The host Saint John Sea Dogs defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 on Wednesday night to claim the 102nd the commemorative cup. Although the tournament was played much later than usual due to the pandemic, it was great to see the event being held in one of Canada’s most fun CHL cities.
If you haven’t already traveled to Canada’s east coast, I recommend adding Saint John, Moncton, Halifax, Charlottetown, and Cape Breton to your bucket list of CHL cities to visit in the future. If you like seafood, great music and the occasional adult drink, Maritimers know how to throw a party!
With the Memorial Cup behind us, there are no major events between now and the NHL Draft next week. With summer just around the corner, here are some players that caught my eye during the tournament:
Drafted by NY Islanders, fifth round (152nd overall) in 2020.
Dufour had a regular season breakout year, scoring 56 goals and 116 points in 66 games, then being named the MVP of the QMJHL. He was also named MVP of the Memorial Cup after scoring seven goals and eight points in four games played.
Not every prospect develops the same way. Some are more pro-ready than others. Dufour is an example of a player who has been polarizing for years. He has been traded in the Q several times and never seemed quite comfortable with his environment until this year.
The 6-foot-3, 204-pound winger has a pro release. There is no doubt that he knows how to score goals. He has a heavy, accurate shot that beats goalkeepers from a distance. Its size is also a plus in the hard areas when expanding play and distributing in traffic. However, his skating needs to improve another 20 percent before the NHL game. Will he be Arthur Kaliyev or Matthew Strome at the next level?
Dufour’s development path has been a twisty one, but he deserves credit for a great season. Hopefully this is the start of beautiful things in the future.
Undrafted free agent signing by Montreal in 2021.
Full disclosure: I am in love with Arber. How can you not? This is a player who was a free agent when he created the Kitchener Rangers. He was not drafted by any NHL team, but did earn a contract from Montreal after a strong performance at their training camp in 2021. He is the poster player for perseverance and character.
Arber is a big, strong, two-way defender. He is six feet, 205 pounds, mobile, tough, and he moves the puck efficiently to hook up on a secondary foul.
At the Memorial Cup, Xhekaj’s playing reminded me a lot of Ben Chiarot (when he was with the Habs and playing at his best). He was deployed in all situations, providing five assists in five games and playing with an intimidating presence.
Montreal has found a potential NHL defender for free. I look forward to following Arber’s development on a professional level. We already know that he will do everything in his power to reach his goal.
Drafted by the St. Louis Blues, first round (26th overall) in 2020.
The kind of player scouts describe as a ‘Swiss Army Knife’. Jake does a little bit of everything and can play in the lineup.
He scored just one goal in three Memorial Cup matches. The group looked like they were running out of gas as a team. My takeaway about Neighbors is still positive though. He emptied the tank every time he hit the ice and gave the Oil Kings everything he had. He played fast and was physically involved. Neighbors is a tenacious attacker who wants to become a second or third tier NHL player in a good team. The Oil Kings could have used more offense from his stick last week, but there is no doubt that he played with passion and was competitive.
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, first round (third overall) in 2021.
For those who expected even more of McTavish at the Memorial Cup, think about his hockey journey in 2021-22: McTavish played games for Anaheim (NHL), San Diego (AHL), Team Canada (Olympic Games), Peterborough (OHL) and Hamilton (OHL).
I’m not sure if the kid is accumulating air miles or hotel points, but he should have earned some free nights and flights with all his travel last season.
He emptied the tank at the Memorial Cup. After a somewhat slow start, he went to another level in the semi and final. He gave opponents everything they could on the hard areas and showed his fast stick and puck skills. McTavish finished the tournament with six goals and eight points. He’s ready for pro and should get full-time NHL minutes with the Ducks next season.
Drafted by the Dallas Stars, first round (30th overall) in 2020.
While I was the Director of Scouting for the Florida Panthers, I traveled to Shawinigan to watch Mavrik play in the fall of 2019. Our Regional Scout, Dillon Donnelly, had taken a shine at Bourque early that season and believed in his league and ability. . Bourque suffered an injury that evening and ended up in the stands halfway through the game. We spoke to Bourque between the second and third period. I can’t remember the details regarding his injury so I’m going to describe it as an “upper body” injury. The boy told me to get stronger so that these kind of setbacks don’t happen again as he matures as a player. He told me he plays a proficient game but doesn’t shy away from the traffic and competition.
Fast forward to this Memorial Cup, and Bourque is playing the game exactly as he described to me in the fall of 2019. He left it all on the ice in the tournament, scoring two goals and seven points. He seemed to have the puck on his stick every shift. On the power play, he was equal parts shooter and divider from the flank. I like the way Bourque plays. He is the kind of player who is willing to carry a team on his back.
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, first round (15th overall) in 2021.
Cossa is a great person. An athletic 6-foot-6 goalkeeper who has the potential to develop into an NHL No. 1.
His Memorial Cup was uneven for me. Cossa made some great saves, but also conceded some goals that he would admit were weak.
Keepers generally need more time to develop. Cossa needs time to clean up some of his unnecessary habits. With his size, there is no reason for him to play outside the blue paint of his fold. If he does, his size becomes less of an advantage when the pucks fall to the side of the net and he has to travel continue to save. Also in this tournament, his control over the rebound was disabled. Finally, when he went down paddling on wrap arounds or “stuff” plays, he failed to get his stick into position or get his pads tight against the ice.
Cossa is a Class A goalkeeper who, it seems, ran out of gas at the Memorial Cup. When in his game, he is fast enough for his stature, holding the pucks closer to his body and moving sideways with more precision. He needs time.
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, second round (48th overall) in 2020.
There was a time when I was concerned about Mysak’s willingness to get pucks along the boards and expand or play. He has always displayed solid skill. He’s not an intimidating player, but he’s not small either (6 feet, 180 pounds). He only scored two goals in five Memorial Cup appearances, but it wasn’t because of a lack of commitment and commitment.
Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, first round (22nd overall) in 2021.
Bourgault and Bourque fed each other for Shawinigan. They have similar characteristics.
Bourgault finished the Memorial Cup with two goals and seven points and was a threat to the rush and the PP. I appreciate his skill. He’s quick off target and has the kind of skill to beat opponents one-on-one in open ice and tight quarters.
Drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights, fourth round (128th overall) in 2021.
Demek will need to work on his foot speed to stand a chance of turning pro in North America. However, he does have an understanding of how to play on the defensive side of the puck and he is fantastic in the face-off circle. He won 47 draws in three Memorial Cup games. Teams want to start with the puck-off face-offs, so he has some attractive elements that can contribute to team success.
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, first round (16th overall) in 2020.
It seemed like Guhle never left the ice in the tournament. He made good minutes in all situations and provided three assists in three games.
I felt like Guhle was trying to do too much at times and his detail generally suffered. He was occasionally above the puck in his zone and forced some actions in the attacking zone. That said, he is an elite skater who is highly competitive and can be deployed in a variety of roles. He is an A forward who could become a top pairing NHL defender in time.
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, fourth round (122nd overall) in 2020.
I felt William played a low risk and efficient game at the Memorial Cup. His outlets were clean and he also skated some pucks every now and then. He looks set to end up in a two-way defense prospect that won’t stand out with an elite element in a particular category, but could provide a responsible play defensively.
Drafted by the Calgary Flames, third round (72nd overall) in 2020.
There was a time when I was very concerned about the risky game Poirier was playing. Defending and detailing seemed like an afterthought from a few years ago. Fast forward to today and I see a player who has scaled back some of his risk and is playing with more detail, but still has the ability to play offensively. He produced one goal and three points in the Memorial Cup. Poirier could be a nice find for the Flames.
The CHL season has finally come to an end. The past few years have been difficult for the players, organizations and the scouting association. I could have written reports on many more deserving players from this tournament. Congratulations to the CHL and Saint John, New Brunswick for getting the Memorial Cup back on track.