Cole Cassels will try and accomplish something that hasn’t been done by a Canucks prospect since 2011: win the Memorial Cup.
With 60 teams vying for it, the Memorial Cup is one of the toughest trophies in all of hockey to win. For Cassels, a win would be the icing on the cake of a sensational season, and junior hockey career, that has seen him shoot up the depth chart of Canucks prospects after netting 81 points (30-51-81) in 54 games this past season. He also finished second in OHL post-season scoring with 31 points (10-21-31) in 21 contests.
But for Cassels, the Canucks’ third round pick in 2013, his stock rose up even more during the OHL Championship Series when he put the Generals on his back and carried them past the Erie Otters, scoring 12 points (4-8-12) in five games while also slowing down Connor McDavid, who managed just one assist in the three games played in Oshawa with the Generals having last change and the ability to put Cassels out against him.
But now comes the toughest test. Every game means that much more and every team is stacked in their own right.
Schedule (Note: All games can be seen live on Sportsnet):
Friday, May 22: Kelowna vs. Québec, 4:30 p.m. PT
Saturday, May 23: Rimouski vs. Oshawa, 1:30 p.m. PT
Sunday, May 24: Québec vs. Oshawa, 1: 30 p.m. PT
Monday, May 25: Rimouski vs. Kelowna, 4:30 p.m. PT
Tuesday, May 26: Oshawa vs. Kelowna, 4:30 p.m. PT
Wednesday, May 27: Québec vs. Rimouski, 4:30 p.m. PT
**Thursday, May 28: Tie-Breaker, 4:30 p.m. PT
Friday, May 29: Semifinal, 4:30 p.m. PT
Sunday, May 31: Championship Final, 4 p.m. PT
Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Memorial Cups: 4 (1939, 1940, 1944, 1990)
Memorial Cup Appearances: 12 (Last 1997)
How they got there: Beat the Petes in five games, the IceDogs in five games, and the Battalion in six games, before ousting the Otters in five games in the OHL Final.
Who to watch: Besides Cassels, the Generals have their fair share of talent all over the line-up. Michael Dal Colle, the fifth overall pick last June, provides offensive flare along with Cassels, while Michael McCarron and Hunter Smith, both 6-foot-6, provide muscle and secondary scoring up front along with 6-foot-3 Tobias Lindberg. Captain Josh Brown anchors the blue-line along with draft eligible Mitchell Vande Sompel.
Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Memorial Cups: 1 (2004)
Memorial Cup Appearances: 5 (Last 2009)
How they got there: Swept Tri-Cities in the first round, ousted Victoria in five games, took care of Portland in six games, before sweeping the number one overall seed Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL Final.
Who to watch: Where to start? Leon Draisaitl comes with 37 games of NHL experience. Nick Merkley, who led the team with 90 points during the regular season, will hear his name called in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The Rockets have arguably the best 1-2 punch on the blue-line with Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey, both members of the 2015 Canadian World Junior team. Jackson Whistle, who played for the Canucks as a free agent at the 2014 Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, mans the crease for the Rockets.
Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)
Memorial Cups: 1 (2000)
Memorial Cup Appearances: 4 (Last 2009)
How they got there: Swept Victoriaville, ousted Gatineau in five games, swept Val-d'Or, beat Quebec in double overtime in Game 7 of the QMJHL Final.
Who to watch: 20-year-old captain Alexis Loiseau led the team all season and continued to do so in the post-season. The Océanic roster also includes a pair of 2015 world junior gold medalists in Samuel Morin and Frédérik Gauthier, both first round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft. Defenceman Jan Kostalek provides offence from the back-end, scoring 21 points in 20 post-season games.
Québec Remparts (Host/QMJHL)
Memorial Cups: 2 (1971, 2006)
Memorial Cup Appearances: 7 (Last 2006)
How they got there: Edged Cape Breton in the first round, winning the series 4-3, swept Charlottetown, swept Moncton, lost in double overtime to Rimouski in Game 7 of the QMJHL Final. Have an automatic spot in Memorial Cup as the host team.
Who to watch: Up front they are led by Adam Erne, a second round pick of the Lightning, who posted 21 goals in 22 post-season games, and Anthony Duclair, who already has 18 games of NHL experience with the Rangers under his belt and a gold medal at the 2015 World Juniors. Zachary Fucale, a 2013 Memorial Cup champion and 2015 World Junior gold medalist, leads the way between the pipes.