Canadiens Prospects Could Feature Prominently At Memorial Cup
Several of the top Montreal Canadiens prospects are still participating in the Canadian Hockey League playoffs, which have now reached the third round.
The Memorial Cup takes place in British Columbia this season, hosted by the Kamloops Blazers, who won the hosting rights over another team based in British Columbia, the Kelowna Rockets.
For those new to the Memorial Cup, this is the 103rd running of the tournament. It’s known around the country as one of the most difficult hockey tournaments to win.
It features the championship teams from the three leagues (Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League), as well as the host club, in a four-team tournament to determine the grand champion of the entire CHL.
Once the round-robin takes place, the seedings will determine the elimination rounds.
The team that finishes fourth will not participate in the playoff rounds, whereas the team that finishes first will be granted a bye to the final matchup.
Teams ranked second and third will face each other for the right to play against the team that finished first in the standings in the final.
Last season the Saint John Seadogs emerged as the CHL champions by beating Arber Xhekaj and the Hamilton Bulldogs in the final game. Seeing as the tournament was cancelled in 2020 and 2021, it was the first time the Memorial Cup was awarded since 2019.
Two of the Canadiens’ top prospects are still playing in the QMJHL semifinals.
Joshua Roy (Sherbrooke Phoenix) is the favourite to make it to Kamloops, seeing as the Phoenix are yet to lose a game in the 2022-23 playoffs. They swept the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the first round, the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the second round, and currently have a 2-0 series advantage over the high-flying Halifax Mooseheads.
Roy has 11 goals and 12 assists in just 10 games and currently sits second overall in the league when it comes to goals and points.
MUST READ: Highlights – Prospects Joshua Roy Dominant in QMJHL playoffs
Riley Kidney (Gatineau Olympiques) is also fighting for an opportunity to earn a Memorial Cup berth, though his situation is not as encouraging as Roy’s.
After cruising to the semifinal with a 4-1 series win over the Seadogs and a 4-0 series sweep against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, the Olympiques are now facing the powerhouse Quebec Remparts, who currently own a 2-0 series lead over Kidney’s team.
Kidney gave the Olympiques a chance to win Game 2 in overtime thanks to an excellent two-goal performance, but the Remparts emerged victorious with a 4-3 win.
Kidney en rajoute un 2e pour créer l'égalité!
Kidney adds a second one to tie the score!
GAT | 3-3 | QUE #goOLgo♠️
— Olympiques de Gatineau (@OlympiquesGAT) April 30, 2023
The Canadiens prospect now has six goals and 14 assists in 11 games and sits fourth overall in QMJHL playoff scoring.
Despite the talent on their roster, the Olympiques have struggled to control the play against the Remparts and will require an incredible effort to turn the series around.
Smart money is on the Remparts advancing to face Sherbrooke in the league championship, which would then arguably feature two of the best teams in the country.
For the record, Sherbrooke faced Quebec five times during the regular season, winning three times, including a 4-1 in their last matchup of the season.
While the QMJHL features the top teams from the regular season, the same cannot be said about the OHL. Both the Windsor Spitfires and the Ottawa 67’s have already been eliminated, with the latter losing to Owen Beck’s Peterborough Petes and the former losing to Filip Mesar’s Kitchener Rangers.
The Rangers would later lose to Logan Mailloux and the London Knights, who are currently up 2-0 in their third-round series against the Sarnia Sting.
Mailloux currently has a point-per-game pace in the playoffs, five goals and six assists in 11 games, including the game-winning goal in Game 2 of the series versus the Sting. The Knights are playing a dominant style of hockey, and though it would be unfair to give Mailloux all the credit, he’s certainly one of the driving forces behind their great play.
MUST READ: Logan Mailloux Turning Heads in OHL Playoffs
If London continues to dominate they’ll face the winner of the Peterborough Petes versus North Bay Battalion series, which includes cerebral Canadiens prospect Owen Beck.
Much like the rest of his team, Beck found his rhythm in the final stretch of the season, a rather encouraging 180 for a player, and a team, that struggled to find chemistry following the trade deadline. Beck earned 13 points in his final 11 regular-season games and currently has 10 points in 12 playoff games, including a two-point effort in Game One of the Petes’ semifinal series against the Battalion.
Even though the Battalion won all three matchups between the teams during the regular season, you would be hard-pressed to compare the Petes team that lost to the current lineup, which has finally formed the type of cohesion that could lead to a Memorial Cup berth. The series is currently tied at 1-1, with the next two games taking place at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.
The Canadiens only own the rights to one player in the WHL, though he happens to play on one of the best teams in Jr. hockey: the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Make it two for Jared Davidson!@SeattleTbirds | @CanadiensMTL#WHLPlayoffs | #FeedingTheFuture pic.twitter.com/UKXmBOD6H6
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 30, 2023
Jared Davidson, 20, picked up where he left off in the regular season, earning seven goals and nine assists in 10 playoff games, helping power the Thunderbirds to an undefeated record, which included a 4-0 sweep of the Rockets, a 4-0 sweep of the Prince George Cougars, and now, a 2-0 series lead over the Blazers.
MUST READ: Jared Davidson Shines in WHL Playoffs
If they keep up the momentum and complete their third sweep of the playoffs, the Thunderbirds will likely face the Winnipeg Ice in the league final, which should present a very difficult challenge for Davidson’s team.
Of the two teams, the Thunderbirds are playing better hockey, but Winnipeg held the No.1 position in the CHL power rankings throughout the majority of the season, and should not be taken lightly. They’re currently up 2-0 in their series versus the Saskatoon Blades.
Seattle and Winnipeg faced each other only once this season, with Seattle earning a 4-3 overtime win.
With five Canadiens prospects playing in the remaining eight CHL series, there’s a very healthy chance the 2023 Memorial Cup will feature a bevy of the team’s top prospects.
And though we should not overanalyze short tournaments such as the WJC championship or the Memorial Cup, it does present us with an opportunity to see how players react when facing some of the top teams in the country, a healthy counterbalance to their regular-season results, which involve playing many games against teams that are, frankly, terrible.
The 2023 Memorial Cup will take place between May 26th and June 4th.
All Canadiens prospect statistics via the CHL. Click here to see the remaining playoff schedule.
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