The four participants in major junior’s season-ending classic have been established and it’s a great field. Who will emerge with the trophy in Quebec City? Our prospect expert provides a rundown on each squad.
We know our four teams for the Memorial Cup now. Thanks to Oshawa’s ousting of Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters, the Generals will represent the OHL, joining Kelowna of the WHL, plus Quebec (the hosts) and Rimouski in the QMJHL. So who is favored to win it all? Ah, that’s a thorny question in a tournament that often surprises. But let’s take a look at what you should know about the four worthy squads in contention.
The host team survived a seven-game scare against Cape Breton in the first round of the ‘Q’ playoffs, then breezed through the next two rounds. The final series against Rimouski is still going on, but since Quebec is guaranteed a slot, Rimouski earns the second QMJHL bid automatically.
Five Players to Watch: Adam Erne (Tampa Bay), Anthony Duclair (Arizona), Zach Fucale (Montreal), Ryan Graves (NY Rangers), Dmytro Timashov (2015 draft)
How They’ll Win: The home crowd will be deafening for the Remparts and Quebec’s kids can deal with the pressure. Both Duclair and Fucale won gold for Canada at the world juniors in Toronto under similar circumstances already. The Remparts have a deep offense that goes beyond the dynamic Duclair-Kurt Etchegary-Erne combo.
How They’ll Lose: Goals-against have been an issue during this run. The Remparts gave up more than three goals per game against Cape Breton and surrendered four goals to Rimouski in three of the first four contests in the final.
The consensus No. 1 team in the ‘Q’ heading into the season, the Oceanic lived up to the hype and did indeed finish first overall. Rimouski then rolled through the first three rounds of the post-season, dropping just one game along the way before meeting up with a similarly loaded Quebec squad.
Five Players to Watch: Samuel Morin (Philadelphia), Frederik Gauthier (Toronto), Jan Kostalek (Winnipeg), Christopher Clapperton (Florida), Samuel Laberge (2015 draft)
How They’ll Win: The Oceanic has a veteran lineup, featuring undrafted talents Alexis Loiseau, Michael Joly and Anthony DeLuca, all high scorers. Gauthier is a big shutdown center who fronts a group of excellent faceoff men on the squad, while Kostalek and Morin are hard to deal with in the defensive end.
How They’ll Lose: Rimouski has been leaning on undrafted Louis-Philip Guindon in net instead of Dallas pick Philippe Desrosiers and so far, Guindon has played out of his mind. But what if that run ceases? He was pulled from Game 1 against Quebec, only to come back in when Desrosiers was yanked from Game 2.
The class of the WHL swept Brandon in the league final, which was surprising since the Wheat Kings were a pretty heavy outfit. But Kelowna has been one of the best teams in the CHL all season long and put together an impressive 16-3 record in the playoffs to clinch the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Five Players to Watch: Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton), Madison Bowey (Washington), Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg), Rourke Chartier (San Jose), Nick Merkley (2015 draft)
How They’ll Win: By continuing to employ the simple formula of putting pucks in the net while keeping them out. The Rockets had four shutouts in the WHL playoffs and not a lot of one-goal games. Draisaitl-Chartier-Merkley is a terrifying line up front, while Bowey and Morrissey have a wealth of experience on the back end.
How They’ll Lose: The offense has been fairly top-heavy for the Rockets and if a team can shut down Draisaitl and his running mates (let’s not forget what Oshawa did to Connor McDavid), then Kelowna could be in trouble. This is especially true if that game happens to come in the final, where there are no second chances.
The team that figured out how to contain Connor McDavid wasn’t exactly an underdog in the OHL final – the Gens had the second-best record in the league, just behind Sault Ste. Marie. But in dispatching Erie, Oshawa really caught national attention, even if opponents such as North Bay were no pushovers, either.
Five Players to Watch: Michael Dal Colle (NY Islanders), Cole Cassels (Vancouver), Hunter Smith (Calgary), Tobias Lindberg (Ottawa), Mitch Vande Sompel (2015 draft)
How They’ll Win: The Gens are fast, talented and physically punishing. They have three lines that can score and a top ‘D’ pairing of overagers Josh Brown (Florida) and Dakota Mermis who played a big hand in handling McDavid. Ken Appleby may be undrafted, but he’s a pretty good goaltender in his own right.
How They’ll Lose: Oshawa is a nasty team to play against, but when the Gens get too excited, they take a lot of penalties. And while it didn’t hurt them too much in the OHL playoffs, losing their cool at the wrong time in Quebec could rob them of glory.