Got to be honest and admit after 5 years the chance to take a break like I have was really nice. But all good things come to an end and as the 2nd biggest event involving prospects gets underway this weekend as the Memorial Cup gets underway in Brandon.
Corey Flett who is the Director of Communications for the WHL put together this very excellent preview of the teams involved so with our thanks here is your first glance. There is also a website here as well as for those living in the USA, a chance to watch on the NHL Network.
Brandon, MB – The 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament kicks off on Friday, May 14th, in Brandon, MB.
The CHL’s Championship tournament, which wraps up with the Championship game on Sunday, May 23rd, features four teams – the host Brandon Wheat Kings, the OHL Champion Windsor Spitfires, the WHL Champion Calgary Hitmen and the QMJHL Champion Moncton Wildcats – who will battle for the storied Memorial Cup trophy.
The tournament format sees each team play one another in a round-robin format. The team with the best record after the round-robin advances directly to the Championship game, while the second and third-placed teams play a semi-final game to determine the other tournament finalist. If there is a tie for third place after the round-robin, a tiebreaker game will be played to determine the second semi-finalist.
Here’s a look at the four teams who will be vying for the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup:
BRANDON WHEAT KINGS (Host Team)
Head Coach / General Manager: Kelly McCrimmon
2009-10 Record: 50-18-1-3, 104pts, GF: 321 GA: 204
2009-10 Final CHL Ranking: 6
2010 Playoff Record: 9-6 GF: 56 GA: 51
-Defeated Swift Current Broncos 4-0 in first round
-Defeated Saskatoon Blades 4-2 in second round
-Lost to Calgary Hitmen 4-1 in Eastern Conference Championship Series
2010 Playoffs Top Scorers:
C – Brayden Schenn 15gp-8g-11a-19pts
LW – Matt Calvert 15gp-9g-7a-16pts
RW – Aaron Lewadniuk 15gp-6g-8a-14pts
C – Brent Raedeke 15gp-5g-7a-12pts
The host team for the 2010 tournament, the Wheat Kings will battle for the MasterCard Memorial Cup Championship for a fifth time in franchise history. The Wheat Kings’ last appearance at the tournament was in 1996 where they fell to the Peterborough Petes in the semi-final.
Up Front: The Wheat Kings boast a formidable offensive attack, and some of the WHL’s top scoring threats. Led by Matt Calvert and Canadian World Junior team member Brayden Schenn, the Wheat Kings were, by far, the highest scoring team in the WHL during the regular season. The line of Schenn, Calvert and Dallas Stars’ prospect Scott Glennie combined for 113 goals and 287 points during the regular season. In addition, the Wheat Kings boast offensive depth in players like Aaron Lewadniuk, Jay Fehr, Toni Rajala, Brent Raedeke and Shayne Wiebe, who all scored at least 23 goals in the regular season. Although they were shut down by a strong Calgary defense in the Eastern Conference final, the Wheat Kings’ explosiveness on the attack is a force to be reckoned with.
On The Blue Line: The Wheat Kings boast some strong talent and on the blue line. Veteran Colby Robak, a Florida Panthers prospect, leads a Wheat Kings defense corps that also features Canadian World Junior team member Travis Hamonic, Swedish standout Alexander Urbom and hard-hitting Brodie Melnychuk. With Robak, Urbom and Hamonic, the Wheat Kings have a strong two-way presence and good mobility on the blue line, and can generate significant offense from the point. The Wheat Kings’ defense corps will need to find a new level of play to handle the offensive firepower of a team like Windsor.
Goaltending: 20-year-old Philadelphia Flyers prospect Jacob DeSerres handled the majority of the workload in the post-season for the Wheat Kings, appearing in 12 of the team’s 15 games while posting an 8-3 record. DeSerres has the talent and ability to be a difference-maker for the Wheat Kings. Veteran Andrew Hayes appeared in three post-season games for the Wheat Kings, and has also shown he can rise to the challenge. Both DeSerres and Hayes will need to be at their best if the Wheat Kings are to hoist the Memorial Cup trophy on home ice.
CALGARY HITMEN (WHL Champions)
Head Coach: Mike Williamson
General Manager: Kelly Kisio
2009-10 Record: 52-17-1-2, 107pts, GF: 269 GA: 177
2009-10 CHL Final Ranking: 5
2010 Playoff Record: 16-7 GF: 98 GA: 56
-Defeated Moose Jaw Warriors 4-3 in first round
-Defeated Medicine Hat Tigers 4-2 in second round
-Defeated Brandon Wheat Kings 4-1 in Eastern Conference Championship series
-Defeated Tri-City Americans 4-1 in WHL Championship series
2010 Playoffs Top Scorers:
RW – Brandon Kozun 23gp-8g-22a-30pts
D – Michael Stone 23gp-5g-15a-20pts
C – Misha Fisenko 23gp-8g-11a-19pts
D – Giffen Nyren 23gp-5g-13a-18pts
The Calgary Hitmen are making their second appearance at the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament in franchise history after winning their second WHL Championship. The Hitmen lost 7-6 in overtime to the Ottawa 67’s in the 1999 Memorial Cup Championship game in their only other appearance at the tournament.
Up Front: The Hitmen possess some high-end talent up front, but also boast great depth throughout their group of forwards. Brandon Kozun led the WHL in scoring in the regular season with his second consecutive 100-point campaign, and also led all post-season scorers with 30 points. His playmaking and skating ability are key to Calgary’s attack and power play potency. Yet, the Hitmen’s offensive depth was illustrated by the fact that 13 players put up 12 or more points in the post-season, while 11 players had at least five playoff goals. Veteran Joel Broda and sophomore Cody Sylvester, who enjoyed a breakout playoff run, were the only Hitmen to score more than 10 goals in the post-season. However, names like Tyler Fiddler, Kris Foucault, Ian Schultz, Misha Fisenko and Tyler Shattock all proved they are capable of stepping up and contributing to the offense.
On The Blue Line: The Hitmen blueline was a strength all season. The Hitmen finished atop the Eastern Conference team defense during the regular season, and were the best defensive team throughout the playoffs, having shut down the three highest-scoring teams in the WHL. Their penalty killing unit ranked first among teams that made it past the opening round of the playoffs, and was particularly strong in the Championship series versus Tri-Cities. Led by veteran Michael Stone, Calgary’s defense corps has also contributed to the offense, having combined for over 20 percent of the team’s scoring during the post-season.
Goaltending: 20-year-old Martin Jones, the 2010 WHL Goaltender of the Year, showed why he is one of Major Junior hockey’s elite netminders after backstopping the Hitmen to the WHL Championship. A veteran of Canada’s 2010 World Junior team, Jones endured a rocky start to the playoffs, but got better and better as the post-season went on. His performance in the Championship series – two shutouts and only seven goals allowed on 141 shots through the five-game series – earned him the MVP honors. Calm, cool and focused, Jones will need to bring his level of play up another notch if the Hitmen are to have Memorial Cup success.
WINDSOR SPITFIRES (OHL Champions)
Head Coach: Bob Boughner
General Manager: Warren Rychel
2009-10 Record: 50-12-1-6, 106pts, GF: 331 GA: 203
2009-10 Final CHL Ranking: 3
2010 Playoff Record: 16-3 GF: 90 GA: 54
-Defeated Erie Otters 4-0 in first round
-Defeated Plymouth Whalers 4-0 in second round
-Defeated Kitchener Rangers 4-3 in Western Conference Championship series
-Defeated Barrie Colts 4-0 in OHL Championship series
2010 Playoffs Top Scorers:
LW – Taylor Hall 19gp-17g-18a-35pts
D – Ryan Ellis 19gp-3g-30a-33pts
C – Adam Henrique 19gp-20g-5a-25pts
C – Scott Timmins 19gp-11g-11a-22pts
The Windsor Spitfires are making their second straight appearance at the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament, and their third in franchise history. The Spitfires won the Memorial Cup last year in Rimouski, QC, defeating the Kelowna Rockets in the Championship game. Windsor became the first team in Memorial Cup history to win the championship after having lost their first two round-robin games.
Up Front: With a lineup that reads like an All-Star team, the Spitfires possess perhaps the most talented offense in the Canadian Hockey League. Led by reigning Memorial Cup MVP Taylor Hall, the Spitfires boast a good blend of skill and grit up front. Hall led all OHL players in post-season scoring while fellow Canadian World Junior teammate Adam Henrique scored 20 goals in just 19 playoff games. NHL first-rounders Zack Kassian and Greg Nemisz provide a strong physical presence and can chip in scoring, while veterans Scott Timmins and Dale Mitchell have plenty of post-season experience. Not to be overlooked is the fact that 11 players on this year’s team are veterans of last year’s OHL and Memorial Cup-winning squad.
On The Blue Line: The Spitfires possess some terrific talents on the blue line who are capable of making an impact at both ends of the ice. Two-time Canadian World Junior star Ryan Ellis leads the way for the Spitfires, having posted a whopping 33 points in just 19 post-season contests. Add in top NHL draft-eligible rearguard Cam Fowler, and the Spitfires boast two of the most dangerous offensive threats from the point of any team at the tournament. Veterans Mark Cundari and Harry Young have Memorial Cup experience from last year while Marc Cantin has plenty of OHL post-season experience from his days with Belleville.
Goaltending: Last year, the Spitfires relied on OHL veteran Andrew Engelage to backstop them to the Memorial Cup title. This year, it’s been sophomore Philipp Grubauer who has taken the reigns in the Spits’ net. The product of Rosenheim, Germany, posted an outstanding 16-1-1 record in the post season, along with a .909 save percentage. His strong performance in the OHL Championship series went a long way in helping the Spitfires sweep aside the CHL’s top-ranked Barrie Colts.
MONCTON WILDCATS (QMJHL Champions)
Head Coach: Danny Flynn
General Manager: Bill Schurman
2009-10 Record: 48-14-2-4, 102pts, GF: 276 GA: 164
2009-10 Final CHL Ranking: 7
2010 Playoff Record: 16-5 GF: 95 GA: 48
-Defeated Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4-1 in first round
-Defeated Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 4-1 in second round
-Defeated Drummondville Voltigeurs 4-1 in Semi-Final series
-Defeated Saint John Sea Dogs 4-2 in QMJHL Championship series
2010 Playoffs Top Scorers:
C – Kelsey Tessier 21gp-14g-16a-30pts
LW – Gabriel Bourque 21gp-19g-10a-29pts
D – Mark Barberio 21gp-5g-17a-22pts
C – Randy Cameron 21gp-13g-8a-21pts
The Moncton Wildcats are making their second appearance at the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament over the last five seasons after winning their second QMJHL Championship. The Wildcats were the host team for the 2006 Memorial Cup, losing to the Quebec Remparts in the Championship game.
Up Front: The Wildcats have some strong scoring talent among their forward ranks, led by Canadian World Junior team veteran Gabriel Bourque. The 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect scored 19 goals in 21 post-season games after notching just 16 in 55 regular-season contests, and was named the MVP of the QMJHL playoffs. 20-year-old Colorado Avalanche prospect Kelsey Tessier led the team in playoff points with 30 while Detroit Red Wings prospect Randy Cameron was the only other player besides Tessier and Bourque to top the 10-goal mark in the playoffs. The Wildcats also boast some strong offensive talent on the blue line which helped them to the League’s best power play during the regular season.
On The Blue Line: Led by Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mark Barberio, the Wildcats owned the stingiest defense in the QMJHL during the regular season, having surrendered just 164 goals. In the playoffs, the Wildcats kept up their tight defensive play, allowing just 48 goals in 21 games. Barberio, NHL top draft-eligible prospect Brandon Gormley and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect David Savard contribute plenty of offense to the Wildcats. Yet, as offensively potent as the Wildcats’ defense, they combined for an impressive +66 rating during the 2010 playoffs while effectively shutting down some of the QMJHL’s top offensive stars.
Goaltending: Veteran goaltender Nicola Riopel turned in a terrific post-season performance for the Wildcats, backstopping them to the 2010 Championship. The 21-year-old posted a 16-4 record to go with a 2.14 goals-against average and an outstanding .930 save percentage in 21 games. With over 200 games of experience in the regular season and playoffs combined, Riopel gives the Wildcats a very solid and reliable presence in the cage while bolstering their already-strong team defense.
2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup Schedule:
Game 1 – Windsor vs Brandon; Friday, May 14; 7:00pm
Game 2 – Calgary vs Moncton; Saturday, May 15; 2:00pm
Game 3 – Brandon vs Moncton; Sunday, May 16; 2:00pm
Game 4 – Calgary vs Windsor; Monday, May 17; 7:00pm
Game 5 – Moncton vs Windsor; Tuesday, May 18; 7:00pm
Game 6 – Brandon vs Calgary; Wednesday, May 19; 7:00pm
Tie-Breaker (If Necessary); Thursday, May 20; 7:00pm
Semi-Final; Friday, May 21; 7:00pm
Memorial Cup Championship Game; Sunday, May 23; 2:00pm