Memorial Cup Preview
by Bob Davis(NHL)
Posted on May 19, 2006, 5:01 PM
The long and winding road to the 2006 Memorial Cup has come to it’s conclusion. Out of the 48 teams that began the playoffs, all with a shot at the championship, only 4 teams remain. Your CHL prognosticator is here to tell you who those 4 teams are, as well as to let you know about a few players that you should keep your eyes on in the next 10 days, and in the years to come.
If you recall, I posted 7 different columns at the beginning of this road, forecasting who would be here when we got to this very point. Out of the 45 series that I predicted, I am happy to say that my record is the polar opposite of my record prognosticating the NHL playoffs – I finished with a very respectable 32-13 record. However, the Peterborough Petes rendered my initial Memorial Cup champion obsolete, as the Petes knocked out the London Knights in 4 straight games in the OHL final.
Joining Peterborough in this 10-day tournament is the host Moncton Wildcats, coached by former Buffalo Sabres head-man Ted Nolan. Nolan’s team could have mailed in their effort all season long, simply because they had an automatic berth sewn up once the championship was awarded to the city. However, Nolan took his team to the top of the QMJHL standings, and Moncton wound up taking out Quebec in the Quebec finals to legitimately earn their shot in their own championship.
Moncton’s counterpart, the Quebec Remparts, also locked up a berth, simply by qualifying for the Quebec league finals against Moncton. Despite the fact that the Remparts lost that series, they are still a very dangerous team in this short event. Patrick Roy has a very talented line-up under his tutelage, including one future NHL superstar who recorded an astonishing 55 points... in the PLAYOFFS.
Rounding out the field, in a very “last, but certainly not least” sort of way are the WHL champions, the Vancouver Giants. The Western Hockey League champions dominated the opposition on the way to the national championship, winning their final 12 games of the playoffs to capture the WHL title. In the process, the Giants killed off a WHL-record 63 consecutive power-plays, preventing the opposition from scoring with the man advantage for over 30 consecutive periods.
QMJHL Champions: Moncton Wildcats.
The host team took care of business in a big way through the Quebec league championships, losing only 5 out of 21 playoff games en route to the Memorial Cup. Leading the charge for the Wildcats was centre Philippe Dupuis. The 19-year-old, 4th round draft pick from 2004 of Columbus, recorded 32 points in 19 games in the post-season, including 9 goals on the power play. Dupuis proved he is also a solid two-way player, posting a very respectable +15 rating over the course of the playoffs.
QMJHL Finalists: Quebec Remparts.
Patrick Roy’s team is a very explosive, dominating force that ran into a brick wall in the finals. The Remparts were led through the playoff run by a pair of spectacular right-wingers, by the names of Radulov and Melanson, who put up an astonishing 95 points in just 46 combined games. 19-year-old Alexander Radulov, taken in the 2004 draft by Nashville, potted 21 goals and 55 points in the playoffs; while his teammate, the 20-year old draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, Mathieu Melanson, notched 25 goals and 40 points. The dynamic duo of wingers knocked home 25 goals on the power-play, and combined for 3 game winning goals on their way to the finals.
OHL Champions: Peterborough Petes.
I’ll admit that I underestimated the talent on this line-up. Led by a very experienced head coach, Dick Todd, the Petes pulled off a stunning sweep of the defending Memorial Cup champion London Knights in the OHL Final. A pair of very familiar names led the charge for the Petes; a pair of players with the names Staal and Ryder. 19-year-old centre Daniel Ryder, the 74th overall pick of the Flames from 2005, posted 31 points in 19 playoff games this time around. Centre Jordan Staal, the 18-year-old top prospect brother of Hurricanes’ star Eric, put up 16 points for the Petes, including 6 goals on special teams. Backstopped by David Shantz, a 20-year-old goalie who put up a .925 save percentage in the playoffs, the Petes look to be a legitimate contender for the Championship.
WHL Champions: Vancouver Giants.
I had the pleasure of watching the Giants take apart the Moose Jaw Warriors in 4 straight games... well, pleasure isn’t the best word, being a Saskatchewan native. Despite the fact that I was rooting for the opposition, the Giants definitely proved that they deserved the WHL title. Led by #17 Gilbert Brule, the Giants dominated nearly every aspect of the series against the Warriors. The first round selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005, Brule posted 9 points in the first 2 games of the WHL finals, en route to a 30-point, 18 game total. The Giants also had a stalwart in net, with Dustin Slade setting a WHL record of his own in the playoff run – 6 shutouts through the first 3 rounds of the post season.
The Canadian Hockey League is a very exciting brand of hockey, and these 4 teams are very evenly matched, high-powered teams; all of whom have excellent speed and the ability to bust a game wide open in a very short time period. All of these teams are deserving of the title of champion, but at the end of the day, only one will be crowned as a national champion. Heading into this tournament, the team that I feel has the best shot at that title is the one that doesn’t have the title of champion... yet.
PREDICTION: Quebec Remparts over the Vancouver Giants in the Final.