|Jonathan Huberdeau and Jonathan Racine will look to hoist the 2012 Memorial Cup.
The Memorial Cup officially kicks off tonight, May 18th, as the host team, Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, get set to take on the Western Hockey League champions, Edmonton Oil Kings. Most of the focus, however, will be on the Saint John Sea Dogs as they do their best to defend their Memorial Cup title against the Cataractes, Oil Kings and London Knights (OHL). The first three games can be seen on NHL Network starting at 7pm.
The Florida Panthers’ wealth of prospects comes to a forefront throughout the tournament as Jonathan Racine, a steady defenseman for the Cataractes, and Jonathan Huberdeau, an offensive weapon for the Sea Dogs, battle it out on the ice in hopes of lifting the Memorial Cup trophy.
Huberdeau has already experienced the highs and lows of the Memorial Cup. Ok, maybe not the lows as much as the highs. Scoring the third goal to secure the win over Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in last year’s 2011 Memorial Cup final and being named the tournament’s MVP, it should come to no surprise that he will be leaned on heavily for his experience. Although experience is always a good trait to have, to Huberdeau it won’t be the deciding factor for this reshaped team.
“We don’t want to think about the past, we have a new team and new players,” Huberdeau told sportsnet.ca after his team landed in Shawinigan. “It’s a new challenge for us and I think we want to do it for sure.”
The reigning MVP of the tournament who scored at a 1.95 points per game pace during the regular season, already netted 21 points in 15 games to help the Sea Dogs qualify for the tournament and will have to continue his impressive point total if he hopes to lead Saint John to yet another title, but this time as the captain.
Racine, not normally known for his offensive skill from the blueline in recording 13 points (3-10-13) in 61 games during the regular season, broke out in the post-season tallying 6 points (1-5-6) in a mere 11 games played. The Florida Panthers prospect has increased his point totals each of the three years since joining Shawinigan, but perhaps more importantly given the fact that he’s advertised as a steady defenseman, has managed to increase his +/- rating from a -9 in his 2009-2010 season to a +18 in the 2011-2012 season. After missing out on the Memorial Cup last year, Racine along with his teammates look forward to fighting for the highly sought after title, even if they enter under unfamiliarity as the tournament’s underdog.