The Stanley Cup final is about to ramp up in Boston, but the major junior season has finally come to a close.
From 60 teams down to just one, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies were crowned Memorial Cup champions as the best major junior team on Sunday. The Huskies were a dominant force this year, winning 79 games throughout the entire season and forcing the Halifax Mooseheads to chase the game when it truly mattered.
The Memorial Cup produced incredible hockey once again, but it's not just the action that draws in viewers: the tournament provides fans a look at some of the game's next top stars, including a couple of projected 2019 first-round picks. Some players will make the jump straight to pro next year, and others hope their performance was good enough to warrant a look at the draft in June.
My colleague Ryan Kennedy, who was at the Memorial Cup this weekend, has a great feature throughout the season called Prospect Need to Know. This is essentially a spiritual successor to that, as we take a look at how your favorite NHL prospects did in Halifax the past week:
Antoine Morand, C, 20 (Halifax, Anaheim Ducks)
With the Ducks boasting some quality prospects, it's easy to forget about Morand. A second-round pick by Anaheim in 2017 (60th overall), Morand's 70-point campaign was the second-worst offensive output of his QMJHL career. But Morand, playing in his second Memorial Cup after winning it with the Acadie-Bathurst in 2018, turned on the jets for three goals and four points during the tournament. Morand's goal against the Huskies earlier in the tournament helped send the Mooseheads to the final.
Jakub Lauko, C, 19 (Rouyn-Noranda, Boston Bruins)
It's fitting the Bruins, a club about to embark on a Stanley Cup final quest, had a top prospect at the Memorial Cup. Jakub Lauko, a third-round pick last summer (77th overall), led the tournament with two goals and eight points en route to the Huskies' run. Lauko didn't light up the QMJHL this year, his first in North America, but he showed improvement as the year went on, so his big tournament effort has to make the Bruins brass happy.
Alexis Gravel, G, 19 (Halifax, Chicago Blackhawks)
Between Kevin Lankinen's incredible tournament for Finland at the World Championship and Gravel's attention-grabbing performance at the Memorial Cup, the Chicago Blackhawks have a good future in net in the post-Corey Crawford era. Gravel, a sixth-round pick by the Hawks in 2018 (162nd overall), was the most outstanding goaltender at the Memorial Cup with a 2.78 GAA and .918 save percentage. Gravel was especially good in the final, making a couple of big stops to give his team a chance against a stronger Rouyn-Noranda squad.
Mackenzie Entwistle, RW, 19 (Guelph, Chicago Blackhawks)
Entwistle played in his second Memorial Cup, but just like in 2018 with Hamilton, he fell short with Guelph. Still, there was a lot to like about his performance: the physical, playmaking winger had a goal and five points, including two assists in the Storm's 6-4 loss to the Huskies in the semifinal. A third-round draft pick by Arizona in 2017 (69th overall) that now resides in Chicago's system, Entwistle projects to be a depth forward with a solid 6-foot-4 frame.
Sean Durzi, D, 20 (Guelph, Los Angeles Kings)
It wasn't that long ago Durzi was one of the best re-entry options heading into the 2018 draft, but Durzi, selected by Toronto in the second round (52nd overall) was later traded to Los Angeles, He was a force to be reckoned with. For starters, his seven points were four ahead of the second top-scoring blueliner at the Memorial Cup and he was the only defender to score two goals. It wasn't enough to save the Storm, but Durzi showed he's ready to make the jump to the AHL after a dominant final year of major junior.
Nick Suzuki, C, 19 (Guelph, Montreal Canadiens)
How good was Suzuki this post-season? His 42-point playoff run was good to tie him for eighth all-time in OHL history and the fifth best since 2000. Suzuki followed it up with seven points in four games with the Storm in the Memorial Cup in a year where nobody expected the team to get this far. Suzuki, a former Vegas Golden Knights prospect who moved to the Canadiens in the Max Pacioretty deal last summer, is a threat to make the Habs full time out of training camp.
Joel Teasdale, LW, 20 (Rouyn-Noranda, Montreal Canadiens)
Suzuki wasn't the only future Hab to have a strong tournament. The QMJHL's top scorer in the playoffs with 34 points in 20 games, Teasdale finished with four goals (the second-highest in the tournament) and five points, including a goal in the final. The undrafted prospect played his best hockey after joining the Huskies via trade from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, scoring 24 goals and 42 points in 29 games. Teasdale will join the AHL's Laval Rocket in the fall.
Noah Dobson, D, 19 (Rouyn-Noranda, New York Islanders)
Dobson may not have had his best game on Sunday, but consider this: he played 36 minutes in the final and 39 minutes the game before that. A first-round pick by New York last June (12th overall), Dobson had three assists for the Huskies a year after winning his first Memorial Cup with the Titan last spring. The 19-year-old has proven he's too good for major junior and could start next season with the Islanders, with a second world junior effort hanging in the balance.
Issac Ratcliffe, LW, 20 (Guelph, Philadelphia Flyers)
Coming off of a 50-goal season with the Storm, Ratcliffe followed up his strong regular season with six points in four Memorial Cup battles, giving his best effort in a short tournament for the OHL champions. A second-round pick by the Flyers in 2017 (35th overall), Ratcliffe is a big kid at 6-foot-6 and 201 pounds and looks capable of filling a bottom-six energy winger role in the future. Expect him to start next season with the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Noah Gregor, C, 20 (Prince Albert, San Jose Sharks)
With Prince Albert out after just three games, scoring only six goals in the process, there were few positives to take out of the Raiders' Memorial Cup. But Gregor was Prince Albert's best player, recording points on five of Prince Albert’s goals, including two he scored himself. It was a great way to cap off a season that saw him finish one point behind Brett Leason (89) for the team lead in points before adding 24 in 23 playoff games. Look for Gregor to join the AHL San Jose Barracuda in September.
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