The 2016 Memorial Cup tournament to determine the champion of the Canadian Hockey League will take place at Enmax Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta, beginning Friday and concluding with the championship game May 29.
The four-team, round robin tournament includes the host team, Red Deer, along with Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Rouyn-Noranda, Western Hockey League champion Brandon, and Ontario Hockey League champion London.
Since the round robin format was introduced in 1972, the WHL has won 19 times, including 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings won. Oshawa of the OHL won the Memorial Cup last year with a 2-1 overtime win against Kelowna of the WHL in the championship game.
The host team has won nine times since 1983, most recently in 2012 when Shawinigan of the QMJHL scored a 2-1 overtime victory against London in the championship game.
The 2016 tournament is the first time the tournament has been held in Alberta since 1974, when Regina won the tournament in Calgary.
Red Deer never has hosted the Memorial Cup but did win the title in 2001, its only appearance. This season Red Deer lost a five-game series to Brandon in the WHL Eastern Conference Final.
Here's a closer look at the participating teams:
Coach: Dale Hunter
Memorial Cup championships: 2005
Summary: The Knights won the J. Ross Robertson Cup as champion of the Ontario Hockey League for the fourth time and first since back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. London had the top three OHL playoff scorers and they all played on the same line in 2016 NHL Draft prospect Matthew Tkachuk, Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Christian Dvorak (Arizona Coyotes). Marner was won the Wayne Gretzky '99' Award as most valuable player of the OHL playoffs after leading the league with 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 18 playoff games. Tkachuk led the playoffs with 20 goals and had 40 points. Dvorak had 14 goals and 35 points.
The Knights finished a 16-2 run through the OHL playoffs with a sweep of Niagara in the OHL final. They won their final 13 playoff games, a league record.
Draft-eligible Olli Juolevi was tied for second in OHL playoff scoring among defencemen with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists). Goaltender Tyler Parsons has been an unsung performer in the postseason, winning 16 games with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage.
London went 19-for-68 on the power play (27.9 percent) in the playoffs, and Tkachuk led the league with eight power play goals.
NHL prospects: Defenceman Chris Martenet (Dallas Stars, 2015, No. 103); forwards Marner (Maple Leafs, 2015, No. 4), Dvorak (Coyotes, 2014, No. 58), John Piccinich (Maple Leafs, 2014, No. 103), Daniel Bernhardt (New York Rangers, 2015, No. 119), Chandler Yakimowicz (St. Louis Blues, 2014, No. 172); Kole Sherwood (Columbus Blue Jackets, July 2015, free agent).
Top 2016 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Goaltender Parsons (No. 3, North American goalies); defencemen Juolevi (No. 5, North American skaters), Victor Mete (No. 74), Nicolas Mattinen (No. 136), Brandon Crawley (No. 182); forwards Tkachuk (No. 2), Max Jones (No. 14), Cliff Pu (No. 75).
BRANDON WHEAT KINGS
Coach: Kelly McCrimmon
Memorial Cup championships: None
Summary: Brandon defeated Seattle in five games to win their third Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champion. It was their first league title since 1996.
Forward Nolan Patrick (6-foot-3, 194 pounds) was named WHL playoff MVP after leading all scorers with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games. Patrick, 17, could be the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft. He had 41 goals and 102 points in 72 regular-season games in his second full season in the WHL.
Brandon had five of the top six scorers in the WHL playoffs. Jayce Hawryluk (Florida Panthers) tied Patrick with 30 points, John Quenneville (New Jersey Devils) had 27, Tim McGauley (Washington Capitals) had 26 (eight goals, 26 points), and Reid Duke (Minnesota Wild) had 24 points.
The Wheat Kings also are getting offensive production from their defence, with top 2016 NHL Draft prospect Kale Clague and captain Macoy Erkamps (Ottawa Senators) tying for second among defencemen with 14 points, and Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia Flyers) is fourth with 13 points.
NHL prospects: Defencemen Provorov (Flyers, 2015, No. 7), Macoy Erkamps (Ottawa Senators, April 2016, free agent); forwards Quenneville (Devils, 2014, No. 30), Hawryluk (Florida Panthers, 2014, No. 32), Duke (Wild, 2014, No. 169), McGauley (Washington Capitals, Oct. 2015, free agent).
Top 2016 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Defenceman Clague (No. 27); forward Tanner Kaspick (No. 79).
Coach: Gilles Bouchard
Memorial Cup championships: None
Summary: The Huskies this season won their first President's Cup as QMJHL champion since relocating to Rouyn-Noranda in 1996.
Rouyn-Noranda capped a 16-4 run through the QMJHL playoffs by beating Shawinigan in five games in the best-of-7 championship series.
Forward Timo Meier (San Jose Sharks) was acquired in a trade with Halifax on Jan. 6. He had 23 goals and 51 points in the final 29 games of the regular season, and then had 11 goals and 23 points in 18 playoff games.
Forward Francis Perron (Senators) led the league and set a Rouyn-Noranda record with 33 points in the playoffs, and won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the MVP of the postseason. He also won the regular season MVP award. He's the first QMJHL player to win both since Halifax's Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning) in 2013.
Rouyn-Noranda's 113 points led the QMJHL during the regular season. The Huskies had six 20-goal scorers including first-year player Martins Dzierkals (Maple Leafs), who scored 24. He had seven goals and 17 points in 20 playoff games.
NHL prospects: Defencemen Jeremy Lauzon (Boston Bruins, 2015, No. 52), Philippe Myers (Flyers, Sept. 2015, free agent); forwards Meier (Sharks, 2015, No. 9), Perron (Senators, 2014, No. 190), AJ Greer (Colorado Avalanche, 2015, No. 39), Dzierkals (Maple Leafs, 2015, No. 68), Julien Nantel (Avalanche, 2014, No. 204), Jean-Christophe Beaudin (Avalanche, 2015, No. 71).
Top 2016 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Defenceman Jacob Neveu (No. 107).
RED DEER REBELS
Coach: Brent Sutter
Memorial Cup championships: 2001
Summary: The host team has the talent to do some damage. Left wing Adam Helewka (Sharks) was fourth in the WHL playoffs with nine goals and first with six power play goals in 17 games. Helewka, acquired by Red Deer from Spokane for two players and two draft picks on Jan. 1, had 26 goals and 45 points in 34 regular season games for the Rebels.
Two offseason acquisitions also helped Red Deer this season. Left wing Ivan Nikolishin came over in a trade with Everett, and led the Rebels with 82 points and scored 31 goals. Czech Republic-born right wing Michael Spacek (Winnipeg Jets) was taken with the 47th pick of the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft and had 18 goals and 54 points. Center Conner Bleackley (Coyotes) had wrist surgery in March and is practicing but is doubtful to return.
The last time Red Deer celebrated a Memorial Cup was 2001 when it was led by future NHL players Colby Armstrong, Martin Erat, Boyd Gordon and Jim Vandermeer.
NHL prospects: Defencemen Haydn Fleury (Carolina Hurricanes, 2014, No. 7), Nelson Nogier (Jets, 2014, No. 101); forwards Jake DeBrusk (Boston Bruins, 2015, No. 14), Adam Musil (St. Louis Blues, 2015, No. 94), Helewka (Sharks, 2015, No. 106), Bleackley (Coyotes; trade with Avalanche, Feb. 2016), Spacek (Jets, 2015, No. 108).
Top 2016 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Goaltender Rylan Toth (No. 16, North American goalies); defenceman Colton Bobyk (No. 204, North American skaters); forwards Jeffrey De Wit (No. 80), Brandon Hagel (No. 104).
2016 Memorial Cup schedule (All times MST)
May 20: London vs. Red Deer, 6 PM MST; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2
May 21: Brandon vs Rouyn-Noranda, 5 PM MST; NHLN, SN360, SN1, TVA Sports 2
May 22: Red Deer vs. Rouyn-Noranda, 5 PM MST; SN, SN360, TVA Sports 2
May 23: Brandon vs. London, 6 PM MST; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2
May 24: Rouyn-Noranda vs. London, 8 PM MST; SN, SN360, TVA Sports 2
May 25: Red Deer vs. Brandon, 6 PM MST; SN360, TVA Sports 2
May 26: Tiebreaker, if necessary, 6 PM MST; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2
May 27: Semifinal, 6 PM MST; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2
May 29: Final, 2:30 PM MST; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2