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Reinhart Gets Second Chance at Memorial Cup

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Griffin Reinhart handles the puck against the London Knights at the 2012 Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, Quebec.

Griffin Reinhart has had an illustrious junior hockey career. Over the past four years he’s won two Western Hockey League titles, was named a championship series MVP and represented Canada at two World Junior Championships.

Before the curtain closes on his time in junior, the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 draft has one last chance to claim the top prize in junior hockey, the Mastercard Memorial Cup, which runs from May 16-25 in London, Ontario.

“Hopefully this is my last shot at a junior title,” Reinhart said. “It would be nice to make the most of it and cap it off with a win. Hearing from a lot of past winners, they say it’s unbelievable and you remember it for a lifetime.”

Reinhart and the Edmonton Oil Kings qualified for the tournament two seasons ago in Shawinigan, Quebec, but were eliminated by Kirill Kabanov and the eventual hometown champion Shawinigan Cataractes.

“The way the team approached it last time was as an all-star tournament, which it is not like at all,” Reinhart said. “Every other team here has won a championship and it’s good, tough hockey.”

The window to win a Memorial Cup is incredibly small and the path is exhausting. Four of the CHL’s 60 member clubs play for the Memorial Cup and only one team wins. The teams have to win a four-round playoff gauntlet in their own league just to qualify for the tournament, where they stack up against the other champions of the junior circuit. (The host city automatically qualifies to face the league champs.)

Factor in the four-year window players play junior hockey and it’s clear why the Memorial Cup is one of the hardest trophies in hockey to win.

“It’s not too often you get a second sniff around the Memorial Cup,” Reinhart said. “We have some unfinished business from two years ago.”

Five other Oil Kings remain from the 2012 team: Henrik Samuelsson, Curtis Lazar, Cody Corbett, Mitchell Moroz and Ashton Sautner. Samuelsson was the Oil Kings leading scorer in the 2012 Memorial Cup and led the Oil Kings with 23 points (8G, 15A) in 21 playoff games this year. Lazar finished one point off Samuelsson’s pace this postseason and will look to cap a career-year.

Reinhart had two points in four games at the 2012 Memorial Cup and said he and the other veterans are relishing a chance at redemption and preparing the younger players for what to expect.

“The guys that were here have spoken up and have taken a big leadership role and have done really well with that,” Reinhart said. “The younger guys and the newer guys have followed in their footsteps and that approach so far has been good.”

Reinhart and the Oil Kings get underway Saturday at 4:00 p.m. against the OHL champion Guelph Storm.

The Competition:

The Memorial Cup features the top teams in the junior circuit, as well as some of the top NHL prospects. The teams play a round-robin format to determine seeding for the elimination rounds. The top seed after the round-robin receives an automatic berth in the championship, while the second seed gets an automatic berth in the semi-final round. The third and fourth seed play for a spot in the semi-final round. Here is a breakdown of the competition vying for the Memorial Cup.

Guelph Storm: OHL Champions; Regular Season: 52-12-2-2; 108 pts.

Road to the Cup:
Guelph stormed through the OHL this season, boasting the best regular-season record before posting a 16-4 record in the playoffs, winning every series in five games. The Storm defeated the North Bay Battalion in the OHL final.

Player to Watch:
The Storm attack is led by NHL prospect Kerby Rychel. The 2013 first-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets was acquired from the Windsor Spitfires midseason and finished the year strong with Guelph. Rychel was Guelph’s leading scorer in the postseason, notching 32 points (11G, 21A) in 20 games. The Los Angeles, CA, native also scored 51 points (18G, 33A) in 31 regular-season games after the trade, giving Rychel 83 points in 51 total games for Guelph.

Memorial Cup History:
Guelph is appearing in the franchise’s fifth Memorial Cup, but the Storm are still looking for their first win. The Storm’s best finish in Memorial Cup competition was a second-place finish in 1998 and have finished fourth three times (1996, 2002, 2004).

Val d’Or Foreurs: QMJHL Champions; Regular Season: 46-20-1-1; 94 pts.

Road to the Cup:
The Val d’Or Foreurs represent the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at the Memorial Cup after winning the President’s Trophy by defeating Baie-Comeau Drakkar in seven games.

Player to Watch:
Foreurs’ forward Anthony Mantha is one of the most dynamic scorers in the CHL, scoring 57 goals in 57 games en route to a league-leading, 120-point season. Mantha was drafted 20th overall by the Detroit Red Wings and is nominated for CHL Player of the Year. The 19-year-old scored 24 goals in 24 playoff games this year and scored 11 points (six goals, five assists) in the final five games of the QMJHL championship.

Memorial Cup History:
The Foreurs previously qualified for the Memorial Cup twice after winning the President’s Trophy in 1998 and 2001, but were eliminated in the round-robin.

London Knights: Lost in OHL Western Semi-Final; Regular Season: 49-14-1-4; 103 pts.

Road to the Cup:
The London Knights qualified for the tournament as the host city, but the Knights are a strong team with a legitimate threat to win the Memorial Cup. London finished with 103 points – the third most in the OHL – but lost to Guelph in the second round of the OHL playoffs. The Knights were victims of the OHL’s seeding, as well as a top-heavy Western Conference, which boasted all three 100-point teams (Guelph, Erie and London).

Player to Watch:
The Knights boast some top NHL prospects including Max Domi and Bo Horvat who were both selected in the top-12 in last year’s draft. Domi - the 12th-overall pick by the Phoenix Coyotes – scored 93 points (34G, 59A) during 61 regular-season games, while Horvat – the 9th-overall pick by the Vancouver Canucks – scored 74 points (34G, 40A) in 54 games.

Memorial Cup History:
London took home two straight OHL championships before this season and is playing in the Memorial Cup for a third straight season. They last won the tournament in 2005.

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