Memorial Cup Preview & Viewing Guide
By Scott Lowe – MYHockeyRankings.com
With the Stanley Cup finals already underway, when the puck drops to open play in the Memorial Cup Monday at 6 p.m. EDT, the long journey that has been the 2021-22 North American hockey season officially will enter its final leg.
And for the first time since 2019, the three Canadian major junior league champions and a host team will compete for the trophy that signifies the Canadian Hockey League championship.
Play begins Monday night in Saint John, New Brunswick, with the host Saint John Seadogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) taking on the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) champion Hamilton Bulldogs at TD Station. The other two CHL league champs, the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Edmonton Oil Kings and QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes face off Tuesday at 6 p.m. EDT.
The four competing teams play each other once in round-robin play to set up the seeding for the semifinals. The top seed automatically advances to the June 29 championship game, with the second and third seeds playing in the semifinals June 27. If a game is needed to break a tie in the standings, that contest will be played June 26.
All games, except the June 25 and 26 contests, are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. EDT and can be viewed live on TSN and RDS in Canada. Games can be viewed on the NHL Network in the United States on a tape-delayed basis.
Memorial Cup Competing Teams
Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Monday, June 20 at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Saint John vs. Hamilton
Tuesday, June 21 at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Edmonton vs. Shawinigan
Wednesday, June 22 at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Saint John vs. Edmonton
Thursday, June 23 at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Hamilton vs. Shawinigan
Friday, June 24 at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Hamilton vs. Edmonton
Saturday, June 25 at 4 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Saint John vs. Shawinigan
Sunday, June 26 at 4 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Tiebreaker TBD (if necessary)
Monday, June 27 at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Wednesday, June 29 at 6 p.m. EDT at TD Station
Championship Game TBD
Not much more than 24 hours before the opening puck drop of the tournament, the CHL announced rules modifications for the 2022 Memorial Cup.
The changes include a new point system for the six-game preliminary round, with teams receiving three points for a regulation win, two for an overtime win and one for an overtime loss.
In addition, overtime will feature 3-on-3 play for 20-minute periods until a goal is scored and a winner is decided. There will be a 15-minute intermission between the third period and overtime and during any additional intermissions separating overtime periods. There will be no television timeouts during overtime, but there will be a quick scrape of the ice in front of the nets and benches during the first stoppage of play after the 10-minute mark of each extra session.
This year’s Memorial Cup will be played after the last two were canceled because of the pandemic. The tournament will feature some of the best under-20 players in the world, including numerous National Hockey League draft picks and many members of the Canadian team that will compete in the upcoming rescheduled World Junior Championship in August.
“It is the most prestigious amateur tournament in the world,” Saint John interim head coach Gardiner MacDougall told assembled media prior to the tournament. “It is a big challenge, but it is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Here is a quick look at each team and some of the players to watch for during this year’s Memorial Cup:
Saint John Sea Dogs
The only team that didn’t have to win a championship to qualify for the Memorial Cup, the hosts still played out their QMJHL schedule with an eye toward making a statement against the other three CHL league champs. Saint John added seven players at the league’s trade deadline, including current captain Vincent Sevigny, to supplement a roster full of talented players.
The Sea Dogs started slowly after the deadline, winning one of their next give games, before closing out the regular season by winning 26 of their final 28 contests. That was good enough to lift them into third place in the QMJHL final regular-season standings. Saint John would be eliminated by Rimouski, 3-2, in an opening-round best-of-five playoff series.
Saint John’s potent offensive attack, which paced the QMJHL with 311 goals, and depth up front will make the Sea Dogs a tough out at the Memorial Cup. The main question will be if the Sea Dogs can shake off the rust after being off for five weeks. MacDougall, the team’s head coach, was hired to replace Gordie Dwyer during the team’s hiatus.
“The energy was really good in practice yesterday, and the energy was really good today in the morning skate,” said St. John forward Ryan Francis told the assembled media Monday. “Everyone’s super excited. It’s been a long month of practicing for us, but we’re ready for this. We’re ready for the challenge.”
Seadogs to Watch:
Portland has eight NHL draft picks on its roster, more than any other CHL Team:
Raivis Ansoms (Penguins)
Phillippe Daoust (Senators)
William Dufour (Islanders)
Ryan Francis (Flames)
Yan Kuznetsov (Flames)
Cam MacDonald (Lightning)
Jérémie Poirier (Flames)
William Villeneuve (Maple Leafs)
Dufour set a franchise record for points with 116 and became the club’s first 50-goal scorer in earning league MVP honors. Josh Lawrence also set a team record for assists with 70 and finished with 101 points.
Hamilton cruised through the OHL Playoffs by winning its first 12 games until an epic seven-game showdown in the finals against the Windsor Spitfires. Prior to that championship run, the Bulldogs were the only OHL team to record 100 standings points, setting a franchise record with 107. They closed the regular season with 10-consecutive victories and ran that streak to 22 during the postseason before finally falling.
Hamilton asserted its dominance once again in that deciding Game 7, however, rolling to a 6-1 victory to capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup. The Bulldogs finished second to Saint John in CHL scoring during the regular season with 300 goals while surrendering a league-low 176.
The Bulldogs are seeking the franchise’s first Memorial Cup. They finished third in their only other appearance.
“The whole experience for these kids, to be off hockey for a year-and-a-half and to come in and then play a Game 7, I think it is really important to go into those pressure moments,” Hamilton coach Jay McKee told assembled media prior to the tournament. “The kids gained a lot from that, putting on the ice bags after big wins, as those marks and that soreness contribute to winning hockey games. It is kind of a badge of honor. Coming to the Memorial Cup, it is very unique. It’s not a playoff format, so to go through that tough series and play in a do-or-die mimics what we could be doing here.”
Bulldogs to Watch:
Mason McTavish – The third player selected in the 2021 NHL Draft, the center finished second in OHL playoff goals with 16. He is the highest-drafted player in the tournament.
Avery Hayes – An undrafted winger, Hayes recorded an eye-popping 41 goals and 38 assists in 66 contests before notching 14 goals and 20 assists in 16 postseason outings.
Logan Morrison – A center and the OHL Playoff MVP, he was one of six players in the league to record 100 points. He has yet to be drafted and is eligible for the third time in 2022. He added 17 goals and 22 assists in postseason play.
Arber Zhekaj – A free-agent signing by the Canadiens, he led all OHL defensemen in playoff scoring.
Ryan Winterton – This Seattle Kracken draft pick is a big-bodied center who recorded 46 points in 37 outings this season.
Nathan Staios – An alternate captain, Staios was named OHL Defenseman of the Year despite being undrafted after recording 15 goals and 51 assists form the blue line.
Edmonton Oil Kings
While it wasn’t quite the postseason run turned in by Hamilton, Edmonton opened the WHL Playoffs with 12 wins in its first 13 contests. That should be no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Oil Kings’ roster, which features eight players with NHL affiliations and four first-round draft picks.
They were the No. 2 seed in Eastern Conference for the WHL Playoffs and knocked off the Seattle Thunderbirds, the fourth seed from the Western Conference, in six games to capture the league title and a trip to New Brunswick for the Memorial Cup. This is Edmonton’s first Memorial Cup appearance since 2014, and they are seeking their second championship.
Unfortunately, Edmonton will be without injured forward Dylan Guenther, a first-round pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2021. “He is a guy who is not going to be replaced by one player, Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer said. “It is going to be done by committee.”
Despite Guenther’s absence, many would argue that the Oil Kings, with five players who will play for Canada at the World Junior Championship, are the team to beat.
Oil Kings to Watch:
Sebastian Cossa – He was competing to be Canada’s No. 1 netminder when the WJC was shut down in December. Standing an imposing 6-7, Detroit drafted him 15th overall in 2021. Cossa posted a 1.93 goals-against average in WHL postseason play.
Kaedan Guhle – Another member of Team Canada, he won a WHL Championship with Prince Albert in 2019 and is part of the team’s top defensive pairing. He was third in the WHL in plus-minus.
Luke Prokop – A defenseman who ranked first in the WHL in plus-minus.
Jake Neighbours – A forward for Team Canada who had a strong camp with the St. Louis Blues.
Justin Sourdif – Another Team Canada forward who is a Florida Panthers prospect.
Shawinigan is a Memorial Cup anomaly, having captured the trophy as the host team in 2012 without ever earning a berth as the QMJHL champion until this year. The Cataractes needed seven overtime playoff victories – they went 7-0 in extra time – to capture this year’s QMJH title.
Those seven OT victories set a QMJHL postseason record, and fittingly it was the seventh, a tally by Pierrick Dube 41 seconds into the extra session, that lifted them to a decisive Game 5 victory over Charlottetown in the finals.
You might say that overtime is their time, but we’ll have to see if that will hold true during a Memorial Cup in which overtime will consist of 3-on-3 play for 20-minute periods until a goal is score and a winner determined.
“I think we have a lot of confidence,” Shawinigan forward Xavier Bourgault said. “During our playoffs we had a lot of comebacks … We find a way to win. When we have a chance to make it count, we are doing it.”
Cataractes to Watch:
Xavier Bourgault – A top-line forward and first-round draft pick by Edmonton. He plays with an edge and was second in the QMJHL in playoff goals and fourth in points.
Mavrick Borque – The top-line center was drafted by Dallas led the team in postseason scoring with 25 points, which ranked second in the league.
Pierrick Dube – The third cog in the top line who potted the OT game-winner to clinch the championship.
Martin Has – Drafted by the Capitals in 2019, this big defenseman can provide offense from the blue line and provides a physical presence.
Antoine Coulombe – An undrafted goalie, he was a brick wall during the QMJHL Playoffs, recording the league’s top save percentage (.921) and the overall top CHL postseason save percentage.