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Future Watch: Nine teams making a big push to win the Memorial Cup in 2020

With the CHL trade deadline over and done with, which teams look like favorites for the Memorial Cup going forward? We broke down nine of the best contenders with the playoffs in view.
Luke Durda/OHL Images

Luke Durda/OHL Images

The CHL’s trade period closed on January 10th, with some of major junior’s biggest stars swapping places around the three leagues. The rosters are now set for the remainder of the campaign and each club’s chances at the Memorial Cup lie within their current personnel. To that end, we decided to take a look at what teams are making a push to win Canadian junior hockey’s ultimate prize, ranked in no particular order:

OHL

Peterborough Petes, OHL (Notable additions: Akil Thomas, Jack York)
The Petes are looking for their first appearance in the Memorial Cup Tournament since 2006, and adding World Junior Championship hero and Los Angeles Kings prospect Akil Thomas will help that. The club already had veteran Zach Gallant, sniper Nick Robertson and assist machine Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, both affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once Liam Kirk returns from injury, the Petes won’t have an issue finding the net again. With an elite goalie in Minnesota Wild second-round pick Hunter Jones and a defensive core lead by point-per-game star Declan Chisholm, the Petes have a chance to go the distance.

Sudbury Wolves, OHL (Notable Additions: Brad Chenier, Matej Pekar)
Quinton Byfield, the consensus No. 2 prospect for this year’s NHL draft, is looking to make the most of what will be his last year in junior hockey. Byfield owns the ability to take over a game at will and the additions of Brad Chenier and Buffalo Sabres prospect Matej Pekar will help supplement the offense. Both additions are good for a point-per-game, adding to a group that also has David Levin and Blake Murray putting up big numbers. Veteran leadership is not in short supply as they take a run at their first OHL championship, but do they have the goaltending to win it all?

Ottawa 67s, OHL (Notable Additions: Daylon Groulx)
The Barber Poles took a minimalistic approach to this year’s deadline – but in the wake of a 17-game winning streak, the OHL standings leaders didn’t need much, especially in the way of offense. Austrian-import Marco Rossi has dominated the OHL scoring race, dramatically increasing his stock heading to the draft. Having Jack Quinn emerge as a lethal scoring machine helps too. Unofficial captain Noel Hoefenmayer is on pace to break 80-points – something that’s only been done three times by a defenseman in the “O” since the turn of the millennium. Disappointment in last year’s OHL final will propel this team forward this spring thanks to good depth at every position.

QMJHL

Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL (Notable Additions: Nicolas Guay, Justin Bergeron, Creed Jones)
Alexis Lafreniere. Not much more needs to be said. The MVP of this year’s World Junior Tournament in the Czech Republic has been cementing his destiny to be the first to walk across the stage at the draft in his hometown this summer. It doesn’t hurt that he’s found quite the au pair in overager Cedric Pare. The duo leads the Q in scoring with a combined 142 points through the team’s first 43 games of the season. Young 17-year-old Isaac Beliveau has been a fiend on the power play and leads all defensemen with 43 points. Sidney Crosby’s old club looks for their first appearance in the tournament since 2015 and already appear to be favorites to win the event for the second time.

Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL (Notable Additions: Charles-Antoine Roy, Samuel Bolduc)
The Phoenix are going all-in on this postseason. Former NHL goalie and current GM Jocelyn Thibault traded two first-round picks, using one to acquire New York Islanders’ second-rounder Samuel Bolduc. Bolduc made an immediate impact, recording seven points in his first eight games with the team. A return from captain and Pittsburgh Penguins first-rounder Samuel Poulin will provide a healthy bump. Goalie tandem Samuel Hlavaj and Thomas Sigouin have played out of their minds with .925 and .913 save-percentages, respectively, between 43 starts. The nine-year-old franchise’s depth will be key if they win.

Chicoutimi Sagueneens, QMJHL (Notable Additions: Raphael Lavoie, Felix Bibeau, Dawson Mercer)
Chicoutimi is all in on a push for the Cup this season. Since December 11th, coach and GM Yanick Jean have been among the busiest in the CHL with 12 trades involving 12 players and 32 draft picks. Headline acquisitions include two members of Canada’s World Junior squad, Raphael Lavoie and Dawson Mercer. Lavoie is one of six current-NHL draft picks on the roster, Mercer will find his NHL home this June. This storied franchise hasn’t made the tournament in 23 years, but its new faces could put them over the edge.

WHL

Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (Notable Additions: Beck Warm, Samuel Stewart)
The Oil Kings have been at the top of the standings for most of the season. They recovered well after their top-three scorers from the 2018-19 campaign aged out of the league. 2018 WHL first-overall pick Dylan Guenther will be someone to keep an eye out for in the 2021 NHL Draft after already scoring at a point-per-game clip before his 17th birthday. Riley Sawchuk has been strong taking over top-line center duties in his first season with the club, leading in scoring. Oil Kings fans are eager for a title: their last championship was 2014, back when Griffin Reinhart was captain.

Kamloops Blazers, WHL (Notable Additions: Libor Zabransky)
The ‘Loops boast two of the top four scorers in the W – while diminutive in stature, Zane Franklin and Orrin Centazzo have been dynamic this season. Forward Connor Zary has built a solid case to go in the first round in June after already besting his career-high in goals with 28. The Blazers main acquisitions happened in the first month of the season, bringing in overagers Max Martin and Ryan Hughes to help lead this very young team from defense and forward, respectively, and only added depth pieces at the deadline. Veteran leadership could be the difference-maker.

Portland Winterhawks, WHL (Notable Additions: None)
The Winterhawks are riding a 19-game point streak, having not lost in regulation since November 30th – and decided what they started with is all they need to go the distance. Winnipeg-born Seth Jarvis is making his way towards being a top pick at the draft. Panthers’ Johnny Ludvig will contend for the lead in points by a blueliner and the league lead in plus-minus. But the MVP of this team has been Joel Hofer, Canada’s starting goalie at the WJC. The 6-foot-5 St. Louis Blues prospect won 22 of his first 30 starts and held a .932 save percentage throughout that time. He has the capability to steal a game on his own and already proved he can handle big-game situations.

Honourable Mentions

Oshawa Generals, OHL (Notable Additions: Philip Tomasino, Jordan Kooy)
Gearing up to a hosting bid for next season, savvy GM Roger Hunt added Predators first-rounder Philip Tomasino for nine draft picks – with 10 points in his first three games, the investment has been worth it so far. The young, fast-paced team could surprise.

Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL (Notable Additions: Shawn Element, Tyler Hinam)
Gargantuan Egor Sokolov was passed over at last year’s NHL draft, but as he sits third in league scoring don’t expect that to be the case this summer. Sokolov and goalie Kevin Mandolese have been solid.

Kelowna Rockets, WHL (Notable Additions: Conner McDonald, Matthew Wedman, Jonas Peterek)
The Rockets have an automatic buy into the tournament for hosting, so even though they’ve spent most of the season in the bottom half of the standings, definitely don’t count them out. Captain Nolan Foote gained valuable experience playing in big games with Canada in Ostrava over the holidays.

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