While NHL playoff action barrels toward the conference finals, junior hockey postseason has reached a crescendo, as the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup begins this weekend – and the Carolina Hurricanes have a rooting interest.
The Ontario Hockey League champion Guelph Storm, featuring Canes forward prospect Brock McGinn, is among the four teams participating in the annual tournament to decide the Canadian Hockey League champion.
In his fourth and final junior season with Guelph, McGinn exploded offensively, nearly equaling his point production from his first three seasons combined. The 20-year-old posted 43 goals and 42 assists (85 points) and a plus-46 rating in 58 games
“Brock had a tremendous season. He’s grown as a player, and his offense has continued to develop,” said Darren Yorke, video scout and hockey operations assistant with the Canes. “Not too many players – regardless of their age – can put up 43 goals in 58 games. He’s got a tremendous shot and he’s smart.”
Guelph, coached by former Hurricane Scott Walker, worked their way through Plymouth, London, Erie and North Bay, each by a 4-1 series margin, en route to capturing the OHL title. McGinn played in 12 of those games, having to serve an eight-game suspension after a check on Connor Sills in the first round.
McGinn returned to action in the Western Conference Final against the Erie Otters. The Canes’ 2012 second-round draft pick remained a point-per-game producer in the postseason with 12 points (6g, 6a) in as many games. He would go on to score a goal in the title-clinching game against North Bay.
“It took him some time to get going. Obviously when you miss as many games as he did, the pace picks up, and it’s going to take some time to get your legs regardless of what you do with conditioning,” Yorke said. “Once he got his legs underneath him, he continued to play that NHL-style game that we love.”
With McGinn’s professional career on the horizon, the Memorial Cup will serve as a fitting cap on what has been an increasingly impressive junior stint for the younger brother of NHL players Jamie and Tye.
“It’s part of the process of growing as a player,” Yorke said. “He’s going to take this experience, especially with this as his last time as a junior player, and grow as a professional player. He’s a leader on the team, players look up to him and the pressure is on him, which is a good thing.”
The Canes inked McGinn to a three-year, entry-level contract in April 2013. That will kick in at the outset of the 2014-15 season, but McGinn already has some AHL experience under his belt. After being knocked out of the first round of the OHL playoffs in 2012-13, the Fergus, Ontario, native skated with the Checkers in four regular-season contests and two playoff matches.
Later this summer, McGinn will attend Carolina’s training camp and compete for a depth spot on the roster.
“He plays a very physical game,” Yorke said. “He has to be able to do that at the NHL level, and you’re dealing with stronger players. He’ll have to come in, work hard like everyone else and try to earn a spot.”
More immediately, McGinn looks to continue his and the Storm’s banner season. Guelph, playing in the Memorial Cup for the fifth time in their 23-year history, will face the Western Hockey League champion Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday, the Quebec Major-Junior Hockey League champion Val-d’Or Foreurs on Monday and the host London Knights on Wednesday in round-robin play. All Memorial Cup games will be televised on NHL Network.
“The Memorial Cup is one tough tournament to win. To even get to that point is such a huge accomplishment from a team perspective. He had to win the OHL [championship], go through the playoff grind, and now regroup to try to win another playoff series just to try to win the CHL championship,” Yorke said. “Winning is always great for development. You understand what it takes and how hard it is to win.”
All times listed in Eastern standard time.
|DATE ||MATCH-UP ||RESULT/TIME ||TV |
|MAY 17 ||GUELPH vs. EDMONTON ||5-2 ||NHL NETWORK (7:30 p.m.) |
|MAY 19 ||GUELPH vs. VAL-d'OR ||6-3 ||NHL NETWORK (MAY 20, 1:00 p.m.) |
|MAY 21 ||LONDON vs. GUELPH ||2-7 ||NHL NETWORK (MAY 22, 1:00 p.m.) |
|MAY 25 ||FINAL: EDMONTON vs. GUELPH ||6-3 ||NHL NETWORK |