The Oceanic is making the home crowd proud at the Memorial Cup so far, while the United States League held both its future and entry drafts last week. Here’s a look at the stars from those events, not to mention a bunch of players we’re excited about seeing in the NHL some day.
1. Patrice Cormier, C – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Before getting to the big Memorial Cup stage, Cormier made a name for himself at the world juniors, crashing and banging alongside Canadian linemates Evander Kane and Stefan Della Rovere. The reward? A gold medal and the chance to show off his complete range of skills.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be there to score 10 or 12 goals,” Cormier said. “But against the U.S. we played against James van Riemsdyk, Colin Wilson and Jordan Schroeder and that was a big challenge. It was good getting our crowd going and getting our bench going.”
Playing with and against elite talent also showed Cormier just how good he could be.
“Being part of that tournament and winning the gold was a great opportunity for me,” he said. “Just seeing at a higher level how things work.”
Now he’s back in the spotlight at the Memorial Cup, although Cormier admits he and his teammates would have preferred to score the Quebec League championship instead of losing to Drummondville in the semifinal.
“All year we didn’t want to think about it,” he noted. “When we lost, we took it pretty hard. We wanted to go to the end.”
Ironically, the Oceanic gets another crack – actually, two cracks – at Drummondville in the Memorial Cup. And this time, Rimouski will have a definite home-ice advantage. Drafted 54th overall by New Jersey in 2008.
2. Tyler Myers, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): The “project” pick from last year’s draft has quickly become The Weapon poised to rock the Buffalo Sabres blueline next season. Myers, at 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, looks like a condor out on the ice, moving the puck with authority and great quickness for a big man. He’s already shown his offensive capabilities at the Mem Cup, too. Drafted 12th overall by Buffalo in 2008.
3. Yannick Riendeau, RW – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): The 20-year-old has been putting up massive numbers (126 points to lead the ‘Q’) all season long and his four points in two games has paced the Volts in the Mem Cup. Riendeau has already played pro in France and is now hooked up with the Bruins. Signed as a free agent by Boston in 2009.
4. Jamie Benn, LW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): What else needs to be said at this point? Benn dropped four goals on Drummondville to guarantee the Rockets a spot in the Mem Cup final. This kid is ready for his NHL shot next year and his eight points in two games by far leads all tourney scorers. Drafted 129th overall by Dallas in 2007.
5. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): Bourdon continues to quiet his critics with his Cup performance and was especially effective in the thrilling win over Windsor. Along with three assists in the game, he leveled Taylor Hall and poked the potential game-tying goal out of an open crease late in the third. Drafted 67th overall by Philadelphia in 2008.
6. Matt Mahalak, G – Culver Military Academy Eagles (prep): Every team needs goaltending, so with the first pick in the USHL futures draft, the new Youngstown Phantoms drafted Mahalak, a cool customer with a great technical game. The Phantoms will have competition for his services, however; Matt’s brother R.J. plays for OHL Plymouth and guess who the Whalers took in the draft this year? Draft eligible in 2011.
7. Andrei Loktionov, C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL): It’s been a tough go for the Spits at the Mem Cup, but at least Loktionov looked dangerous in the tight loss to Rimouski. The skilled Russian import had two goals in the game and was close to a third. Drafted 123rd overall by Los Angeles in 2008.
8. Erik Haula, LW – Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (prep): Taken by Omaha in the USHL entry draft, Haula is amped about playing NCAA hockey in 2010-11, so the Lancers will likely get a good year of service from the Finn in the meantime. Highly skilled, Haula is honing a North American-style game right now. Draft eligible in 2009.
9. Alex Vazzano, G – The Gunnery Highlanders (prep): Now property of the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks, Vazzano made a jump up to sixth from ninth on Central Scouting’s North American goalie rankings in the latter half of the year, ending his Connecticut high school season with a 2.19 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. Vazzano is looking to play for Union in 2010-11. Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Brandon Saad, RW – Mahoning Valley Phantoms (NAHL): It seems strange the Youngstown Phantoms would have to draft a player coming over from the team it was spawned from (the Phantoms franchise is essentially moving from the NAHL to USHL and from Mahoning Valley to Youngstown), but why risk losing the services of Saad? The youngster was a revelation this season, scoring 47 points in 47 games and dominating with his big frame. Draft eligible in 2011.
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