The most prestigious tournament in junior hockey is back in a big way for 2015, as the Mastercard Memorial Cup tournament will get underway in Quebec City, QC this Friday, May 22nd. The ultimate Canadian Hockey League prize is considered the most difficult trophy in hockey to win.
The Memorial Cup tournament is unlike any other in hockey, because it is contested between three league champions and a host team. The champions from the Ontario Hockey League,Western Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League join the host for the tournament. Should the host team also win their league, the runner-up will represent that league in the tournament.
This year’s host is the Quebec Remparts, who fell to Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL Final, even though both teams had already clinched their trips to the Memorial Cup. The Oshawa Generals will represent the OHL, after they took down Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters in the OHL Final. Finally, the WHL is sending the Kelowna Rockets to Quebec.
Let’s take a look at some of these teams, and which team has the best shot at the Memorial Cup:
The Gens are an offensive juggernaut, as they boast five of the top 10 players in playoff scoring, as well as the ninth-best in scoring during the regular season in Michael Dal Colle with 42 goals.
They finished as the top team in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, with just two points less than the Western Conference’s top team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Oshawa was able to take down another offensive juggernaut in the Erie Otters on their way to the Memorial Cup, who had three of the top four in the OHL in regular season goals.
What makes the Generals so dominant is their incredible goaltending to complement their offensive weaponry. Their goalie, Ken Appleby, is statistically the OHL’s best goaltender by a long shot. He leads the league in SV% and GAA. Appleby also finished second in wins and shutouts.
Oshawa is a force to be reckoned with, and will give any team trouble.
Much like the Gens, the Rockets have been dominant all season out West. They lost three total games through four rounds of the WHL playoffs, and even swept the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL Final.
Kelowna has four of the top ten in scoring throughout the playoffs, including Edmonton Oilerstalent Leon Draisaitl, and also have one of the best offensive defensemen in the WHL in Madison Bowey, who finished fifth in the league in points during the regular season.
Their goaltender, Jackson Whistle, was third in the regular season in GAA as well. The Rockets have had an easy road; will it be any easier in the Memorial Cup tournament?
The boys from the small Eastern Quebec city of Rimouski have dominated the Q all season long. They finished atop the QMJHL standings at 99 points, and their playoff performance showed why.
Rimouski dominated Victoriaville Tigres in the first round with a sweep, beat Gatineau Olympiques in the second round by a score of 4-1, and swept the defending QMJHL champs, the Val D’or Foreurs, to reach the Final. In the Final, Oceanic won Game Seven in double overtime to take the championship.
Oceanic boasts two +90-point-getters in Alexis Loiseau and Anthony DeLuca. Once again, the common thread is goaltending. Rimouski has Philippe Desrosiers leads the Q in GAA at 2.50. In junior hockey, success starts with solid goaltending. Every team has scorers, but if you can’t stop pucks, you can’t win.
The Remparts, QMJHL runners-up and host team, have many NHL-caliber talents, including Arizona Coyotes prospect Anthony Duclair. However, Quebec isn’t exactly a flashy team. They didn’t have any players in the top ten in scoring in the regular season, finished fourth in the standings and only boasted one 90-point scorer, rookie Dmytro Timashov.
Quebec also has arguably one of the best junior goaltenders around in Zachary Fucale. He came over from Halifax Mooseheads via trade midway through this season. He won gold with Canada at World Juniors, and led the Mooseheads to their first-ever Memorial Cup in 2013. The Montreal Canadiens prospect will be hungry for a second title.
Champion Pick: Oshawa
The Gens should win it all for two reasons: they have dominated, but haven’t coasted. Oshawa has played phenomenal hockey all season, but hasn’t basically swept every series like some other teams.
With their combo of offense and goaltending, look for the Oshawa Generals to win the Memorial Cup.