With the conclusion of the Memorial Cup the junior hockey season has officially ended, and now all eyes shift towards the NHL Scouting Combine and the NHL draft.
Congratulations to the host team the Windsor Spitfires on winning their third Memorial Cup title, and full value for their win beating three league champions including the favorite Erie Otters two times.
The Spits looked like they belonged despite their first round loss to defending Memorial Cup Champs, the London Knights. Here are some take aways from the Windsor team;
2017 Draft Eligible prospects Gabriel Vilardi and Michael DiPietro were outstanding in a predominantly older tournament. Vilardi played a key role offensively for Windsor posting seven assists in four games. He showed his strength on the puck down low and in the corners, and has a heavy stick. It is very difficult to separate him from the puck and he holds on and holds on working the cycle until his playmaking vision spots an open man. His skating has improved since his rookie year and he is a sure fire top ten pick in the upcoming draft and should have a nice NHL career.
The best goalie in the tournament was DiPietro, and it was not even close. He led the tournament in GAA with 2.0 and save percentage at 0.932%. There is some debate as to who the top goalie in the draft class is this year, some say Jake Oettinger but it remains to be seen. Based on his performance in a high stakes win or die game, he looked great and the team that drafts him could have a future franchise starting goalie. DiPietro was named the Most Outstanding Goalie, allowing only eight goals the entire tournament.
The Toronto Maple Leafs recently signed their prospect Jeremy Bracco to his ELC and he has had a tremendous season. He started the season on a 26 game point streak before heading to the World Junior and winning the Gold with team USA. After being traded to Windsor in the new year his scoring slowed down, he scored 51 points in 27 games in Kitchener and only 32 points in 30 games in Windsor. That is still a point per game pace, and he led the team in scoring at the Mem Cup with eight points. The 20-year-old has aged out of junior and will likely play in Toronto next year for the Marlies in the AHL. After some pro seasoning he should make the jump and be a fantasy relevant winger. He could be a power play specialist, his passing vision is outstanding and his puck handling skills are also excellent. He is able to hold possession of the puck for extended periods of time using his skating and agility going heel-to-heel to create time and space and find open lanes, as he did to set up the Memorial Cup winning goal.
Mikhail Sergachev started the year in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens before being returned to Windsor. In the rookie camp with Montreal he was dominant but after returning to junior he seemed to be suffering from NHLitis as he was not dominating like he should have. He still finished the year with a strong 43 points in 50 games and led the Russian defense at the World Junior as well. In four games at the Mem Cup he posted a goal and three assists. Sergachev still has a year of junior eligibility but he could win a spot on the Montreal blue line to start next year and move off your prospect bench onto your active fantasy roster.
Another Montreal prospect on Windsor was Co-captain Jeremiah Addison who scored five goals in four games. Addison is seventh round pick from the 2015 draft and was an over age player who will likely play in the AHL for Laval next year. It`s hard not to like Addison as he is always smiling and kind of reminds me of Jarome Iginla that way, he may be a bit of a long shot, but at only 8% owned on Fantrax, maybe put him on your watch list and monitor if he can produce at the pro level.
Other notable NHL drafted prospects that played well for Windsor included Logan Brown of the Ottawa Senators, the smooth skating Sean Day, and Chicago Blackhawks winger Graham Knott. Defensive defenceman Jalen Chatfield who is also an overage player was signed to an ELC by the Vancouver Canucks. Brown and Day both are probable to return to junior next year but Knott and Chatfield have both aged out and are poised to play in the AHL.
The Erie Otters were Memorial Cup favorites by a thin margin in my opinion and came up one goal short in a tremendous final game that had lead changes and tremendous performances. Three Erie Otters led the tournament in scoring in the top line of Alex DeBrincat-Dylan Strome-Taylor Raddysh. When this line was on the ice it was always dangerous, and on the power play they looked like the Harlem Globetrotters on ice (Cue Sweet Georgia Brown)
Arizona Coyotes will get a major influx of talent up front next year with the additions of Clayton Keller, and Dylan Strome. The Coyotes could be next year’s version of the Toronto Maple Leafs with a stellar rookie class. Strome led the tournament in scoring with seven goals and 11 points in five games including a seven point game in a 12-5 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs, and was also the tournament MVP.
Taylor Raddysh of the Tampa Bay Lightning tied Strome in tournament scoring with 11 points and had four of his five goals on the man advantage. Drafted 58th overall late in the second round of the 2016 draft, the lightning found great value in Raddysh who played his way onto Team Canada for the World Junior this year. With a 109 point season, and another 31 points in 22 playoff games, it was a breakout year for Raddysh, but with his line mates turning pro, look for a drop off in production as he has another year in the OHL.
Speaking of second round steals from the 2016 draft, the Chicago Blackhawks stole Alex DeBrincat at pick 39. DeBrincat has posted three consecutive 50+ goal seasons including this year with 65 goals in 63 games. If you go back to his last year in USHS he has four fifty goal seasons! DeBrincat was this years Red Tilson Trophy winner for the OHL Most Outstanding Player, and the CHL player of the year. DeBrincat will turn pro next year and with the Hawks cap crunch situation, they are always in need of players that can produce on cheap contracts. Don`t be surprised if he doesn’t crack the big club and play in a top six role. At only 69% Fantrax owned he could be a sneaky good pickup in your upcoming fantasy drafts.
Carolina Hurricanes prospect Warren Foegele had a tremendous playoff and won the Wayne Gretzky award as the OHL Playoff MVP with 26 points in 22 games. He was one of the last players cut at Carolina training camp to start the season and his all-around style of play could see him start the season in the NHL. If Carolina decides to insulate him, he will start in the AHL with Charlotte at the very least.
The Erie Otters top defenseman Darren Raddysh is a player we have talked about quite a bit on the Podcast. The 21-year-old free agent had a monster season, winning both the Most Outstanding Defenseman and the Overage Player of the Year award. Raddysh led the OHL in defenseman scoring with 81 points in 62 games, was a point per game player in the playoffs, and led defense in tournament scoring at the Mem Cup with eight points in five games. Raddysh has size, is obviously offensively talented and plays a solid defensive game as well. While he was able to dominate against younger players, and his skating is only average, his game should project well to the pro level and once he signs I strongly suggest looking into acquiring him for your fantasy team.
Saint John Sea Dogs
The Saint John Sea Dogs were a team built for this tournament and while they lacked the scoring depth the Otters boasted the scored by committee very well.
The top defenseman in the CHL is Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot, he had a coming out at the WJC with Canada with four goals and ten points in seven games (remember, defenseman). Well over a point per game in the regular season with 45 points in 34 games he has outgrown junior hockey and after narrowly making the NHL last year is all but a lock to start the year with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa. Chabot didn’t disappoint in the Mem Cup scoring four points in four games.
Up front the Sea Dogs were led offensively by Carolina Hurricanes prospect Julien Gauthier. Acquired mid-season via trade, Gauthier finished 10th in tournament scoring with two goals and six points in four games. The big strong winger made a case to crack the NHL lineup last summer and will surely push again this training camp. Gauthier was excellent for Canada at the WJC as well scoring five goals and seven points in seven games. Although drafted in 2016, he is a late birthday and as such has aged out of junior and will turn pro next year in either the NHL or in the AHL.
Tampa Bay Lightning have two prospects from the Sea Dogs in Mathieu Joseph and Overage Boko Imama. Mathieu Joseph was right behind Gauthier in scoring with two goals and five points, and outside of the blowout loss to Windsor had a strong tournament. Joseph was a clutch goal scorer all season long and brought his energy and offense to Canada at the WJC as well scoring five points in seven games. The 20-year-old will also make the jump to pro next year with the Syracuse Crunch, who are in the Calder Cup finals. Tampa is a strong team with a lot coming down the pipe, the Lightning will be strong fro a long time.
Speaking of strong, Boko Imama, who is known for his fighting prowess, arrived at Tampa training camp and turned some heads with his improved skating and even scored a preseason goal. He was assigned back the junior as an overage player with the assignment to develop his offensive game. He led the Sea Dogs in scoring with 41 goals this season and still posted 105 penalty minutes. In multi cat leagues, he could be a beast if he makes the NHL. The Lightning have still not signed Imama and have until June 1st to sign him or they will lose his rights.
Perhaps one of the most impressive players on the Sea Dogs was Joe Veleno. Veleno is a top prospect eligible for the 2018 NHL draft and he showed why, he can fly with the puck! A great skater with excellent puck skills and creative vision he scored three goals and four points in a tournament dominated by 20-year-olds at 17.
The WHL Champions had the hardest tournament, were the first team eliminated and team leading scorer Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders finished 31st overall in tournament scoring with only two assists and no goals.
The story of the playoffs for Seattle was the performance of rookie goalie Carl Stankowski who stole games along the way to get the Thunderbirds to the Mem Cup. Unfortunately his Cinderella run came to a halt and he turned back into a pumpkin under the pressure allowing 10 goals with a 5.99 GAA and a 0.815 save percentage. The 17-year-old had a magnificent playoff and gained valuable experience. Eligible for the 2018 NHL draft he should hit the ground running for his draft year and challenge for the top goalie seed in his draft class.
The Thunderbirds top defenceman Ethan Bear of the Edmonton Oilers won the WHL Defenseman of the Year award and was playing with a broken hand. Three fingers were immobilized on one hand allowing him to only grip his stick with his thumb and little finger. This likely explains why he was held pointless in the tournament after a 28 goal and 70 point regular season. Bear will play in the AHL next year and once he makes the NHL he will be in a position to play Coffey to McDavid’s Gretzky. Only 31% Fantrax owned, just sayin’.
This was a long one, thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it.
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