Scout’s Analysis: Prospects of interest at the Memorial Cup

Easton Cowan of the London Knights. (Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

The Canadian Hockey League’s national championship tournament, the Memorial Cup, is set to begin this weekend south of the border in Saginaw, Michigan. The 104th edition of the event will be hosted in an American city for the first time since it was last contested in Spokane, Washington in 1998.

This year’s tournament is loaded with previously drafted NHL prospects and some players who will be selected early at the upcoming draft in Las Vegas in June. The participants are the OHL champion London Knights, WHL champion Moose Jaw Warriors, QMJHL champion Drummondville Voltigeurs and the host Saginaw Spirit, who reached the third round of the OHL playoffs where they were eliminated by the Knights in six games.

A total of 33 previously drafted prospects will be competing in this year’s tournament, including 12 who were picked within the first two rounds. Of those, London has the most drafted players (12), followed by Saginaw (9), Moose Jaw (7) and Drummondville (5).

For the first time in Memorial Cup history, the three league champions enter the tournament coming off championship series sweeps in their respective leagues. Meantime, the QMJHL has been home to the past four Memorial Cup champions.

With the tournament set to start on Friday, here’s my advanced report on some of the top prospects of interest I will be viewing live.


Zayne Parekh, D, 6-foot, 179 pounds
Draft Eligible: 66GP-33G-63A | Playoffs: 13GP-2G-9A

Parekh is an elusive, transitional defenceman and power play quarterback. He’s arguably the most creative blueilner in the 2024 draft class.

He seems to impact the game offensively every time he hits the ice. He’s shown a willingness to take the puck to the net off the rush when he identifies an open lane, pinches down to extend plays, and regularly finds quiet ice via back door seams.

Parekh is an average-plus defender who relies on his quickness and active stick to create turnovers or keep opponents to the perimeter.

Parekh produced an incredible 96 points this season, which equaled the highest number for an OHL defender since former Windsor Spitfire, and NHL defenceman, Ryan Ellis produced 100 points in 2010-11.

Parekh is very likely to be selected in the top 10 of the 2024 NHL Draft and he could land in the top six.

NHL Projection: Potential top pairing defenceman/power play quarterback

Owen Beck, C, 6-foot, 188 pounds
Drafted 33rd overall in 2022 (Montreal): 57GP-34G-47A | Playoffs: 17GP-4G-10A

Beck is a veteran OHL forward who has now played in back-to-back Memorial Cups — Peterborough last season and now after being traded to Saginaw this season. He’s also played in the past two World Junior Championships representing Canada.

Beck is the kind of player who can be thrust into a variety of roles. He produces offence, but also brings sound three zone awareness and detail to the group.

He’s especially sound in the face-off circle. Beck won 59 per cent of his draws over the course of the past two seasons.

Beck is best described as a two-way forward who produces better than secondary offence. He matches up against top opponents, but also gives opposing coaches something to think about when matching up against his line.

NHL Projection: Middle six/second line forward


Mikael Diotte, D, 6-foot-3, 205 pounds
Free agent signing (New Jersey): 59GP-12G-30A | Playoffs: 19GP-3G-7A

Sometimes it takes a player longer than some of his peers to develop into an NHL prospect. Diotte is a prime example.

The right-shot defenceman was signed as an over-age free agent by the New Jersey Devils and is best described as a two-way defenceman who takes a great deal of pride in defending his zone and keeping opponents off the score sheet. He was named the defensive defenceman of the year in the QMJHL after posting a tidy plus-55 rating in the regular season.

Diotte is a big body who’s a capable skater with slightly above average puck skill on projection for the NHL game. His ability to close on opponents and take away time and space with this length is an asset. He also has no issues getting in the lane to block shots at even strength or the penalty-kill.

Diotte will need some seasoning in the minors to begin his pro career, but he’s a player who recognizes his strengths and limitations. His hockey sense and compete provide a solid baseline to develop from.

NHL Projection: No. 6 or recall two-way defenceman

Ethan Gauthier, D, 5-foot-11, 187 pounds
Drafted 37th overall in 2023 (Tampa Bay): 64GP-36G-35A | Playoffs: 19GP-14G-11A

Gauthier is an interesting prospect who projects to be a pro who can be deployed in a variety of roles. He produces offence without sacrificing detail defensively.

Despite his somewhat lopsided statistics that describe a player who is a shooter more than a playmaker, Gauthier sees the ice and has the vision to distribute effectively off the rush and on the power play. He has a stocky build, isn’t punishing physically but also doesn’t shy away from traffic, and has a definite nose for the net. His skating has room to go to another level before he becomes a full-time professional, but his overall hockey sense and compete are already in place along with his potentially better than secondary offensive upside at the NHL level.

NHL Projection: Middle-six forward


Matthew Savoie, F, 5-foot-10, 179 pounds
Drafted ninth overall in 2022 (Buffalo): 34GP-30G-41A | Playoffs: 19GP-10G-14A

Savoie broke camp with the Buffalo Sabres at the beginning of the season, appearing in one game before being sent back to junior. He was traded from Wenatchee to Moose Jaw shortly thereafter and quickly became comfortable in the Warriors lineup.

Savoie is a somewhat undersized, darting forward who is a massive threat to produce offence in all facets of the game. He can score at even strength, on the power-play, short-handed or 4-on-4.

Savoie plays the middle in junior, and provides reliable detail tracking up and down the full ice, but likely projects as a winger at the NHL level. His combination of quickness, skill, and compete project to a role as a top six forward.

NHL Projection: Second line forward

Denton Mateychuk, D, 5-foot-11, 192 pounds
Drafted 12th overall in 2022 (Columbus): 52GP-17G-58A | Playoffs: 20GP-11G-19A

Mateychuk is the second year captain in Moose Jaw and he leads by example. Mateychuk logs a ton of ice time in all situations, matches up against any of his opponents four lines, and has a role on the penalty-kill.

Mateychuk is a solid skater. He’s plenty quick and fast at the junior level with room to continue to evolve at the pro level in the future. He has excellent hockey sense. He’s aware in all three zones and doesn’t take unnecessary risks.

Mateychuk’s regular season and playoffs provided elite offence without defensive sacrifice. He quarterbacks the power play and is best described as a distributor who teams can’t sleep on when he sees a shooting lane open up to get pucks to the net.

NHL Projection: Top four two-way transitional defenceman and power play quarterback

Brayden Yager, C, 6-foot, 170 pounds
Drafted 14th overall in 2023 (Pittsburgh): 57GP-35G-60A | Playoffs: 20GP-11G-16A

Yager is a proven scorer at the junior level, where he’s produced 104 goals and 135 assists in 211 regular season games and 19 goals and 30 assists in 40 playoff games so far in his career.

Yager has ping-ponged between being described as a shooter and playmaker but he brings a combination of both. He’s not a heavy-set player, but he’s around the play in the battle areas and doesn’t shy away from digging in to win pucks.

Yager’s a solid skater. He can attack off the rush and slide to open space in the offensive zone effectively. Both qualities speak to his vision and hockey sense.

Yager projects as an NHL scoring forward. His primary ice time is likely to come at even strength and the power play. 

NHL Projection: Top-six forward


Easton Cowan, F, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds
Drafted 28th overall in 2023 (Toronto): 54GP-34G-62A | 18GP-10G-24A

Cowan’s game started to trend upwards in the second half of the 2023 season and he hasn’t looked back. He topped off a fantastic regular season with playoff scoring that led the entire CHL. At the end of the season, he was named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player.

Cowan can play the game a variety of ways. He has quick strike ability off the rush, works off the cycle proficiently, and has proven he can score from distance with an accurate release. He also has the hockey sense and commitment to be used in all situations. When he doesn’t have the puck, he works to regain possession for his group with his pursuit.

Cowan has the pace, skill, and compete that projects to be more than just a scoring forward at the NHL level.

NHL Projection: Top-six forward, deployed in all situations

Oliver Bonk, D, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds
Drafted 22nd overall in 2022 (Philadelphia): 60GP-24G-43A | Playoffs: 18GP-7G-9A

Bonk is the kind of defenceman who can be trusted to shut down top flight opponents and contribute offensively. He’s a complete player at the junior level and ready for the next challenge at the pro level.

Bonk is a sturdy defender who can handle weight and box out in front of his net and along the wall. He isn’t punishing physically, but he’s hard to escape in his zone. He has a consistent understanding of how to defend and he moves well.

Additionally, Bonk has one of the best shots in the entire OHL from range. He shoots the puck with authority and has proven he can score on the power play.

NHL Projection: Top pairing defenceman

Sam Dickinson, D, 6-foot-3, 199 pounds
Draft Eligible: 68GP-18G-52A | Playoffs: 18GP-4G-9A

Dickinson is one of the top ranked defencemen for the 2024 NHL Draft. He’s a player who doesn’t look like is moving quickly, but it’s due to his effortless stride. He brings a combination of size, skill, and open ice transitional pace.

Dickinson logged a ton of ice time for the London Knights in regular season play and the playoffs. He’s deployed in all situations. Despite his stature he isn’t overly physical. He’s more of a “bumper” than a “punisher”. He can be elusive walking the offensive blue line and directing pucks on net or joining the rush as an extra layer.

NHL Projection: Top pairing defenceman

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