Halifax Mooseheads defenseman Jocktan Chainey is looking to end his junior career in style.
The Devils prospect is a key figure for the Mooseheads, who are hosting the Memorial Cup starting Friday night at Scotiabank Centre in the Canadian coastal city when they play the Western Hockey League champion Prince Albert Raiders.
"Up to now we haven't been thinking too much about it," said Chainey, when asked about playing for the Memorial Cup. "But now we are all really excited. The city is excited. It's a special opportunity to play for such a special trophy."
Chainey, selected by the Devils with their seventh-round pick (191st overall) two years ago in Chicago, only recently started to feel at full strength after a shoulder injury.
"I only managed to play six games since Christmas and before the playoffs but I feel like I'm back to playing good now and so is our team," he said.
Chainey, who turns 20 in September, has attended two Devils training camps. He still looks back at his selection by the Devils as a career highlight.
"My whole family was there in Chicago, it was pretty crazy and a huge honor to have my name called," he said.
In keeping with the cyclical nature of major junior hockey, Halifax GM Cam Russell, a former NHL defenseman who is a Halifax native, started building a team worthy of competing for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title not long after the Mooseheads won the Memorial Cup in 2013.
Part of that effort was to acquire Chainey from the Shawinigan Cataractes, who had drafted the Asbestos, Que., native with the 14th overall pick in the QMJHL Draft earlier that year.
The Mooseheads were awarded hosting rights for the Memorial Cup a little over a year ago.
As a result, all season long the Mooseheads knew they would be competing against the champions from their own league, along with the WHL and the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). The Moose fell one step short of winning their league crown when they dropped the President Cup final series in six games to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies a week ago.
Beyond Chainey, the Mooseheads have had multiple key contributors out of the lineup and finally having a full squad was the key to registering three playoff series victories before falling to the Huskies.
"We went our whole season without having our full lineup," said Mooseheads head coach Eric Veilleux. "Even when you get guys back from injuries, they still need time to get their touch back and get back up to game speed. Once we had everyone playing at the same time, that's when we were at our best."
The Guelph Storm stamped their ticket to Halifax with a six-game series victory over the Ottawa 67's, a team that included Devils prospect Mitchell Hoelscher. Prince Albert won the WHL crown with a dramatic Game 7 victory on home ice over the Vancouver Giants on Monday night.
Chainey had a 40-point season last year and registered nine points in his abbreviated 32 games this season. He has been much more productive in the post-season, with three goals and five assists in 22 playoff games.
Despite their QMJHL runner-up status, the Mooseheads could be the favorite this week playing in front of raucous home crowds. In a tournament that can be notoriously hard to predict, all four participating teams have the type of roster to win the national championship. In total, 27 players, including Chainey, are property of NHL clubs.
A handful of prospects, led by Halifax's Rafael Lavoie and Brett Leason of Prince Albert, are expected to be selected in next month's NHL Draft in Vancouver.
A decade ago, the Devils' Taylor Hall led his Windsor Spitfires to the first of two consecutive Memorial Cup crowns. Hall's future New Jersey teammate Adam Henrique was also a member of both of Windsor's championship squads.
Halifax last hosted the Memorial Cup in 2000, which marked the first time the event had been held in Atlantic Canada. The Brad Richards-led Rimouski Oceanic skated off with the trophy with a 6-2 win over the Barrie Colts.