We are just a few days away from the biggest tournament in the Canadian Junior Hockey world. The Memorial Cup is the tournament between the winners of the three major junior hockey leagues in country: the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Western Hockey League (WHL). They and a host team play in a four-team tournament to decide the who will be crowned the winner. Here is everything that you need to know
Teams playing for the 2022 Memorial Cup
The four teams for the tournament have been determined and are preparing to start. Let’s break them down.
From the WHL: The Edmonton Oil Kings
The Oil Kings have been on a magical run this year, finishing as the second best team in the league and demolishing every team that faced them. They beat out Calgary Flames prospect Lucas Ciona and the Seattle Thunderbirds in six games to take home the Ed Chynoweth Cup as the top team in the WHL and the right to represent the league at the Memorial Cup.
The Oil Kings are a phenomenal team from top to bottom, and have among the best goaltenders in the entire CHL in 2021 first-round pick Sebastian Cossa—a draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings. He finished with a 0.919 save percentage and recorded five shutouts through the playoffs this year.
They also have some elite offensive talents in their skater group including forwards Jake Neighbours, and defencemen Kaiden Guhle and Luke Prokop. Neighbours and Guhle were first round selections from the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, taken by the St. Louis Blues and Montreal Canadiens respectively, while Prokop was taken by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the 2021 draft.
Unfortunately, the Oil Kings will be without their best forward Dylan Guenther, a 2021 first-round selection of the Arizona Coyotes. He was injured in the finals against the Thunderbirds and will be unavailable for the tournament. He led the Oil Kings with 21 points in 16 post season games, and was a force of nature for the team this year.
The Oil Kings last won the tournament in 2014, beating the Guelph Storm 6–3 to take the win. Tristan Jarry was in net and former Flame Curtis Lazar had 22 points in 21 postseason games that year.
From the OHL: The Hamilton Bulldogs
The Bulldogs were the last team to qualify for the playoffs, beating the Windsor Spitfire in the seventh game of their series to claim the championship. Prior to that round, they had swept the first three rounds of the playoffs, polishing off each of their opponents without so much as a “how do you do?”
The big name in Hamilton is 2021 third overall selection Mason McTavish of the Anaheim Ducks. He played three games for the Ducks this year, and became their youngest ever goal scorer. He also played for the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks’ AHL affiliate, before being sent back to the OHL. McTavish had 29 points in 19 playoff games for Hamilton this year, clearly way too good for this league.
The Bulldogs also have two players who will be in this year’s NHL Entry Draft: Avery Hayes and Logan Morrison. The latter put up 100 points in just 60 games, just silly production, which he added 39 points in 19 games to in the post season. Hayes meanwhile 34 points in 16 playoff games, the best points-per-game rate in the entire OHL.
The Bulldogs will be out to win their first Memorial Cup in franchise history, and have the elite offensive talent to take a serious run at it.
From the QMJHL: The Shawiningan Cataraques
Unlike the dominant regular season dominance of Hamilton and Edmonton, Shawinigan went into the playoffs as the seventh seed, and beat favourites the Quebec Remparts and Charlottetown Islanders to earn the right to represent the QMJHL.
They are no slouches however, being buoyed by one of the most dangerous offensive duos in the QMJHL Maverick Bourque and Xavier Bourgault. Bourque, a 2020 first-round pick of the Dallas Stars put up 25 playoffs points in 16 games and had an unbelievable 68 points in 31 games in the regular season—absolutely silly production.
Bourgault, the 2021 Edmonton Oilers draft pick had 75 points in 43 regular season games while adding 22 more in the playoffs. Both will need to be at their best in the playoffs if they hope to get through the other three teams in the tournament.
The Cataraques also have also got solid goaltending from Antoine Coulombe. The undrafted netminder put up a 0.921 save percentage in the post-season, and enters the tournament with the best record of the four starting netminders in the tournament. The Quebec team will be looking for him to continue his impressive run of form.
Shawinigan last won the tournament as the host in 2012, and will be looking to go two for two in Memorial Cup wins.
The hosts: The Saint John Sea Dogs
The Sea Dogs loaded up at the QMJHL’s Trade Deadline this year, but fell woefully short in the playoffs, crashing out in the first round to the Rimouski Oceanic in five games. They then fired Head Coach Gordie Dwyer and brough on University of New Brunswick Head Coach Gardiner MacDougall on as a temporary coach for the tournament. They will no doubt be looking for much more going into the tournament.
The Calgary Flames are well represented in Saint John, with two prospects on the team’s blueline. 2020 second round selection Yan Kuznetsov is an enormous defensive defenceman who has found a bit of a scoring touch in Eastern Canada. He had 13 points in 25 games for the Sea Dogs, and had two points in four playoff games. He was also a team-high +4 in the playoffs.
He is complimented by his regular defence partner Jeremie Poirier, a 2020 third-round selection. The right shot blueliner put up 57 points in 67 games and added three more in the playoffs. What is more impressive is how far his defensive game has come along in the Q over the last couple of years, and how much more responsible he has been in his own end of the ice. He has taken huge strides forward in his development, and will be looking to make a mark in the Memorial Cup this year.
The Flames also had Ryan Francis in their prospect pool until this year, but let his rights lapse earlier this month. He is still a very dangerous piece for the Sea Dogs, and finished with 65 points in 54 regular season games.
The team will be looking for their second win in history and their first since 2011.
Memorial Cup tournament structure
The tournament kicks off on Monday, June 20 with the round robin tournament spanning the week until Saturday, June 25. For Flames fans, the Saint John Sea Dogs play on June 20 against Hamilton at 4PM MDT, June 22 against Edmonton at 4PM MDT, and June 25 against Shawinigan at 2PM MDT.
There is then a tie-breaker if necessary to decide the standings for the semi-final on Sunday, June 26. The semis take place on June 27 between the second and third place teams. The winner plays the top-team from the round robin on June 29 at 4PM MDT.
How have the Flames done in the past?
A number of former and current Flames have played or won the tournament over the years. Most recently, Matthew Tkachuk won the tournament in 2015 with the London Knights. He played on a line with Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner that year and had eight points in four games that year including the championship-winning goal in overtime.
Milan Lucic also won the tournament with the Vancouver Giants in 2007. He was the tournament’s leading scorer with seven points in five games. Also in that tournament was the guy he would be traded for in James Neal. He had a tournament-high five goals and six points in five games. Lucic was named the tournament MVP and was a first-team all-star, yet again showing up the former Edmonton Oiler.
Former Flames like Lance Bouma have also won the tournament once, while former Flames captain Jarome Iginla is part of a very small group of players who have won the trophy twice. He and the Kamloops Blazers won the tournament in 1994 and 1995, and Iginla won the George Parsons Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player of the tournament.
Only four players have ever won the Memorial Cup three times, one of whom is Ryan Huska, the Flames’ assistant coach. He also won the tournament with the Kamloops Blazers in 1992, and with Iginla in 1994, and 1995. The Blazers were a junior hockey dynasty in the 1990s and are the winningest franchise with five wins all time.
Plenty of high-end hockey ahead
The Memorial Cup is the top junior hockey tournament, and is consistently a tournament where the brightest stars in junior hockey shine. Not only do you get to see them before they make their NHL debuts, they are often head and shoulders ahead of their peers, and show that off in the tournament.
Because it is such a short tournament with only one game against each team, the randomness factor is in full effect. Any of the four teams are able to win the tournament, and it is regularly referred to as one of the toughest trophies to lift in the world of hockey.
For Flames fans, both Kuznetsov and Poirier are among the team’s top defensive prospects and both will be looking to carve out big roles on the Stockton Heat next year. Both are very different types of blueliners, with Kuznetsov big and punishing like Nikita Zadorov while Poirier has often been compared to Ottawa Senators’ stalwart Thomas Chabot. Both former Sea Dogs, Poirier recently broke Chabot’s record as the team’s all-time top scorer as a defenceman.
With the games available on TSN this year, it is super accessible to watch the entirety of the tournament. We will have you covered on all the big news as it happens on the Flames prospects as they happen.
Photo credits: Saint John Sea Dogs