The Canadian Hockey League, or CHL, consists of three junior hockey leagues: the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Western Hockey League (WHL), and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). After each junior league’s postseason ends the winner from each league, as well as a host city selected by the CHL, compete in a round-robin tournament to determine who wins the Memorial Cup. After German Rubtsov helped the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan win it last season, the Philadelphia Flyers have another prominent prospect competing for the trophy this year. Let’s see how Isaac Ratcliffe’s Guelph Storm, the Prince Albert Raiders, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, and the Halifax Mooseheads reached this point while also taking a look at some possible players the Flyers might take in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
How they got here
The Guelph Storm, who finished fourth in the OHL’s Western Conference with a record of 40-18-6, should be proud of the run they’ve had up to this point. After making quick work of the Kitchener Rangers with a sweep in the opening round of the OHL playoffs, the Storm overcame a 3-0 series deficit to the London Knights and a 3-1 series deficit to the Saginaw Spirit to advance to the OHL Final, where they overcame a 2-0 series deficit to defeat the Ottawa 67’s. Despite being the runner-up twice and being a part of three other Memorial Cups, the Storm have never won it all.
As Flyers’ fans already know, Ratcliffe had one hell of a season. His 50 goals this season marked the first time a Guelph player potted 50 or more in a single season since Ryan Callahan had 52 back in 2005-06. Ratcliffe produced 13 more goals than any other player on the Storm this season, as he was one of just eight CHL players to score 50 goals or more in 2018-19. Out of 99 OHL forwards to play in 65 games or more this season, Ratcliffe finished fifth with 0.89 points per game at 5-on-5 and fourth with 0.74 primary points per game at 5-on-5. He didn’t stop there, as he produced 15 goals and 15 assists in 24 OHL playoff games to increase his total to 65 goals and 47 assists in 89 games for the entire campaign.
In addition to Ratcliffe Guelph’s roster features several notable high-end drafted prospects including Arizona Coyotes’ Nate Schnarr (who was selected with one of the picks Ron Hextall gave Jon Chayka in the deal that got Philly the 35th overall selection in 2017, which Hextall used on Ratcliffe), Nick Suzuki (Montreal Canadiens), Liam Hawel (Dallas Stars), MacKenzie Entwistle (Chicago Blackhawks), Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton Oilers), Alexey Toropchenko (St. Louis Blues), and Sean Durzi (Los Angeles Kings).
Prince Albert Raiders
After a dominant 54-10-4 regular season gave them 112 points, it was fitting that the Prince Albert Raiders needed seven games to beat the Vancouver Giants, the only other 100-point club in the WHL with 101, in the WHL Final. This came after the Raiders outscored the Red Deer Rebels 17-7 in a sweep, beat the Saskatoon Blades in six games, and overcame a 2-1 series deficit to the Edmonton Oil Kings. This is only the second time the Raiders have been to the Memorial Cup, as they won it all their first time here back in 1985.
The Prince Albert player who will draw the most attention over the next few days is Brett Leason, a 20-year-old winger who recorded 36 goals and 89 points in 55 games this season. Despite being an overager, many are expecting Leason to be taken fairly high at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, as Draft Site projects him to be taken 31st overall. The Raiders also have Noah Gregor (San Jose Sharks), Cole Fonstad (Montreal Canadiens), and Parker Kelly (Ottawa Senators). In net, Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2017 fourth-round pick Ian Scott provided a .932 save percentage, 1.83 goals against average, and eight shutouts in 49 games during the regular season before posting an almost equally impressive postseason stat line of .925 save percentage, 1.96 GAA, and five shutouts.
Similar to the Prince Albert Raiders, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies had one of their best seasons in club history and also finished the 2018-19 season with a double-digit point lead over the team that finished second in their respective junior league. The Huskies finished 59-8-1 to set their record for most wins in a season by five, the fewest regulation losses in a season, and finished with under ten overall losses for the first time in their 23-year existence. The QMJHL had twice as many 100-point clubs as the WHL, but the Drummondville Voltigeurs finished second in the Q with 12 fewer points than Rouyn-Noranda.
As for their postseason run, the Huskies lost a total of four games on their way to a second President’s Cup in the last four seasons and their second title in franchise history. After a six-game series with the Shawnigan Cataractes, Rouyn-Noranda swept the Victoriaville Tigres in the quarterfinals and Rimouski Oceanic in the semifinals before beating the Halifax Mooseheads in six games. This is the Huskies second time at the Memorial Cup, as they were runner-ups to the London Knights in 2016.
Rouyn-Noranda is led by undrafted 21-year-old center Peter Abbandonato, who lead the QMJHL with 111 points and was the only player to provide 70 helpers or more with 82 assists. They also got a lot of help from a pair of other undrafted overagers in 20-year-old left winger Rafael Harvey-Pinard, who posted 40 goals and 85 points in 66 games, and 20-year-old center Felix Bibeau, who registered a very nice 69 points in 63 contests. The Huskies also boast notable drafted prospects in the Joel Teasdale (Montreal Canadiens), Noah Dobson (New York Islanders), and Jakub Lauko (Boston Bruins).
The hosts of the tournament had a pretty respectable 2018-19. After a record of 49-15-4 gave them 102 points to finish third in the QMJHL and their second-best record in franchise history, the Halifax Mooseheads were just two wins shy of their second President’s Cup. Halifax overcame series deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to beat the Quebec Remparts in seven games during the first round of the QMJHL playoffs before they swept the Moncton Wildcats and beat the Drummondville Voltigeurs in six games to earn a spot in the QMJHL Final.
Similar to the Huskies the Mooseheads were led in scoring by an undrafted overager, as 20-year-old center Samuel Asselin provided 48 goals and 86 points in 69 (still nice) regular season games. As for notable drafted prospects the Mooseheads have Anaheim Ducks’ prospects Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Antoine Morand, Arnaud Durandeau (New York Islanders), and Jared McIsaac (Detroit Red Wings). Alexis Gravel, another Chicago Blackhawks’ goalie prospect, posted a .913 save percentage, 2.49 GAA, and five shutouts during the regular season before he posted a .917 save percentage and 2.73 GAA in the QMJHL playoffs.
*Stats courtesy of Prospect Stats and Elite Prospects