2017 Memorial Cup preview and viewing guide
Bolts prospects will be front and center at the 99th Memorial Cup taking place this week in Windsor.
When the Erie Otters won the J. Ross Robertson Trophy earlier this week, they won the right to represent the OHL at this year’s 99th Memorial Cup, taking place in Windsor, Ontario. With that, Lightning fans will have to split their allegiance as Anthony Cirelli, Erik Černák and Taylor Raddysh combat Bokondji Imama and Mathieu Joseph of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the tournament.
The five Lightning prospects aren’t just participating in the Memorial Cup, they have had a significant impact on the CHL playoffs. After everything settled at the trade deadline, many proclaimed Erie the odds-on favorite to win it all this season, but Saint John has looked like an absolute juggernaut through the QMJHL playoffs and come into the Memorial Cup hotter than anyone.
With that said, the Seattle Thunderbirds are coming off of an upset victory over the Regina Pats, who were the top-ranked team in the CHL most of the season. Add to that a rested team from Windsor and this should be a very competitive tournament.
Host - 5th place in the OHL Western Conference
The host team has been sitting back, resting and preparing for the Memorial Cup for almost a month now after being eliminated by the London Knights in the first round of the OHL playoffs. After a bit of a disappointing season, Windsor will be looking to redeem themselves with a good showing in front of the hometown crowd - and thanks to goaltender Michael DiPietro they might be able to do it. DiPietro was one of the best goalies in the CHL all season and has the ability to steal games for the Spits and in a short tournament, a hot goalie could be the deciding factor.
Key Players: Gabe Vilardi, Logan Brown, Jeremy Bracco, Michael DiPietro, Sean Day, Mikhail Segachev
OHL Champions - 1st place in the OHL Western Conference
After falling just short the past two years, the Erie Otters finally made their way to the Memorial Cup this season after beating the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL Championship series.
Erie is a team built on offense. Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and Taylor Raddysh have all been around for the disappointment of the past two seasons, but now the most dangerous line in junior hockey looks to leave their mark on the Memorial Cup. Those three will be the key to any success the team has this week, but the true x-factor for the Otters is Bolts prospect, Anthony Cirelli.
Leading the OHL playoffs with 15 goals, Cirelli scored the overtime winner that clinched the OHL championship for Erie. The thing about that huge goal is that it’s the second-biggest goal of his career. Two years ago, as a rookie, Cirelli scored the Memorial Cup winning overtime goal for the Oshawa Generals. The bigger the game, the more likely Anthony Cirelli is going to make an impact. Look for that to continue in Windsor. The one thing that could derail Erie is their less than average goaltending - it’s cost them before, it might again.
Key Players: Cirelli, Strome, DeBrincat, Lodnia, Foegele, Černák, Raddysh (both of them)
WHL Champions - 2nd in the WHL U.S. Division
The Thunderbirds are coming off a pretty major upset of the Regina Pats in the WHL final. They did so by riding a hot scoring streak that saw them score 17 goals in the last three games of the series. The team is being led by Keegan Kolesar, Ethan Bear, and most importantly the captain Mathew Barzal. If Dylan Strome isn’t the best prospect in the CHL, Mathew Barzal is. After dealing with injuries for large chunks of the season, Barzal is healthy and playing his best hockey.
Likely viewed as the underdog of this tournament, Seattle will be looking to bring the Memorial Cup out west for just the second time in the past decade.
Key Players: Barzal, Bear, Kolesar, Ryan Gropp, Alexander True, Austin Strand
Saint John Sea Dogs
QMJHL Champions - First place overall in the QMJHL regular season
The Sea Dogs are coming into the Memorial Cup on fire. The Quebec league champions have only two losses through the four rounds of the playoffs and are coming off a sweep of the high-powered Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the finals. Saint John has simply been dominant at both ends of the ice all playoffs long - putting up a goal differential of +52 through only 18 games. Mathieu Joseph is leading the way with 32 points in those 18 games, and he’s looking more and more of a steal after Yzerman and the Lightning drafted him in the 4th round two years ago.
If nothing else, matchup with Erie could end up being one of the most exciting junior games we’ve seen in a long time - an 8-7 victory isn’t out of the realm of possibility. This tournament is likely Saint John’s to lose as the Sea Dogs are hoping their hot streak can continue for another four games.
Key Players: Joseph, Imama, Matthew Highmore, Thomas Chabot, Jakub Zboril, Spencer Smallman
How to Watch
Unfortunately, in the US, the NHL network is only going to be airing two Memorial Cup games live - Seattle vs Windsor on Sunday May 21st and then the Final the following Sunday. You can also purchase the games on CHL TV.
Friday, May 19 – Saint John vs. Windsor – 8:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay)
Saturday, May 20 – Erie vs. Seattle – 7:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay)
Sunday, May 21 – Windsor vs. Seattle – 7:00 p.m. ET
Monday, May 22 – Erie vs. Saint John – 8:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay)
Tuesday, May 23 – Seattle vs. Saint John – 8:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay)
Wednesday, May 24 – Windsor vs. Erie – 9:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay)
Thursday, May 25 – Tiebreaker: Teams TBD – 8:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay)
Friday, May 26 – Semifinal: Teams TBD – 8:00 p.m. ET (Tape Delay)
Sunday, May 28 – Championship: Teams TBD – 7:00 p.m. ET
If you’re interested in a breakdown of the 2017 NHL Draft eligible players participating in the Memorial Cup, check out my preview here.
Who are you hoping wins the 99th Memorial Cup?