The 2010 Memorial Cup begins this weekend in Brandon and will feature the three CHL league champions and the host club. On those teams there are a total of 33 drafted/signed players and a few big names who will be scooped up by NHL teams this June.
Here's a quick look at who I think are the top 5 key contributors (amongst many) at this year's Memorial Cup.
5. Adam Henrique - Windsor Spitfires
Most people who watched last year's tournament felt that the New Jersey 3rd rounder from 2008 should have been named the MVP over Taylor Hall. Henrique has played for Canada at the World Juniors and is wrapping up his junior career with a chance to repeat as Memorial Cup champ. The forward had 17 points in 20 playoff games last year but already has 25 this spring including 20 goals. He had 77 points this season and playing on a line with Greg Nemisz and Taylor Hall, they are one of the more dominating lines in junior hockey. (Photo: Aaron Bell / OHL Images)
4. Brayden Schenn - Brandon Wheat Kings
Schenn had 99 points this year with the Wheat Kings and scored 34 times. In the post season he's collected 19 points in 15 games and leads Brandon in post season scoring. Schenn was taken 5th overall by the Los Angeles Kings last June and even suited up for a single game this year with the NHL club. The skilled forward has the ability to light it up at the crucial moments and will be the guy that the other three teams tries to key on at this tournament. (Photo: WHL.ca)
3. Brandon Kozun - Calgary Hitmen
The dynamic scorer from Calgary led the WHL in scoring with a whopping 107 points and way out in front of the playoff scoring race as well with 30 points. Another member of Team Canada from the World Juniors, Kozun is an explosive junior player who was recently signed to an entry level deal by the Kings. He'll be going head-to-head with his future teammate in Brayden Schenn but I won't be surprised if the Hitman comes out ahead in that match up. (Photo: WHL.ca)
2. Nicola Riopel - Moncton Wildcats
He's not a household name but he is arguably the best goalie in the CHL right now. Riopel was a 5th round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009 and he played 11 games in the AHL this year before rejoining the Wildcats for the stretch drive. In 21 playoff games he is sporting a 2.14 GAA and he has a .930 save percentage - way better stats than the other goalies coming to the Memorial Cup. The 6', 167 lbs netminder's return to the team this year made Louis Domingue expendable at the deadline. Riopel will be key if the Wildcats prevail in Brandon. (Photo: Daniel St. Louis / QMJHL)
1. Taylor Hall - Windsor Spitfires
He's not drafted yet but he's guaranteed to go in the top 2 in 2010 and obviously when you think of all the offence the Spitfires have - Ryan Ellis included, Hall had almost 30 more points than anyone else on his team this season. In the playoffs, his 35 points are a CHL high and he's clearly the guy the other teams are focusing on when they line up against the Spitfires. Is he the perfect prospect? I think not but he's definitely an upper echelon talent that deserves all the hype and accolades that he's received throughout his junior career. Definitely one to watch over the next two weeks. (Photo: Aaron Bell OHL Images)