With a fantastic Stanley Cup playoff tourney still blazing away, it can be hard for a hockey fan to catch everything going on in the sport right now. But for those with quick remote control thumbs or PVRs, do yourself a favor and catch the rest of the Memorial Cup while you still have a chance.
Major junior’s crowning glory has been just as tense as its NHL counterpart so far, with every game being decided by no more than two goals, save Kelowna’s first-day 4-1 victory over Rimouski. And in the Oceanic’s defense, the host team hadn’t played a real game in weeks at that point.
Two games have gone into white-knuckle overtime sessions and each has served up a new hero on a different team. Not only that, but the talent being showcased this year is an embarrassment of riches, made more interesting by the age range.
For those who want a glimpse of the future, there is Windsor’s Taylor Hall, a Pavel Bure-type center touted as the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Hall pulled off an amazingly creative and brash move in the Spitfires’ tiebreaker win over Rimouski when, during a 1-on-1 break, he flipped the puck up to his own hand and set it down on the other side of the defenseman. Hall didn’t score on the play, but the confidence was awesome to see.
Two 2009 draft eligible defensemen have also shown what they can do on the big stage.
While Canadian fans will remember Ryan Ellis from the world juniors, the offensive blueliner is once again showing his magic with the puck, controlling power plays for Windsor and displaying a Zen-like patience in the process. Wearing a different sweater, Drummondville’s Dmitry Kulikov has demonstrated why he will get looks in the top 10 this summer, logging major minutes for the Voltigeurs and sacrificing his body to make plays.
Another Volt, right winger Gabriel Dumont, has certainly helped his draft standing in the tourney. The feisty 5-foot-10, 180-pounder was incredible in a penalty-killing role in the team’s crucial win over Rimouski and scored the overtime winner in that game just for good measure.
Moving up a year, there will be several NHL teams pleased with their prospects’ showings at the Mem Cup.
Dallas clearly has a gem in Kelowna’s Jamie Benn, while teammate Tyler Myers has been a 6-foot-7 revelation. Considering Buffalo took a bit of a chance on the raw prospect last year, the Sabres are looking like geniuses right now.
Toronto will be happy with Dale Mitchell’s play for Windsor, while Anaheim can lay claim to the best goalie in the tournament, in Drummondville’s Marco Cousineau. Again, Rimouski was the victim of Cousineau’s best showing as the 2008 third-rounder stoned the Oceanic through a frenetic first period, enabling the Volts to creep back into the contest once the deluge receded.
And speaking of the home team, words cannot do justice to Rimouski – both the team and the city. The townsfolk have been raucous all tournament long and from speaking with past and present Oceanic players, I know this is not a rare occurrence. On the ice, the Oceanic got dominant physical play from Philadelphia pick Marc-Andre Bourdon on defense, plus electrifying offense from the dynamic pairing of forwards Luca Cunti and Keven Veilleux.
Cunti, a Swiss-born Tampa Bay selection, and Veilleux, 6-foot-5 and headed to Pittsburgh in the near future, were terrifying if your team was playing Rimouski and amazing if you were pulling for them.
There will be no Memorial Cup for the Oceanic this year after losing the tiebreaker to Windsor, but the team certainly did the town proud. And if you can’t get enough great hockey this weekend, it’s never too late to join in on the fun.
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PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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