One of the most vexing problems regarding the Memorial Cup is that the host teams haven't been earning their spots lately. London, Shawinigan and Saskatoon all "backed in" to the CHL classic after bombing out early in their respective league playoffs.
So here's a shout-out to the Quebec League, which already has its two bids sewn up this year thanks to a couple of elite teams who did what they were supposed to do.
The Quebec Remparts are hosting the festivities this spring and even though the squad had a harrowing first round against a very dangerous Cape Breton squad, the Remparts came out on top. Since then, they've steamrolled the competition by sweeping aside both Charlottetown and Moncton.
Rimouski was my pre-season pick to rule the 'Q' and sure enough, the Oceanic came as advertised. The potent clan has lost just one game so far in the post-season, casting aside Victoriaville, Gatineau and Val-d'Or into a wake worthy of the team's boat-shark logo. Because Quebec made the final, Rimouski is already guaranteed the league's second slot at the Memorial Cup just by making it past the QMJHL semifinal.
So half the Memorial Cup field is now set. But first, Quebec and Rimouski will fight for the league championship and it should be a dandy. The Remparts are led in net by Montreal Canadiens prospect Zach Fucale, who has upped his game since coming in for draft-eligible Callum Booth during the first round. Meanwhile, Rimouski has received outstanding goaltending from little-known veteran Louis-Philip Guindon, who once attended camp with the Washington Capitals.
The Oceanic have been stingy overall thanks to a defense led by Flyers first-rounder Samuel Morin and Winnipeg pick Jan Kostalek, while scoring has not been an issue thanks to veterans Alexis Loiseau, Anthony DeLuca and Christopher Clapperton (Florida).
In Quebec, the Remparts counter with Tampa Bay second-rounder Adam Erne and Arizona prospect Anthony Duclair up front, not to mention high-scoring rookie import Dmytro Timashov. On the back end, Quebec has Memorial Cup veterans Ryan Graves (New York Rangers) and Matt Murphy, who played at the showdown as members of Val-d'Or and Halifax, respectively.
With no Cinderellas left in the Ontario or Western League playoffs, it's shaping up to be quite the showdown in Quebec City. The Remparts and Oceanic have punched their tickets, now who will join them?