The puck drops on the Memorial Cup in Rimouski, Que., on Friday night. The following is a breakdown of the teams vying for the Canadian Hockey League’s top prize.
Despite being hosts, the Oceanic have to be considered an underdog after not even making the QMJHL final. They bowed out in four straight to the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the semifinals and haven’t played since April 22.
Oilers draft pick Philippe Cornet, hard-hitting Canadian world junior standout Patrice Cormier and all-star blue-liners Marc-Andre Bourdon and Sebastien Piche will do what they can to keep the 2000 Memorial Cup champs afloat.
Also watch for former Halifax Mooseheads forward Logan MacMillan and head coach Clement Jodoin, who held the same job with the Mooseheads in the 1990s.
Teams will have to find a way to shut down the prolific Voltigeurs, a favourite after averaging nearly six goals per game en route to their first QMJHL title. Playoff MVP Yannick Riendeau (29 goals among 52 points) makes them tick, while draft-eligible blue-liner Dmitry Kulikov is one of the CHL’s best.
However, the loss of Maple Leafs draftee Chris DiDomenico to a broken leg takes some bite out of the offence.
The Rockets are a familiar face here, having made four trips to the Memorial Cup in the past seven years. They upset the No. 1-ranked Calgary Hitmen in the WHL final but can be fairly classed as an underdog along with the Oceanic.
Hulking defenceman Tyler Myers, a Sabres first-rounder, and Swedish forward Mikael Backlund, a Flames first-rounder, are players to watch, while Canadian world junior forward Jamie Benn led the WHL playoffs with 33 points.
When Calgary was knocked off in the WHL final, it left Windsor as the top-ranked team at the Memorial Cup.
The tough, skilled Spitfires rolled over some formidable OHL competition to get here and are led by playoff MVP and 2010 draft prospect Taylor Hall, Russian forward Andre Loktionov and ultra-skilled defenceman Ryan Ellis.
The Spitfires are loaded with talent and widely considered the pre-tournament favourite along with the Voltigeurs.