The Memorial Cup has always been a tournament where players can either elevate their future draft status or cement a spot in the National Hockey League the next season.
As mentioned in our Memorial Cup preview from yesterday, top prospects Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin led the Halifax Mooseheads over fellow top prospect Seth Jones and the Portland Winterhawks to win the tournament last year. In 2011, Jonathan Huberdeau‘s draft profile skyrocketed as he led the Saint John Sea Dogs to Atlantic Canada’s first Memorial Cup championship.
Of course, the Memorial Cup also served as the launching pad for Taylor Hall, who won most valuable player honours in both 2009 and 2010 in leading the Windsor Spitfires to back-to-back titles.
Now, we look ahead to this year’s tournament, kicking off tonight with the Val d’Or Foreurs playing the host London Knights. Every year has a crop of draft-eligible players who can really boost their stock with a strong performance over the next 10 days.
There are 26 players in this tournament who are draft-eligible and haven’t passed through an NHL Draft yet. Of those 26, six won’t be eligible until the 2015 NHL Draft, while Val d’Or forward Julien Gauthier is the only 2016 draft prospect competing in London. A late-1997 born player, Gauthier posted eight goals and 29 points in 62 games as a rookie with the Foreurs.
Here’s a scouting reel of Gauthier, put together prior to last year’s QMJHL Draft.
While Gauthier’s still a couple years away from the NHL Draft, there are some guys who are looking to boost their stock for next month’s draft in Philadelphia.
To this point, no player has done more to boost his profile than Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri. In his second season in Guelph, Fabbri scored 45 goals and 87 points despite missing 10 games, maximizing his ability to find open ice in prime areas. In the playoffs, Fabbri again missed some games, but he still led the OHL with 13 goals while finishing third with 28 points en route to the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as the most valuable player of the OHL playoffs.
NHL Central Scouting had Fabbri as the 21st-ranked North American skater in its final rankings, likely equating to a late first-round pick. However, that came out last month before Guelph’s playoff run, and another strong performance at the Memorial Cup would probably shoot Fabbri up to the middle of the first round, somewhere between 11 and 15.
In Edmonton, all eyes are on Brett Pollock from a draft perspective. The Sherwood Park, Alta., native checked out 34th among North American skaters in the Central Scouting report, but a 19-point performance in the playoffs from the 18-year-old Pollock certainly helped an Oil Kings squad that wasn’t necessarily expected to be here.
Pollock has mostly played with Curtis Lazar and Henrik Samuelsson in the playoffs, both of whom are first-round NHL draft picks. He jumped from 37 spots from his midterm ranking with his performance, so if he can keep it going, he could potentially squeak into the tail end of the first round, but certainly early off the board in round two.
Meanwhile, Nicolas Aube-Kubel sits as Val d’Or’s top Central Scouting prospect here, ranking 40th among North American skaters. Aube-Kubel just turned 18 last Saturday, and his game took a step forward this season, posting 53 points in 65 games for the Foreurs this season. He was also a solid contributor in the playoffs, putting up 13 points to help Val d’Or advance to the Memorial Cup. What’s more, his production was timely, including a combined four assists in Games 6 and 7 to help eliminate the Halifax Mooseheads to advance to the QMJHL final.
I wouldn’t expect Aube-Kubel to be a first-round pick regardless of how he plays in London, but he could certainly help his cause.