The Memorial Cup is considered one of the hardest trophies to win.
First, a team has to make the playoffs and win four rounds to win their league (WHL, OHL, or QMJHL). Then, they have to win a week-long tournament featuring the other winners and a host team, selected because of expected success. This season, the Seattle Thunderbirds, Erie Otters, Windsor Spitfires, and Saint John Sea Dogs are the competitors in Windsor. Seattle has been knocked out of the tournament, and Saint John and Erie will play on Friday to face off against Windsor in the final.
Here’s a look at some of the notable names taking part:
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL champions, now eliminated):
C Mathew Barzal (NYI) – Projected as a top-ten pick in 2015, the Islanders were lucky to snag Barzal at 16th overall. He missed part of this season with an injury, but still scored 79 points in 41 games. Barzal could be in the NHL next season if he physically develops this summer.
D Ethan Bear (EDM) – The WHL’s defenseman of the year, Bear scored 28 goals and 70 points in 67 games this season. The Oilers’ fifth-round pick in 2015 will turn pro in 2017-18 with the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL.
L Ryan Gropp (NYR) – Since being drafted 41st overall in 2015, Gropp has scored 154 points in 122 games with the Thunderbirds. He’ll start his pro career with the Hartford Wolfpack in the AHL.
Erie Otters (OHL champions):
C Dylan Strome (ARI) – The third-overall pick in 2015 spent seven games in the NHL to start the year, but was sent back to Erie after he only put up two assists. He captained Team Canada at the World Juniors and posted 75 points in 35 games in the OHL. The middle Strome brother will very likely be in the NHL next season.
R Alex DeBrincat (CHI) – A possible steal at 39 overall in 2016, the dimunitive DeBrincat scored 65 goals and 127 points in 63 games in the OHL. Whether or not he can continue scoring in the professional game is yet to be determined, but he’s clearly demonstrated a high skill level.
R Taylor Raddyish (TBL) – Another second-round pick from 2016, the big winger scored 42 goals and 109 points in 58 games. He also scored five goals in seven games for Canada at the World Juniors.
C Anthony Cirelli (TBL) – A third-round pick of the Lightning in 2015, Cirelli was traded to Erie at the OHL trade deadline shortly after he scored seven points in seven games for Canada at the World Juniors. He’s already won a Memorial Cup with Oshawa in 2015, where he scored the OT winner in the final vs Kelowna.
C Ivan Lodnia (2017 eligible) – Playing on a shutdown line at age 17, the draft eligible Lodnia has shown good two-way instincts. He also scored 57 points in 66 games this season. He’s expected to be a late first round pick this coming draft. The Hockey News compared him to Mikael Boedker.
D Jordan Sambrook (DET) – The Red Wings picked the 6’2 right-handed defenseman 157th overall last summer, and have to be excited about his potential. The two-way defender scored 40 points in 61 games this season, and will look to improve in his final year of junior next
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL champions):
C Joe Veleno (2018 eligible) – Veleno is the fifth player that Hockey Canada has granted Exceptional Status to. He’s scored 83 points in 107 junior games over the last two years. He should be a dynamic junior star next season as he physically matures.
R Julien Gauthier (CAR) – The 6’4, 225 lbs power forward has been compared to Rick Nash. Carolina’s 21st overall pick in 2016 will turn pro this coming season after an injury-shortened season. He did score five goals in seven games for Canada at the World Juniors.
R Mathieu Joseph (TBL) – The 2015 fourth-round pick has really picked up his offensive game as his junior career ends. He’s followed up an 80-point season with 32 points in 18 playoff games.
D Thomas Chabot (OTT) – One of the best prospects in the game, Chabot dominated for Canada at the World Juniors with 10 points in seven games. He’ll be starring alongside Erik Karlsson in Ottawa in the next two or three years.
D Jakub Zboril (BOS) – The first of Boston’s three consecutive first rounders in 2015, Zboril plays a tough game. While he’ll never be a big point-producer, he ought to be a dependable second pairing option in the future.
G Callum Booth (CAR) – Carolina’s fourth-round pick in 2015 was traded mid-season and only posted a 0.903 SV% in 26 games in Saint John. Drafting and developing goalies is voodoo, so it’s too early to make a call on Booth.
Windsor Spitfires (host, lost in OHL’s first round to the London Knights):
C Gabriel Vilardi (2017 eligible) – A top-five projected pick in this upcoming draft, Vilardi is a big, skilled center that The Hockey News compared to Jason Allison.
C Logan Brown (OTT) – Ottawa traded up from 12th to 11th to ensure they got Brown, who is a big powerful center with a good shot. He scored 40 points in 35 games this season.
C Julius Nattinen (ANA) – Anaheim’s second-round pick in 2015 didn’t put up big numbers this season after a big offensive year last year in Barrie. He’ll turn pro next season.
R Jeremy Bracco (TOR) – Bracco scored 83 points in 57 games split between Kitchener and Windsor this season, but will have his work cut out for him next year when he turns pro; Toronto has a large number of wingers in the system, so he’ll have to stand out.
D Logan Stanley (WPG) – The giant defensive defenseman was perhaps a reach at 18th overall this last summer, but will get his chances as a left-handed defenseman on the right-dominated Jets roster.
D Mikhail Sergachev (MTL) – The dominant two-way defenseman got a taste of the NHL last fall, and will likely find himself in Montreal’s top four before long.
D Sean Day (NYR) – The fourth player to be granted Exception Status by Hockey Canada back in 2013, he’s something of a cautionary tale for projected 14-year-olds. His size allowed him to dominate minor hockey, but he has yet to put it all together consistently in the OHL. He was the Rangers’ third-round pick in 2016.
G Mike DiPietro (2017 eligible) – One of the top-ranked goaltenders for the upcoming draft, DiPietro is a very athletic goaltender. He’s been strong all season and at the Memorial Cup, but as mentioned above, projecting goaltenders is voodoo. He’ll be a late first or early second-round pick and one of the first goaltenders off the board.