The 101st edition of the Memorial Cup presented by Kia is set to begin Friday night in Halifax when the hometown Mooseheads will host the WHL Champion Prince Albert Raiders.
The four-team field includes a mix of NHL prospects — some of whom have already been drafted, some of whom will be selected this June and a few more who aren’t eligible until 2020.
Here’s the cream of that crop.
*Denotes tie-breaker game, if necessary
10. Noah Gregor, Prince Albert Raiders
Drafted Round 4, 111th overall by San Jose in 2016
At his best in Game 7 of the WHL final, Gregor factored in on each of the Raiders’ three goals, including a brilliant assist on Dante Hannoun’s winner late in the first overtime. Gregor has bounced around the WHL as a result of perceived indifference at times. At his best, he can do everything today’s NHL game requires. He’s thick enough (6-foot, 185 pounds) to handle the heavy going, he shoots it like a pro, has excellent hands, is an above average skater and has good vision. Gregor struggles to consistently put all the tools to work, but San Jose is hoping his Game 7 performance is the epitome of what it will look like as he matures under the Sharks’ strong leadership group.
9. Justin Barron, Halifax Mooseheads
Eligible for 2020 NHL Draft
Great size (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and an amazing skater who held his own as an underager on Canada’s gold medal Hlinka-Gretzky team. Handles top-four minutes with no issue at either end of the ice. Rarely mentioned as a top 10 pick for the 2020 NHL Draft, that combination of size and strong skating ability won’t go overlooked. He resembles Rangers prospect Sean Day, but plays with more urgency, more passion and has more safety in his game.
8. Brett Leason, Prince Albert Raiders
Eligible for 2019 NHL Draft
An amazing athlete whose strength is the rawness in his game due to a lack of hockey-specific training, unlike many of his peers. A big right shot, power forward who has good hands and an excellent shot, Leason is also very adept at disrupting the breakout, stripping pucks and in the playoffs has shown a penchant for blocking shots.
7. Raphael Lavoie, Halifax Mooseheads
Eligible for 2019 NHL Draft
Will be amongst the most polarizing figures in the 2019 NHL Draft. Another big player (6-foot-4, 198 pounds) who has a lights-out shot — there really isn’t anything he can’t do. Lavoie has been particularly ornery in the playoffs, and that has made scouts stand up and pay attention. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him and is amongst the best pure snipers in this draft class, as witnessed by his 20 goals in 23 playoff games.
6. Sean Durzi, Guelph Storm
Drafted Round 2, 52nd overall by Toronto in 2018
Traded to Los Angeles Kings in Jake Muzzin deal
If he can stay healthy — and that’s been a big question mark the past couple of years — Durzi has power play quarterback written all over him. It is believed the Kings passed up an opportunity to acquire 2017 first-rounder Timothy Liljegren and asked for Durzi instead when making the Jake Muzzin trade. A right shot with excellent mobility, Durzi can get shots through. He’s a pass first guy who can skate his way out of trouble on the breakout. There’s a lot of deception to his game that makes him an effective transporter of the puck.
5. Isaac Ratcliffe, Guelph Storm
Drafted Round 2, 35th overall by Philadelphia in 2017
Another power forward type who should endear Philly fans. When he was available in Round 2 of the 2017 draft, then-GM Ron Hextall made a power move to jump up and grab him. A 50-goal scorer in the OHL this season Ratcliffe is loaded with character, plays with bite in his game and skates well enough to make defenders nervous.
4. Ian Scott, Prince Albert Raiders
Drafted Round 4, 110th overall by Toronto in 2017
Although it typically takes a long time for goalies to develop, the process has sped up immensely for the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect. Just last year he experienced a Calder Cup run with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, then he lead the Raiders on a 22-game point streak to ignite their start to this season. From that point, he made Canada’s world junior team and now he’s a league champion and playoff MVP with a chance to win the Memorial Cup. All of this has taken place over the past 11 months.
3. Nick Suzuki, Guelph Storm
Drafted Round 1, 13th overall by Vegas in 2017
Traded to Montreal Canadiens in Max Pacioretty deal
Highly coveted by Montreal, Suzuki killed it in the playoffs by leading all OHLers with 42 points in 24 games. Suzuki had points in 21 of 24 playoff games and since February 15 Suzuki has 73 points in 38 games. He has dual-threat potential as a sniper and a passer. Suzuki thinks the game well, skates well, and has good agility and possesses leadership skills. He is calm under pressure and has been at his best playing with his old minor hockey buddy, Isaac Ratcliffe.
2. Dmitri Samorukov, Guelph Storm
Drafted Round 3, 84th overall by Edmonton in 2017
While Edmonton Oilers pundits are quick to point out the play of Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and Evan Bouchard, don’t sleep on Samorukov making a push to leap-frog all three players as early as next year. The affable Russian plays a pro-style game where he defends with size, physicality and a good stick. He passes the puck like an NHL veteran and has a bomb of a shot that will work in the NHL. An all-around defenceman, Samorukov’s 28 points are the most for an OHL defenceman since Ryan Ellis had 33 with Windsor in 2010.
1. Noah Dobson, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Drafted Round 1, 12th overall by NY Islanders in 2018
I said it when he got drafted by the Islanders and I’ll say it again: Dobson will be the best defenceman to emerge from a record-breaking draft where 14 blueliners were taken in the first round. Several people connected with the QMJHL say he’s the best player in the league and a playoff MVP performance backs that up. He skates effortlessly, makes the game look easy, and once he packs on a few pounds he should be able to play top-two minutes in the NHL.
Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Halifax Mooseheads
Drafted Round 2, 54th overall by Anaheim in 2018
Might not have the high-end ability as some others in this group, but he’s likely to play in the NHL for his reliability. Groulx is a producer at the CHL level, but his calling card projects him as a solid two-way centre at the next level. He is a coach’s son and his hockey IQ reflects that. Groulx has the ability to play big and heavy, yet responsibly and is strong off the draw. His skating has already improved from his draft year and that trend will likely continue. Groulx’s game would fit perfectly into today’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.