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Memorial Cup: portrait of the four competing teams

RDS and RDS Direct will show all nine Memorial Cup games from June 20-29.

Who participates in the Memorial Cup? How did these teams earn the right to come to Saint John, and by whom? How many NHL prospects will have the opportunity to shine at TD Station starting tomorrow night and over the next nine days? You will find answers to these questions below.

Edmonton Oil Kings
WHL Champions

How did they get there? By going all out. To a roster that already had three first-round NHL picks at the start of the campaign – Dylan Guenther, Jake Neighbors and Sebastian Cossa – Oil Kings architect Kirt Hill has solidified the foundations of his defense by adding another selection of the first round, the prospect of the Canadian Kaiden Guhle, as well as Luke Prokop, an elected 3e round of the Nashville Predators. Florida Panthers forward Justin Sourdif was also acquired via trade. All these fine people helped the Alberta club conclude the regular season with a harvest of 104 points good for second place in the general standings, seven lengths from the Winnipeg ICE. In the playoffs, the Oil Kings brushed aside their opponents in the first two rounds, before having the last laugh on ICE in five games and winning the third WHL championship in their history at the end of a six-game fight against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Players to watch: Kaiden Guhle crowned his second career WHL championship with a playoff MVP honour, completing the playoffs with 8 goals to his name, a league-high among defensemen. Guhle and his blue line partner Luke Prokop were also uncompromising in their territory, posting plus-17 and plus-23 differentials respectively. On offense, Dylan Guenther kept the official scorers busy with 13 goals and 8 assists, rising to the top of his team’s scoring charts.

Behind the bench: The 2019-20 WHL Head Coach of the Year, Brad Lauer is in his fourth season in charge. In 2019, the man who played 323 NHL games, most of them with the New York Islanders, led the Oil Kings to the WHL semi-finals.

NHL Prospects: Kaiden Guhle (Montreal, 1st round 2020), Dylan Guenther (Arizona, 1st round 2021), Sebastian Cossa (Detroit, 1st round 2021), Jake Neighbors (St Louis, 1st round 2021), Luke Prokop (Nashville, 3rd round 2020) , Justin Sourdif (Florida, 3rd round 2020), Jakub Demek (Vegas, 4th round 2021), Jalen Luypen (Chicago, 7th round 2021).

Hamilton Bulldogs
OHL Champions

How did they get there? Unchallenged…until the OHL final. Undefeated in 22 games as they began their battle with the Windsor Spitfires for Ontario League supremacy, the Hamilton Bulldogs could only clinch the J. Ross Robertson Cup after a seventh and final game. Identified on Day 1 of the season as the favorites to represent the league in Saint John, the Bulldogs saw their status boosted during the trading period when general manager Steve Staios – yes, the former NHL player – acquired forwards Mason McTavish – the best junior player in the country according to him – and Giordano Biondi, as well as defenseman and prospect for the Canadiens Arber Xhekaj. Regular season champions, the Bulldogs were almost invincible at home (27-4-1-2) and allowed the lowest total of goals (176). In attack, despite the presence of only two of their players in the top-25 of the best scorers (Logan Morrison and Avery Hayes), the Bulldogs scored 300 goals, barely five less than the leaders, the Spitfires. Seven Hamilton players ended the year with an average of at least one point per game: Morrison, Hayes, McTavish, George Diaco, Jan Mysak (Canadian hope), Nathan Staios (yes, the GM’s son) and Ryan Winterton.

Players to watch: It is strong of a streak of 23 games with at least one point that Logan Morrison has settled down in Saint John. The forward NHL clubs have looked up to in the last two drafts has started or finished at least one Bulldogs goal in each of the 19 games the Bulldogs have played this spring , for a total of 17 goals and 39 points, as well as the title of playoff MVP. When Morrison celebrates an achievement, Avery Hayes is usually never far away. The two members of the Bulldogs’ first line finished 1st and 2nd respectivelye team scorers, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.

Behind the bench: Jay McKee, a Buffalo Sabers first-round pick who played 802 NHL games, is in his first season behind the Bulldogs bench. He moved there last July after four seasons with the Kitchener Rangers.

NHL Prospects: Mason McTavish (Anaheim, 1D round 2021), Jan Mysak (Montreal, 2e round 2020), Artem Grushnikov (Dallas, 2e round 2021), Ryan Winterton (Seattle, 3e round 2021), Chandler Romeo (Ottawa, 7e round 2021), Arber Zhekaj (Montreal, free agent), Navrin Mutter (Nashville, free agent).

*Jorian Donovan (ranked 81e best prospect among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting for the next draft).

Shawinigan Cataracts
QMJHL Champions

How did they get there? With talent, resilience and composure. General Manager Martin Mondou took the conservative approach at the latest trade deadline and you are challenged to find someone in Shawinigan to blame him today. To a core of home-bred players were added defender Loris Rafanomezantsoa and especially Pierrick Dubé, the acquisition of the year in the QMJHL, before the winter transfer window closed. After a regular season marked by injuries that relegated them to 7e rank in the general standings, the Cats began their playoff run with two successive sweeps against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Gatineau Olympiques, before dropping the first two seeds, the Quebec Remparts and the Charlottetown Islanders. Over the course of this first conquest of the President’s Cup in 53 years of history, the Mauricie franchise has signed seven victories in as many games that required overtime.

Players to watch: The two-headed monster. Mavrik Bourque and Xavier Bourgault completed their playoff run in second and fourth place in the playoff scoring standings with 25 and 22 points respectively. In the final, Bourque – voted player par excellence of the playoffs – and Bourgault responded with 5 goals and 4 assists each in five games. Also keep an eye on Pierrick Dubé, a man for special occasions. During the decisive match against the Remparts in the semi-finals, the 21-year-old forward who started the season in the ECHL with the Trois-Rivières Lions scored three goals. Then, against the Islanders, Dubé kicked off the festivities at Shawi by scoring in overtime the last goal of the 2021-2022 season for the Courteau circuit.

Behind the bench: In his eighth season behind the bench of a QMJHL team, Daniel Renaud participated in a fourth final this year. Defeated in 2012 and 2015 with the Rimouski Oceanic and the Quebec Remparts as assistant coach, the 40-year-old man saw the trophy slip away from him as boss behind the Val-d’Or Foreurs bench. last year.

NHL Prospects: Mavrik Bourque (Dallas, 1D round 2020), Xavier Bourgault (Edmonton, 1D round 2021), Olivier Nadeau (Buffalo, 4e round 2021), Martin Has (Washington, 5e round 2019).

*Angus Booth (rated 92e best prospect among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting for the next draft).

Saint John Sea Dogs
Host team

How did they get there? Through the back door. And they will have had to wait 38 days to finally cross the threshold of it. Getting stuck in the Rimouski Oceanic in the first round of the playoffs was not in the plans of the host team for the annual classic. Even less at the end of the transaction period, marked by six exchanges and the arrival of 9 new players, including defender Vincent Sévigny, goalkeepers Nikolas Hurtubise and Tomas Couture, as well as forwards Philippe Daoust, Marshall Lessard and Raivis Kristians Ansons. “We didn’t want to have any regrets,” explained general manager Trevor Georgie to colleague Nicolas Landry in January. By adding a few layers of depth to his line-up, in all positions, the DG thought he was giving his club the “best opportunity to win” after a modest first half of the season. When activities resumed, the Sea Dogs were at 9e rank in the general classification, but they began to chain successes. The last 38 games of the campaign saw first a 10-game winning streak, then another 15 which coincided with the end of the regular season. It looked promising for the Sea Dogs, 3e seeded in the spring tournament. Until the Océanic and its clever strategist Serge Beausoleil stretched their legs. Faced with an opportunistic offense and tight defense, the Sea Dogs escaped the fifth and final game of the series in overtime. Ten days later, head coach Gordie Dwyer was fired.

Players to watch: William Dufour has just experienced the season of his life. Throughout the campaign, he battled for the No. 1 spot on the league’s top scorers and scorers charts, eventually establishing himself as the ultimate sniper with 56 targets hit. With 116 points, the New York Islanders prospect narrowly conceded the title of top scorer to Joshua Roy of the Sherbrooke Phoenix, crowned with his 119 points. Forward Josh Lawrence is one of five other players in the league to reach 100 points this season.

Behind the bench: Gardiner MacDougall made tournaments one of his specialties as head coach of the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, which he led to seven Canadian National University Championship titles in 22 seasons. His qualities as a motivator, praised by many players who have shone under his guidance, also prompted the Sea Dogs to make the 62-year-old their “rental” coach for the duration of the Memorial Cup.

NHL Prospects: Yan Kuznetsov (Calgary, 2nd round 2020), Jérémie Poirier (Calgary, 3rd round 2020), William Villeneuve (Toronto, 4th round 2020), William Dufour (New York Islanders, 5th round 2020), Ryan Francis (Calgary, 5th round 2020 ), Raivis Kristians Ansons (Pittsburgh, 5th round 2020), Cam MacDonald (Tampa Bay, 5th round 2021), Philippe Daoust (Ottawa, 6th round 2020).

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