Prospect Ramblings: Prospects to Watch at the 2016 Memorial Cup

Peter Harling

2016-05-16

2016 Mem Cup

The Memorial Cup begins on Friday May 20 and the quest for the hardest trophy in all of sports begins. The final four teams include the Host Red Deer Rebels and the WHL Champions Brandon Wheat Kings. They are joined by the QMJHL Champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the OHL Champions London Knights.  The Memorial Cup is some outstanding hockey and offers some prime scouting viewings for fantasy hockey.  All games will be broadcast on Sportsnet

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CHL?src=hash">#CHL</a> announces Final Schedule and Game Times for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MCMemorialCup?src=hash">#MCMemorialCup</a> beginning May 20.<br><br>DETAILS: <a href="https://t.co/dP4sdgGrxA">https://t.co/dP4sdgGrxA</a> <a href="https://t.co/D3vUvcIrVb">pic.twitter.com/D3vUvcIrVb</a></p>&mdash; CanadianHockeyLeague (@CHLHockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/CHLHockey/status/732304721675849728">May 16, 2016</a></blockquote>

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The Host team is often the underdog in this tournament, but don’t overlook Red Deer. The Rebels boast several NHL drafted prospects starting with Haydn Fleury who was Carolina’s first round pick (seventh overall) in 2014 as the most prominent player. Fleury had nine points in the playoffs and five in the Brandon Series. Connor Bleackley is another interesting player from Red Deer. He is a Colorado Avalanche first round pick and was part of the trade that sent Mikkel Boedker to Colorado. The belief is that the Coyotes acquired Bleackley who if remains unsigned will re-enter the draft and Arizona will be compensated with a second round pick. Bleackley suffered a wrist injury in March and is likely to miss the tournament. Red Deer also added Boston Bruins prospect Jake Debrusk via trade. Debrusk was taken 14th overall in the 2015 draft and will be counted on to provide some offense. One prospect to watch will be St. Louis Blues 2015 fourth round pick Adam Musil. I recently spoke to the Blues Director of Player Personnel Tim Taylor and asked who some of their better but lesser known prospects are and his answer was Musil. He compared his game to the Blues Captain David Backes which is high praise. There are few 2016 NHL Draft eligible players on Red Deer but defenceman Josh Mahura is one to watch. Mahura is playing his way up the draft rankings and was invited to the scouting combine in Toronto. He is likely a third round candidate.

Staying in the West, the Brandon Wheat Kings will be a force to be reckoned with. The player I am most excited to watch is a 2017 draft eligible prospect in Nolan Patrick. Patrick is a 6-3 195 pound center who is a late birthday and missed this year’s draft by four days. Had he been bore a week earlier he would be a top five ranked player in this year’s draft. He is the early favorite to be the first overall pick in 2017. Patrick is the WHL playoff leading scorer with 13 goals and 30 points in 21 games. The Wheaties do have a player in this year’s draft class who is a projected potential first round pick in offensive defenceman Kale Clague. Clague has been developing steadily all year and his draft rank has improved as well. His offence continues to improve and he finished with one more point in playoff scoring the teammate and Philadelphia Flyers top prospect Ivan Provorov. Provorov will likely make the jump to the NHL next season as he is a complete player. His partner is the overaged Macoy Erkamps and the duo are one of the more formidable top pairings in the CHL. Up front the Wheat Kings boast a pair of NHL top prospects in Florida Panthers Jayce Hawryluk and New Jersey Devils John Quenneville

Mitch Marner - Photo Courtesy of media.zuza.comThe OHL Champion London Knights simply dominated the OHL playoffs with a 16-2 record with both losses coming in the first round before going on to sweep considerable competition in the Erie Otters, Kitchener Rangers, and Niagara Ice Dogs. The Knights are loaded with 2016 draft eligible talent including first round prospects Matthew Tkachuk, Max Jones, and Olli Juolevi. But it doesn’t stop there as three prospects worth watching who are quietly just outside first round consideration but may break through with a strong Memorial Cup performance are center Cliff Pu, defenceman Victor Mete and goalie Tyler Parsons. That is six players who will all be picked within the first two to three rounds and all have tremendous fantasy hockey upside.  The Knights are led offensively by their top line of Mitch Marner (Toronto) Christian Dvorak (Arizona), and Tkachuk. Marner set the pace with an eye-popping stat line of 44 points in 18 games. Imagine how many points he could have scored if they played more than 18 games! Of course the big debate with Marner is will he graduate to the NHL or return to junior next season as he is not eligible for the AHL. This tournament will have some weight in the decision and his ability to add strength and bulk up in the summer will be even more important. I suspect the Leafs will choose to send Marner back to London where he will dominate with a power house Knights, compete in the World Juniors and swell his confidence as opposed to playing him sparingly in the NHL where he takes a physical pounding on a losing team and sees his confidence possibly falter. Craig Button said the NHL ruins more good young players than it creates. Another NHL prospect on the Knights that is very relatively unknown is Toronto Maple Leafs JJ Piccinich. The New Jersey native is buried on the Knights but makes the most of the ice time he receives. He plays a solid two-way game and is a high energy player. He wins board battles, has great speed and a better than average shot. He should find his way to the Marlies next year and make his pro debut.

Finally the Quebec Champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies will be a formidable opponent in their own right. Two breakout Timo Meier - Photo Courtesy of theqnews.netperformances that have gone quietly under the radar are Ottawa Senators seventh round pick Francis Perron and Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Phillipe Myers. Perron is looking like an absolute steal from the seventh round and he was the QMJHL playoff scoring leader with 33 points in 18 games. Perron is finishing his junior career and recently signed his ELC with the Sens. He will make his pro debut next season and join the Binghamton Senators in the AHL. Myers went undrafted but was invited to the Flyers rookie camp. The Flyers recognized that Myers is the real deal and signed him to a contract. At 6-4 he has NHL size, he skates well and has a bomb of a shot that he unleashes on the power play. The Flyers have an embarrassment of riches in defence prospects and will have two go head-to-head at the Memorial Cup in Myers and Provorov. The Huskies have been without the services of Bruins second round pick in 2015 in Jeremy Lauzon but he should be ready to make his return in the tournament. Lauzon had an outstanding season posting 10 goals and 50 points in 46 games. The Huskies made a huge trade deadline acquisition acquiring Timo Meier from the Halifax Mooseheads. Meier who was the San Jose Sharks ninth overall selection in the 2015 draft brings plenty of big game experience as including the Memorial Cup. Two lesser known prospects on the Huskies making plenty of noise are AJ Greer and Martins Dzierkals. Greer is a 2015 second round pick of the Colorado Avalanche who was drafted out of the NCAA. After 18 games at Boston U. this year Greer joined the Huskies. Since the transition his game has continually improved. In his draft year at Boston Greer posted seven points in 37 games. Very underwhelming, but he has good size and skates well. Since joining the Huskies he has 27 points in the final 33 regular season games and another 22 in 20 post season games. Dzierkals was one of the Leafs third round picks in 2015 and he is yet another undersized and highly skilled winger in the Leafs prospect pool. Dzierkals put up 67 points in 59 games this season and had four in five games for Latvia at the World Juniors. In the post season he has another 17 in 20 games giving the Huskies a potent offence.

It promises to be a very entertaining tournament loaded with elite prospects, enjoy.

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