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Top Canadiens Prospects Could Clinch Memorial Cup Berth Tonight

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens could have a few top prospects representing them at the Memorial Cup later next week if they’re able to seal the deal tonight.

Three of the Canadiens’ best prospects in Major Junior, Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj and Jan Mysak could all find themselves in the Memorial Cup tournament should the Edmonton Oil Kings and Hamilton Bulldogs win their bouts tonight.

 

Kaiden Guhle

Guhle’s Edmonton Oil Kings currently hold a 3-2 series lead over the Seattle Thunderbirds and could win the WHL CHampionship tonight with a victory and thus qualify for the Memorial Cup.

The 20-year-old has looked like a completely different player since being traded from the Prince Albert Raiders to the Edmonton Oil Kings on December 2. The former 16th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft has been the best defenceman on his club and has helped shut down some of the biggest names in a very competitive WHL this spring. Under new head coach Brad Lauer, Guhle has been utilizing his speed and his reach far more, especially on the rush, to push the tempo of the game up the ice very quickly, often catching the opposition off-guard.

After disposing of the powerhouse Winnipeg Ice in the Eastern Conference Finals, Guhle and the Edmonton Oil Kings have now moved on to the WHL Finals; facing off against the tenacious Seattle Thunderbirds. Despite dropping Game 1 in a heated affair against the Thunderbirds, Guhle and the Oil Kings have effectively come back into the series with authority, claiming Game 2, 3 and 4 and wrestling back control of the momentum. Guhle hasn’t had WHL playoff experience like this since his 16-year-old season playing for the WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders in 2018-2019. His return to the WHL’s spring dance has allowed him to impose himself even more so on the pace of the game and this prime developmental time can only help the Montreal Canadiens down the line. General manager Kent Hughes has mentioned Guhle’s name several times as a player the organization holds in high esteem. These performances are likely to cement his status as the top prospect defensive prospect in the organization headed into Training Camp this September.

 

Arber Xhekaj and Jan Mysak

The Hamilton Bulldogs have been on an incredible run in the OHL playoffs. They currently hold a 3-2 lead in their series against the Windsor Spitfires and could close out their memorable run in the OHL playoffs with a win tonight.

A major figurehead in Hamilton’s ability to steamroll their opposition has been defenceman the Montreal Canadiens’ Arber Xhakaj, who’s been tasked with shutting down some of the most productive teams in the OHL. Xhekaj’s dominant physical style down low and his surprisingly powerful skating mechanics make him a dual-threat for the Bulldogs, as the 6’4 defenceman commands instant respect wherever he is on the ice.

He plays a very physical and punishing game in the defensive zone, but is also contributing in a very surprising way offensively for the Bulldogs, posting six goals and seven assists for 13 points in 16 games. In their previous series against the North Bay Battalion, Xhekaj really seemed to take the next step in his game during the playoffs, as he elevated his game in relation to the quality of competition. He’s continued to grow his game during these OHL playoffs and looks primed to leave a lasting impression in major junior before turning pro this fall.

Jan Mysak was battling through an injury to start the OHL playoffs and had been out of action since May 8th before returning to the lineup on May 20th for Game 1 against the Battalion. It took Mysak a few games to find his bearings, but he returned to his productive ways as of Game 3. Playing in a versatile role for the Bulldogs, Mysak is being tasked with both defensive and offensive assignments and was instrumental in putting away the Battalion in Game 4 of the series in the OHL Conference Finals, potting a hattrick in impressive fashion.

He’s been a little more quiet in this series against the Spitfires, likely due to lingering effects from the injury he sustained earlier in the playoffs. He’s showing strong resilience and perseverance in playing through the pain and still making a difference in a shutdown role.

 

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