The 97th Memorial Cup is in the books and it ended in spectacular fashion. We all know it takes a team to win such a trophy, but some individuals naturally stood out. Here's a look at the players who made the biggest impressions on me during my time in Quebec City.
Cole Cassels, C, Oshawa
His mission, as always, was to shut down the other team's most dangerous threat in the final and Cassels did just that, neutralizing Kelowna's Leon Draisaitl. The Vancouver Canucks prospect also transitioned the puck well out of his own zone and was a physical presence.
Leon Draisaitl, C, Kelowna
The tournament MVP award was probably cold comfort for the German national after losing the final, but Draisaitl was a force in Quebec City. The Edmonton Oilers prospect uses his size very well and thanks to his edge work, smarts and pinpoint shot, he was a near-constant threat to score.
Nick Merkley, RW, Kelowna
Riding shotgun with Draisaitl, the 2015 draft prospect did more than just keep up. Merkley is a fast, tenacious player who loves to control the puck. Sometimes he can hang on to it a little too long, but that's a minor quibble. Otherwise, he loves mixing it up, despite being only 5-foot-10.
Adam Erne, LW, Quebec
It was rough seeing how heartbroken Erne was after the Remparts lost in the semifinal, but he certainly left everything out on the ice. The Tampa Bay Lightning pick plays a nasty power forward game, forechecking hard and creating lots of offense thanks to his speed and shot.
Ken Appleby, G, Oshawa
As the Generals were celebrating on the ice, a fan yelled out that Appleby “shoulda been MVP!” Based on his 37-save performance in the final, it was a fair comment. The 6-foot-4 netminder has great flexibility and never gives up on a play. In his last year of draft eligibility, he will certainly draw attention.
Madison Bowey, D, Kelowna
The Washington Capitals pick has a great shot, moves the puck well and plays in all situations. His work on the penalty-kill was excellent and he was also a physical presence for the Rockets.
Rourke Chartier, C, Kelowna
Chartier took some rough hits in the final against Oshawa, but it didn't shake him off his game. Anchoring the second line after playing wing more recently, the San Jose Sharks hopeful displayed an amazing shot in the tourney, but also a knack for penalty killing.
Samuel Morin, D, Rimouski
Though the Oceanic finished fourth in the derby, Morin had a good showing. The towering 6-foot-7 blueliner obviously has great reach and he moves quite well for his size. It will be very interesting to see how quickly the Philadelphia Flyers prospect gets a shot at the big club.
Ryan Graves, D, Quebec
Like Morin, Graves is a tall drink of water at 6-foot-5 and he plays with a lot of energy. A great physical presence on the back end, Graves is an edgy D-man with some offensive upside. He's a New York Rangers pick.
Anthony Cirelli, C, Oshawa
How could I not include Cirelli, the hero of the final? The 2015 draft prospect did more than just score both goals in the final, he was also a tenacious ball of energy and had been for the entire Gens playoff run. Considering he will naturally add bulk to his six-foot, 160-pound frame, it will be interesting to see how the smart pivot progresses.