As the Colorado Avalanche count the days until the June 30th draft, there is likely to be many within the organization focused on the city of Saskatoon over the next few days. There, the hometown Saskatoon Blades (WHL) prepare to host the 2013 Memorial Cup, which starts tonight. The annual Memorial Cup tournament features a host team, along with the playoff champions from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League. Joining the Blades are the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), London Knights (OHL), and the Portland Winterhawks (WHL).
Host Saskatoon features Avs 2011 first round pick Duncan Siemens. The defenseman suited up for 70 regular season games for the Blades with three goals and 29 assists; to go along with a plus 31 rating. It was an inauspicious start for Siemens and the Blades as the Alberta native was stripped of his captaincy in the early part of the season. Despite the apparent distraction, the club finished second in the Eastern Conference behind the Edmonton Oil Kings. The highlight of the season was an 18 game winning streak.
Despite the strong finish, the club was swept in the opening round of the WHL playoffs by the Medicine Hat Tigers. How rusty can a team be? The Saskatoon Blades have not played in a game for nearly two months.
The focus of Avalanche fans during the Memorial Cup will be on defenseman Seth Jones. His Portland Winterhawks compiled the best record during the regular season with 57 wins. Jones had 14 goals and 42 assists in 61 games; garnering WHL Rookie of the Year honors. A couple of other interesting Winterhawks are Troy Rutkowski and Ty Rattie.
Rutkowski was drafted by the Avs in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. He and the Avalanche could not come to terms on a contract last spring and the defenseman became a free agent. He signed a three-year entry level contract with the Ottawa Senators in March. The overager led all Portland defenders in scoring with 66 points.
Ty Rattie is a name Avs fans are familiar as he was selected by the Blues in the second round of the 2011 draft with the pick that St. Louis obtained from Colorado as part of the blockbuster Erik Johnson trade. He was recently named MVP of the WHL Championship Series and had 36 points in 21 post-season games.
The two players most often mentioned in the same sentence as Seth Jones to be potentially selected first overall in the June draft are Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. The diminutive Drouin tore up the QMJHL with 105 points in 49 games during the regular season. Nathan MacKinnon finished with 75 points in 44 games for the Mooseheads. The duo continued to fire on all cylinders in the post-season. Drouin and MacKinnon were first and third respectively in playoff scoring. The Mooseheads dominated through the playoffs losing only once all post-season. Will their strong play continue?
Max Domi may not be receiving as much hype as some of the other prospects entering the Memorial Cup, but he carved himself out a fine season with the London Knights. He was the top playoff scorer for the OHL champion Knights with 32 points in 21 games. London compiled the top record during the regular season, producing 50 wins. The team won a gritty seven game series over the Barrie Colts to secure their bid to the Memorial Cup.
Friday, May 17 -- London vs Saskatoon -- 6:00 PM MST
Saturday, May 18 -- Portland vs Halifax -- 5:00 PM MST
Sunday, May 19 -- Saskatoon vs Halifax -- 5:00 PM MST
Monday, May 20 -- Portland vs London -- 6:00 PM MST
Tuesday, May 21 -- Halifax vs London -- 6:00 PM MST
Wednesday, May 22 -- Saskatoon vs Portland -- 6:00 PM MST
The Memorial Cup is available to Canadian viewers live on Sportsnet. US viewers will also have an opportunity to watch the event on the NHL Network; sadly the games will be tape delayed.