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Top 2015 prospects set for big roles at Memorial Cup

by Mike G. Morreale / Winnipeg Jets

Jets prospect Josh Morrissey (left) and the WHL champion Kelowna Rockets defeated Brandon for the WHL title





A number of top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft will have roles on their teams at the 2015 Memorial Cup tournament, which will be held May 21-31 at the Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec. The tournament will determine the champion of the Canadian Hockey League.

The four-team tournament includes the host team, the Quebec Remparts, along with the Rimouski Oceanic, champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League; the Western Hockey League champion Kelowna Rockets; and the Ontario Hockey League champion Oshawa Generals.

The top-ranked forward is Kelowna right wing Nicholas Merkley (5-foot-10, 191 pounds), No. 23 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top draft-eligible North American skaters. Merkley had 20 goals and 90 points in 72 regular-season games for the Rockets, and five goals and 27 points in 19 WHL playoff games.

"He's a highly competitive player with excellent skill and offensive hockey sense," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "He's more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but he has the ability to score big goals at the right time."

Oshawa defenseman Mitchell Vande Sompel (5-10, 182), No. 34 on Central Scouting's final ranking, had 12 goals and 63 points in 58 regular-season games, and three goals and 12 points in 16 playoff games.

"His improvement has been gradual but I think he's always been a very good player," Oshawa coach D.J. Smith said. "He was a first-round pick in our league, was highly regarded. Some even thought he would have went higher in the OHL draft as a forward."

Oshawa selected Vande Compel with the 14th pick of the 2013 OHL draft.

"He makes great offensive plays, is good on the power play and is a great skater and puck mover," Smith said. "He has a great compete level and by no stretch has Mitch come out of nowhere. He's been a very good player all the way up through his young career.

Since the round-robin format was introduced at the Memorial Cup in 1972, the WHL has won 19 times, including last season when the Edmonton Oil Kings captured their first title in modern franchise history with a 6-3 win against the Guelph Storm in London, Ontario.

Nine host teams have won the title since 1983, including the last time the event was hosted by the QMJHL in 2012 when the Shawinigan Cataractes defeated the London Knights 2-1 in overtime.

The Remparts last hosted the event in 2003 and have won the Memorial Cup twice, in 1971 and 2006; in 2006 the Remparts beat the Moncton Wildcats as part of the only all-QMJHL final in championship history.

As the host team Quebec received an automatic entry into the Memorial Cup. The Remparts lost a seven-game series to Rimouski in the QMJHL championship round. Rimouski's 2-1 double-overtime victory in Game 7 on May 18 marked the first time in league history that Game 7 of the final series was determined in overtime.

Here's a closer look at the teams competing in the Memorial Cup:

QUEBEC REMPARTS

Coach: Philippe Boucher

Memorial Cup championships: 2

Summary: The Memorial Cup host team had six players with 50 points or more during the regular season, including left wing Dmytro Timashov (19 goals, 71 assists), No. 92 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. The Remparts, who lost a seven-game series to Rimouski in the QMJHL final, are returning to the Memorial Cup for the first time since winning the CHL championship in 2006. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Adam Erne (41 goals, 45 assists) was named most valuable player in the championship round against Rimouski after he had six goals and 10 points. Erne had 21 goals and 30 points in 22 QMJHL playoff games. His linemates, Anthony Duclair (Arizona Coyotes), and Kurt Etchegary, each had 26 points in 22 playoff games. Goaltender Zachary Fucale (Montreal Canadiens) was 14-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 20 playoff games. Duclair and Fucale offer tremendous experience on the big stage having won a gold medal with Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

NHL prospects: Goalie Zachary Fucale (Montreal Canadiens, 2013, No. 35); defensemen Cody Donaghey (Toronto Maple Leafs, free agent, 2014), Ryan Graves (New York Rangers, 2013, No. 110); forwards Anthony Duclair (Arizona Coyotes, trade, 2015), Marc-Olivier Roy (Edmonton Oilers, 2013, No. 56), Adam Erne (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2013, No. 33).

Top 2015 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Goaltender Callum Booth (No. 2); forwards Vladimir Tkachev (No. 159), Dmytro Timashov (No. 92).

RIMOUSKI OCEANIC

Coach: Serge Beausoleil

Memorial Cup championships: 1

Summary: Rimouski, which had a QMJHL-best 99 points in the regular season, defeated the Remparts 2-1 in double overtime of Game 7 to win their third Presidents Cup on May 18. They are making their fourth Memorial Cup appearance; the last championship was in 2000. Right wing Michael Joly scored his 12th playoff goal 2:13 into the second OT to give the Oceanic their first QMJHL championship since 2005 when Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby played a starring role. Rimouski is loaded with NHL draft picks, including forward Frederick Gauthier (Toronto Maple Leafs) and defenseman Samuel Morin (Philadelphia Flyers). Forward Christopher Clapperton (Florida Panthers) was second on the Oceanic in playoff scoring with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists). Goaltender Philippe Desrosiers (Dallas Stars) was 5-3 with a 2.48 GAA and .910 save percentage in nine playoff games. Desrosiers made 47 saves in Game 7 against Quebec.

NHL prospects: Goaltender Philippe Desrosiers (Dallas Stars, 2013, No. 54); defensemen Jan Kostalek (Winnipeg Jets, 2014, No. 114), Samuel Morin (Philadelphia Flyers, 2013, No. 11); forwards Frederik Gauthier (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2013, No. 21), Vincent Dunn (Ottawa Senators, 2013, No. 138), Christopher Clapperton (Florida Panthers, 2013, No. 122).

Top 2015 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Defenseman Simon Bourque (No. 76); forward Samuel Laberge (No. 119)

OSHAWA GENERALS

Coach: D.J. Smith

Memorial Cup championships: 4

Summary: The Generals are in the hunt for their first CHL title in 25 years behind an incredibly talented team that shut down Erie Otters centers Connor McDavid, No. 1 on Central Scouting's final ranking, and OHL leading scorer Dylan Strome, No. 4 on Central Scouting's final ranking, to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup in five games. McDavid, who won the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as OHL playoff MVP, had 21 goals and 49 points in 20 postseason games but two goals and five points in five games against Oshawa. The Generals, led by defenseman and captain Joshua Brown (Florida Panthers), surrendered a franchise-low 157 goals during the regular season and had the best penalty kill in the OHL. Goaltender Ken Appleby made 30 saves in the Game 5 clincher against Erie; he was 16-4-1 with a 2.24 GAA and .922 save percentage in the OHL playoffs. The Generals were led offensively by forwards Cole Cassels (Vancouver Canucks), who had 10 goals and 31 points, Michael Dal Colle (New York Islanders), who had eight goals and 31 points, and Tobias Lindberg (Ottawa Senators), who had seven goals and 19 points.

NHL prospects: Defensemen Joshua Brown (Florida Panthers, 2013, No. 152); forwards Brent Pedersen (Carolina Hurricanes, 2013, No. 126), Cole Cassels (Vancouver Canucks, 2013, No. 85), Matthew Mistele (Los Angeles Kings, 2014, No. 180), Tobias Lindberg (Ottawa Senators, 2013, No. 102), Hunter Smith (Calgary Flames, 2014, No. 54), Michael McCarron (Montreal Canadiens, 2013, No. 25), Michael Dal Colle (New York Islanders, 2014, No. 5).

Top 2015 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Defensemen Mitchell Vande Sompel (No. 34), Stephen Desrocher (No. 145); forward Anthony Cirelli (No. 67).

KELOWNA ROCKETS

Coach: Dan Lambert

Memorial Cup championships: 1

Summary: The last time the Rockets celebrated a Memorial Cup was 2004 when defensemen Shea Weber (Nashville Predators), Josh Gorges (Buffalo Sabres) and Blake Comeau (Pittsburgh Penguins) were starring for the Rockets. This is their fifth trip to the Memorial Cup. WHL playoff MVP Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) led the Rockets in postseason scoring with 28 points. He had a point in each game of Kelowna's four-game sweep of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Ed Chynoweth Cup, finishing with four goals and seven points. Merkley, No. 23 on Central Scouting's final ranking, was second on the Rockets with 27 points. Forward Tyson Baillie led all WHL playoff scorers with five game-winning goals, and had 10 goals and 24 points in 19 WHL postseason games. Defensively, captain Madison Bowey (Washington Capitals) has been solid, along with trade acquisition Joshua Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets). The Rockets allowed 48 goals in 19 playoff games (2.52 goals per game).

NHL prospects: Defensemen Joshua Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets, 2013, No. 13), Madison Bowey (Washington Capitals, 2013, No. 53), Mitchell Wheaton (Detroit Red Wings, 2013, No. 139); forwards Justin Kirkland (Nashville Predators, 2014, No. 62), Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers, 2014, No. 3), Rourke Chartier (San Jose Sharks, 2014, No. 149), Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia Flyers, 2013, No. 72)

Top 2015 draft-eligible prospects (CSS final ranking): Defensemen Devante Stephens (No. 116), Joe Gatenby (No. 174); forward Nicholas Merkley (No. 23).

2015 MEMORIAL CUP SCHEDULE

All times ET

May 22: Kelowna vs. Quebec, 7:30 p.m.
May 23: Rimouski vs. Oshawa, 4:30 p.m.
May 24: Quebec vs. Oshawa, 4:30 p.m.
May 25: Rimouski vs. Kelowna, 7:30 p.m.
May 26: Oshawa vs. Kelowna, 7:30 p.m.
May 27: Quebec vs. Rimouski, 7:30 p.m.
May 28: Tiebreaker (if necessary), 7:30 p.m.
May 29: Semifinal round, 7:30 p.m.
May 31: Championship, 12:00 p.m.

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