Photo by NHL.com
WINDSOR — The puck drops for the 2017 Memorial Cup tonight as the top Canadian junior teams battle for Canadian Hockey League supremacy. This year’s tournament features four prospects who are in the Chicago Blackhawks organization – Alex Debrincat, Matthew Highmore, Graham Knott, and Nathan Noel.
Rockford has seen a number of players with Memoria Cup experience don a Hogs sweater over the years. Last season’s roster featured Brandon Mashinter, who was a runner-up with the Kitchener Rangers in 2007-08, and Mac Carruth, who helped the Portland Winterhawks finish second in 2012-13.
Among the other many notable names in Hogs history to compete in the tournament, several standouts include Bryan Bickell (Ottawa 67’s – 2004-05), Andrew Shaw (Owen Sound Attack – 2010-11) and Alex Broadhurst (London Knights – 2012-13).
In addition, Kyle Cumiskey and Martin St. Pierre both had multiple trips to the Memorial Cup during their junior careers. Cumiskey won the Cup in 2003-04 and returned to the tourney in 2004-05 with the Kelowna Rockets. Martin St. Pierre took each of his two trips as a member of the Guelph Storm in 2001-02 and 2003-04.
As for this year's event, the following article (which originally appeared on NHL.com) provides a roundup of four of the top prospects in the Chicago Blackhawks system who are skating in the 2017 Memorial Cup:
The 2017 Memorial Cup, which begins Friday in Windsor, Ontario, is a paradise for junior hockey fans and scouts alike -- an annual 10-day tournament that pits three Canadian Hockey League champions against a host squad, all vying to be crowned the best team in Canada. While keeping an eye on draft-eligible players, the Blackhawks will also monitor the progress of their four prospects taking part in the tournament this year, all of whom are under contract, a rarity for the club. Highlighted by 2016 second-round pick Alex DeBrincat, the team's three representatives are competing for three of the four teams in contention.
DeBrincat paced the Erie Otters with a career-high, league-leading 38 points in 22 playoff games en route to the Ontario Hockey League title. The Otters, making their second championship series appearance in the past three seasons, needed five games to dispatch the Mississauga Steelheads and clinch the J. Ross Robertson Cup for the second time in franchise history. DeBrincat posted four goals and three assists over the five tilts; his 11 shots on goal in Game 2 on May 7 (a 3-2 win) tied a career best for both the regular season and playoffs.
Graham Knott, the Blackhawks' 2015 second-round pick, landed in Memorial Cup host city Windsor via early-season trade, amassing 35 points in 45 games after the move. The 20-year-old added two goals and two helpers during the playoffs as the Spitfires dropped out in the first round after a seven-game series against London; Knott scored his first career playoff game-winner in Game 4. Windsor, back-to-back Memorial Cup champions in 2009 and 2010, will try to ride their hometown advantage to their third CHL title.
The QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs feature two Blackhawks prospects on a deep, talented roster: 2016 fourth-round pick Nathan Noel and free-agent signing Matthew Highmore. Noel netted 50 points in 52 regular-season games for the Sea Dogs and added nine points in 18 playoff outings; Highmore led Saint John with 89 points in 64 regular-season games and tallied a postseason career-best 24 points in 18 games. Saint John is seeking their second Memorial Cup in franchise history after claiming the title in 2011.
The tournament will open with six round-robin games between Friday, May 19, and Wednesday, May 24, with three teams emerging; if necessary, a tie-breaker will be played on May 25. A semifinal game will be held on Friday, May 26, and the tournament will wrap up on Sunday, May 28, with the championship final. Full schedule can be found here.