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Joey Kenward: Memorial Cup preview

The winners of the WHL, the OHL, and the QMJHL join the host St. Michael’s Majors for a week-long tournament to see who will be crowned champions of the CHL.

Tuesday, 17.05.2011 / 11:46 AM / Features
By Joey Kenward

The 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament is about to get underway in Mississauga, Ontario.

The winners of the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League join the host St. Michael’s Majors for a week-long tournament to see who will be crowned champions of the Canadian Hockey League.

More from KENWARD

Joey Kenward is into his third season as the Canucks broadcaster/reporter for the Team 1040.

Follow Joey on Twitter: @kenwardskorner

It is a great opportunity for those players who are eligible for the upcoming NHL entry draft to showcase their talents. Current Canucks Roberto Luongo and Manny Malhotra both played against each other in the 1998 Memorial Cup. While neither won the title, both went on to become 1st round NHL draft picks that year.

It is also a great chance for Canucks scouts and those from other clubs to see players who might not be ranked by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service. It’s at a tournament like this where a player can see his stock rise dramatically, or on the flip side, slip the other way.

Here is a look at the teams involved in this year’s tournament as well as some of the players who might be on the radar for the upcoming entry draft next month in St. Paul, Minnesota.

SAINT JOHN SEA DOGS

Rated #1 in the Canadian Hockey League for much of the season, the Dogs are considered by many to be heavy favourites to win this year’s major junior title. They didn’t lose a single home game in regulation during the regular season, a big reason why they posted a record of 58-7-1-2. They defeated the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL finals to cap off a playoff run of 16-3.

The lone Canucks prospect in the tournament is Sea Dogs forward Steven Anthony, drafted in the 7th round in 2009. After a good start to his playoffs with five goals and seven assists in 14 games, Anthony suffered a lower body injury. He is expected to be back in the Saint John line-up at some point during the tournament. The Dogs have some highly touted NHL draft prospects that very well could be first round picks this summer.

Who the scouts are watching?

Jonathan Huberdeau
Left Centre 6’1” 170 lbs.

The highest NHL draft eligible prospect from the QMJHL this year, Huberdeau led his team in playoff scoring with 16 goals and 14 assists. Not bad numbers at all, when you consider he entered the post season off a sophomore campaign that saw him score 43 goals and 62 assists. He’s ranked 3rd overall among North American skaters.

Nathan Beaulieu
Left Defense 6’2” 175 lbs.

One of the highest rated defensemen up for this year’s draft, Beaulieu is one of the premier blue liners at this year’s tournament. The 18 year-old has had 12 goals and 33 assists in each of his last two seasons with the Sea Dogs. His +44 rating this year contributed to him being ranked 5th overall by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service.

Zack Phillips
Right Centre 6’1” 178 lbs.

With 38 goals and 57 assists during his second season with Saint John, Phillips is rated 15th overall among North American skaters. A skilled, play-making centre, Phillips had nine goals and 15 assists in the playoffs before getting hurt. If he returns from injury, the Sea Dogs become that much more difficult a team to play against.

Thomas Jurco
Right Wing 6’2” 187 lbs.

Ranked 20th overall by those playing in North America, the Slovakia-born forward has been a solid depth performer for the Dogs. With 31 goals, 25 assists, and a +46 rating, it made him a very reliable player during the season. He didn’t let up in the playoffs either, averaging nearly a point per game for the QMJHL champions.

KOOTENAY ICE

Appearing in their third Memorial Cup tournament, the squad from Cranbrook, B.C. returns to the national event for the first time since winning it in 2002. A regular season record of 46-21-1-4 was good enough for fourth place in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. Their playoff seeding didn’t affect them one bit, as Kootenay went 16-3, eliminating some of the highest scoring teams in the league along the way. In fact, two of their three losses came in the first three games of the playoffs. While there are no sure-fire first round picks in their line-up, there are a handful of Ice players who could attract plenty of attention by NHL on-lookers.

Who the scouts are watching?

Nathan Lieuwen
Goalie 6’5” 191 lbs.

Named the MVP of the WHL Playoffs, the big netminder from Abbotsford, B.C. cruised through the playoffs with a sparkling 2.24 goals against average and .923 save percentage. He lost two playoff games in regulation after a career best regular season record of 33-16-1-3. Concussion problems the past few years had scouts shy away from Lieuwen on draft day. They won’t pass on the 19 year-old this time around.

Joe Antilla
Left Wing 6’1” 220 lbs.

Never drafted, the 19 year-old two-way forward has scored big goals at big times over the years for the Ice. Hailing from Maderia Park, B.C. on the heart of the Sunshine Coast, Antilla netted two of his nine playoff goals this year in overtime. He is coming off a season where he established career highs in goals (21), points (40), and plus-minus (+33).

Jesse Ismond
Left Wing 5’11” 182 lbs.

Another player passed over the draft the past few years, Ismond capped of the WHL final as the league’s player of the week with three goals and four assists in his last three playoff games. Strong and reliable in all three zones, he may the most antagonistic player in the entire tournament.

Jagger Dirk
Left Defence 6’0” 180 lbs.

Ranked 188th among North American skaters, Dirk’s style of play doesn’t jump out at you most nights. That’s never a bad thing for a stay-at-home defenseman from Penticton, B.C., who collected 20 points and +19 rating in his second season with the Ice. Jagger is the son of former Canucks defenseman Robert Dirk.

OWEN SOUND ATTACK

The Attack enters this year’s tournament after one of their most successful seasons in franchise history. Capturing the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference title with a record of 46-17-1-4, Owen Sound was solid in all areas of their play. Losing just three times in the first three rounds of the playoffs against the London Knights, Plymouth Whalers, and the reigning national champion Windsor Spitfires, the Attack automatically qualified for the Memorial Cup by facing Mississauga in the OHL final. Not satisfied with just qualifying, Owen Sound went on to win the league title in a dramatic Game 7 overtime finale.

Who are the scouts watching?

Andrew Fristch
Right Wing 6’0” 187 lbs.

Rated 84th overall by Central Scouting in their final rankings of North American skaters, Fristch had a decent sophomore season in the OHL. After an early season trade from the Niagra Ice Dogs, Fristch tallied 28 goals and 35 assists in 60 games.

Jordan Binnington
Goalie 6’1” 156 lbs.

Binnington is the highest ranked puck-stopper in this year’s tournament. Rated 3rd overall among North American goalies, Jordan went 27-12-1-4 during the season. Even though he appeared in just seven playoff games, he was the winning goalie in the Game 7 OHL overtime thriller against Mississauga.

Keevin Cutting
Left Defence 6’1” 180 lbs.

Ranked 87th among North American skaters for the upcoming draft, Cutting has more than 200 OHL regular season and playoff games under his belt. After a being a combined -32 in his first two years with the Attack, Cutting responded in a big way in his draft year, going +23 to compliment 16 points from the blue line.

Andrew Shaw
Right Centre 5’11” 180 lbs.

Passed by in previous drafts, Shaw is coming off a break-out year offensively. The 19 year-old posted 22 goals and 32 assists in 66 games. He also had a team-high 135 PIM. His playoff performance this year has turned some heads as well, with ten goals, 17 points, and 53 PIM in 20 games.

MISSISSAUGA ST. MICHAEL'S MAJORS

As tournament hosts, the Majors loaded up this year in hopes of being a worthy contender for the national title. They didn’t disappoint, finishing atop the OHL in the regular season at 53-13-0-2. Mississauga was the highest scoring team in the league while at the same time allowing the fewest goals against. After going 12-1 through their first three rounds of the playoffs, they were on the wrong end of an overtime finish in Game 7 against the Owen Sound Attack. Blessed with experience and youth, the St. Mike’s Majors will garnish plenty of attention from NHL scouts this month.

Who are the scouts watching?

Stuart Percy
Left Defence 6’0” 186 lbs.

One of the top draft eligible defensemen at this year’s Memorial Cup tournament, Percy is ranked 53rd among North American skaters. 2nd overall on his club in plus-minus this year (+50), Percy tallied four goals and 29 assists from the blue line. He’s also appeared in 36 playoff games the last two years, making him a valuable asset in this event for the host team.

Joseph Cramarossa
Left Centre 6’0” 188 lbs.

His late birthday makes this 18 year-old draft eligible for the first time. In 59 games in his sophomore season with the Mike’s, he collected 12 goals and 20 assists to go along with 101 penalty minutes. He’s rated 63rd overall by Central Scouting among North American skaters.

Dylan Demelo
Right Defence 6’0” 196 lbs.

Ranked 121st among North American skaters, he’s not a huge threat to score from the point as he put up just three goals to go along with 24 assists. His biggest attribute is his reliability in his own end of the rink, as proven by his +31 rating during the season.

Jordan Mayer
Right Centre 5’10” 175 lbs.

Capping off his third full season of OHL hockey, he put up nine goals and nine assists in the playoffs. After collecting 31 goals and 19 assists last season, his production fell off as a 19 year-old, where he had 19 goals and 19 helpers. He finished the season with eight power play goals.