoffs will set the stage for a big draft year coming up. In the meantime Barron will show off his dynamic offensive skills as a do everything top four right shot defenseman.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (59-8-1)
As the QMJHL champions, the Huskies are a rare recent Memorial Cup participant who skipped a requisite down period before dominating the league again due to their stellar drafting, developing and coaching. A homegrown team with only a sprinkle of deadline acquisitions, the Huskies were built to be a top junior team with a very deep and seasoned roster. Part of that experience was bringing in the head coach from Acadie-Bathurst Mario Pouliot plus the aforementioned trade for star defenseman Noah Dobson. The duo won the QMJHL title and Memorial Cup last season are looking for a repeat with their new club. Rouyn-Noranda participated in their first Memorial Cup in 2016 and lost the championship final in overtime.
The Huskies do not boast a lot of 2019 draft eligible options as they are an older team but there is one possible top 100 pick in Alex Beaucage. A 6-foot-1 and 193 lbs smooth power forward type with a big shot which is lethal on the power play, Beaucage put up 79 points including 39 goals in 68 games and 16 points in the playoffs. French talent tends to get lost in the small markets but Beaucage really should benefit from the exposure and solidify a fairly high draft slot.
What the Huskies may lack in 17-year old first year eligible players they make up in whole host of talent which has been passed over in previous drafts but could add a punch to someone’s prospect pipeline. Felix Bibeau has been the clutch hero, the speedy yet streaky Patrik Hrehorcak can score as well, and then there’s one of Rouyn-Noranda’s top producers in Rafael Harvey-Pinard recieved some attention last summer as a Vegas camp invite. All are worthy of a second look.
My money would be on Justin Bergeron to get drafted this time around as someone who is a smart puck moving left shot defenseman who stands at 6-foot and 175 lbs. He used the extra year to mature and polish his game and the analytics community has taken notice of his production of 57 points in 65 games with another 20 in the playoffs. As someone who just made the draft cutoff by one day for 2018 eligibility, many are treating Bergeron’s second full season in the league as his breakout on par with his peers and he should get drafted as such and potentially higher than Central Scouting’s 153rd ranking.
Guelph Storm (40-18-10)
Underdogs for the last three straight rounds have clawed back in series to clinch their place in the Memorial Cup. This is the team full of veterans and deadline acquisitions with 11 NHL drafted prospects including five World Junior Championship participants and 15 players who attended NHL camps. Therefore there is not much to watch for in respect to upcoming draft talent but a couple names of interest. Guelph has never won a Memorial Cup but has been in the tournament as recent as 2014.
Pavel Gogolev might have the most to gain from the national attention as a second time around candidate. The 6-foot-1 175lbs left shot wing was slated a potential mid-round pick in the 2018 draft but Gogolev was passed over despite scoring 30 goals due to some inconsistency in his play. Optimism returned as Gogolev attended Detroit’s rookie camp and was the player return from Peterborough in the Ryan Merkley trade. Just several games after arriving to his new team Gogolev broke his ankle and was sidelined for over two months. Upon his return Gogolev has chipped in 10 points in the postseason and is ranked at 140th on NHL Central Scouting’s final list. Gogolev will have to use all his speed and skill to leave an impression this time around.
Daniil Chayka is a late birthday 2002 born player meaning he won’t be eligible until the 2021 draft and one who will be worth the wait. As a very young defenseman on the backend for Guelph he doesn’t get the opportunity for a great deal of production but is flashing his talent and gaining experience especially at his age. The 6-foot-2 173lbs left shot put up 14 points in the regular season.
Prince Albert Raiders (54-10-4)
As the top WHL team nearly start to finish it was fitting that Prince Albert joins the Memorial Cup fray. However they made it interesting on themselves as they had to win game 7 of the WHL finals in overtime to claim the crown and their ticket to the festivities. The Raiders are a seasoned team with size and superb goaltending. They should break the WHL champion three year winless streak and make a strong run at the title. Prince Albert has not participated in the Memorial Cup since 1985, which they won.
Brett Leason could push for top prospect coverage in this tournament. His story is familiar to many at this point as the 1999 born player passed over in the last two drafts and exploded this season which got the attention of Hockey Canada and made it on to the World Junior Championship team. A finger injury suffered there put a damper on the second half of his season, which was still good for 89 points but hardly the pace he had been on. Leason made a rebound in the playoffs however and was second only to Bowen Byram in postseason scoring with 25 points. Listed at 25th by Central Scouting, Leason is a 6-foot-four 200 lbs right shot wing and will easily make the jump to pro hockey next season.
Another Raiders forward who has the attention of Central Scouting is giant 6-foot-5 205 lbs Belorussian center Aliaksei Protas who is ranked 44th. He had a good season with 40 points but really improved in the playoffs with 22 points in 23 games. As most big players need to work on their speed Protas is no different but he adds skill to the mix. As one of the least exposed players on this list the spotlight will be a welcome sight.
Kaiden Guhle is another very young highly touted defenseman for the future as a 2002 born player slated for the 2020 draft. His 17 points this season might not impress on first impression but his skating, puck movement and IQ will. A former first overall WHL bantam draft selection and already at 6’3 and 190 lbs the left shot defenseman will likely break out in his draft eligible season.