The 4-team junior hockey tournament is finally here. The Memorial Cup has the host Regina Pats, the OHL Champion Hamilton Bulldogs, the QMJHL Champion the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and the WHL Champion Swift Current Broncos. Let’s take a look at how the 4 teams should matchup over the next 10 days.
The Regina Pats lost to the Swift Current Broncos in Game 7 of the 1st round, a tough matchup that’s to the WHL’s playoff format…. If the Pats are looking for any silver lining, the Windsor Spitfires lost in the 1st round last year also and ended up winning the Memorial Cup after a long layoff. Regina boasts the best player in the tournament, Anaheim Ducks 1st rounder Sam Steel had 83 points in 54 games and will need to be at the top of his game if the Pats want any success. The Pats have Josh Mahura, Cale Fleury and Libor Hajek as their top 3 defensemen but after that there is a drop off. In goal Regina is the worst in the tournament, it will be either Ryan Kubic who’s on his 3rd WHL team or 17-year-old Max Paddock.
The Hamilton Bulldogs acquired St. Louis Blues 1st round pick Robert Thomas around the trade deadline and he’s been their best player ever since January. Thomas had 32 points in 21 playoff games en route to an OHL title and playoff MVP. The Bulldogs rely heavily on their forwards to provide offense, they need to because their top 3 defensemen only had a combined 23 goals. In net 6’4 Kaden Fulcher has been just okay throughout the year; a .899 regular season save percentage was raised to a .905 in the playoffs but there is reason to doubt whether he will be able to play good enough to win the tournament.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan don’t have the top scorers that every other team seems to carry in this tournament, but they still had 3 60-point scorers, including Captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel who had 39 goals and 127 penalty minutes. The Titan probably have the best defensemen in the tournament and he’s only 18. Noah Dobson should be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft and after putting up 69 points in 67 games, a big tournament could go a long way for him and his team.
The Swift Current Broncos didn’t have an easy playoffs, they beat Regina in 7, Moose Jaw in 7, Lethbridge in 6, and Everett in 6. The playoffs may not have been easy, but they leave little doubt that they’re the best team in Regina. The Broncos have 6 guys who had over 71 points this year, and 3 who had over 100. Calgary Flames prospect and Bronco Captain Glenn Gawdin had 125 points in the regular season then added another 32 in the playoffs en route to a Championship for his team and MVP for himself. On the backend the Broncos have 2 puck movers, Artyom Minulin and Colby Sissons and 2 punishers, Sahvan Khaira and Josh Anderson. In net the Broncos also have the best goaltender. Edmonton Oilers prospect Stuart Skinner had a .914 save percentage in the regular season and followed that up with an outstanding .932 in the playoffs outdueling league MVP Carter Hart in the process.
Prediction 1. Swift Current 2. Acadie-Bathurst 3. Hamilton 4. Regina