In 2022, The Memorial Cup will be played for the first time in three years.

Let’s take you back to May 26, 2019. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies beat the hometown Halifax Mooseheads 4-3 to win their first-ever Memorial Cup. 

The Memorial Cup returns to the QMJHL as the host of the tournament. The Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL champion Shawinigan Cataractes, OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs, and the WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings will vie for the historic trophy this year. Let’s have a look at the teams and how they got here.

Saint John Sea Dogs

(47-17-1-3) 3rd Eastern Conference. Lost to Rimouski in the first round.

The big news with the Sea Dogs is that they have a new coach for the Memorial Cup. Gardiner MacDougall replaces Gordie Dwyer. MacDougall has been a successful coach with the University of New Brunswick.

As far as MacDougall’s players, he has some dynamic offensive players to work with. William Dufour was second in the league in scoring with a 116 points. (56G, 60A) Josh Lawrence was sixth with 101 points (31G, 70A).  Defensively, Vincent Sevigny (18G,46A, 64 pts) was acquired from Victoriaville to lead the way. Calgary Flames prospect Jerome Poirier will also be key  (16G, 41A). In goal, Thomas Couture should be the number one goalie, but Nicholas Hurtubise could also see some action.

If the Sea Dogs are going to be a factor, Ryan Francis and Brady Burns will have to be there. Francos had 25 goals while Burns had 27. 

The perception could be that the Sea Dogs are the main underdogs. But the Sea Dogs ended the regular season on a 15-game winning streak. They also led the QMJHL in scoring. They are the home team with the ability to catch fire. A win against the Hamilton Bulldogs on opening day could tip over the apple cart.

Shawinigan Cataractes

(40-24-1) 3rd Western Conference. QMJHL champions.

The Cataractes beat the Charlottetown Islanders in five games to capture the championship. Two of those games were won in overtime. One was Game Three, when Pierrick Dube scored with six seconds left to tie it up before Xavier Bourgeault won it. Then Dube scored the championship-clinching overtime goal. In fact, The Cataractes won all six overtime games they played in the playoffs this year. 

For the Cataractes, Mavrik Bourque led the way with 25 points (9G, 16A), while Xavier Bourgeault had 22 points (12G, 10A) on route to the championship. Oliver Nadeau led the way offensively in the regular season with 78 points. (35G, 43A). Don’t forget Pierrick Dube as well. He had 12 goals in the playoffs.

Defensively, Isaac Menard had 41 points. (5G, 36A). Martin Has is a Washington Capitals prospect and performed well on the back end. Angus Booth and Jordan Tourigny also gave them solid defence. Lastly, Antoine Coulombe led the way in goal with 22 wins.

The consensus would be that the Cataractes will be the third-place team in this tournament. In addition to their overtime success, they also had the number one powerplay in the QMJHL. Those are the types of things that can lead to a possible upset. Don’t take them lightly.

Hamilton Bulldogs

(51-12-3) 1st Eastern Conference. OHL Champions.

This is the second OHL Championship in three seasons for the Bulldogs. They also won in 2018.

The Bulldogs dominated the OHL this year. They won 22 games in a row. They swept their way into the OHL finals before they were taken to the limit by the Windsor Spitfires. Steve Staios has built a strong organization that only got stronger when they acquired Mason McTavish from the Peterborough Petes.

McTavish isn’t the only player of talent from Hamilton. Logan Morrison led the team in scoring with 100 points (34G, 66A). Avery Hayes had 41 goals, while Ryan Winterton, who had 20 goals this year, is becoming an X factor.  Nathan Staios, son of Steve, leads the way from his defensive position with 66 points (15G, 51A).

Perhaps what is most impressive for the Bulldogs is in net and behind the beach. In goal, Marco Costantini led the OHL with a 2.32 GAA, Save Percentage of.917, shutouts with six. He was also second in wins with 31. 

Behind the bench is Jay McKee. McKee was the coach of the Kitchener Rangers before taking over the Hamilton Bulldogs this season. His coaching resume is getting him noticed enough that some think he is not long for the NHL.

There may be teams with more star-studded names on other teams, but the Bulldogs will either be a favourite or a co-favourite in this tournament.  They will be hard to beat.

Edmonton Oil Kings 

(50-14-3) 2nd Eastern Conference. WHL Champions.

This is the fourth WHL championship in nine seasons for the Oil Kings. They have become a regular member of the Memorial Cup tournament.

Perhaps the most impressive series win was not the Final. But the five game Eastern Conference final against the Winnipeg ICE. They also shut down the leading scorers in the WHL, Arshdeep Bains and Ben King, and the Red Deer Rebels.

And as impressive as Steve Staios’s building of the Hamilton Bulldogs, Oil Kings GM Kirt Hill also deserves credit for his trades this year. Justin Sourdif, Kaiden Guhle, and Luke Prokop were big adds this year. This is a team that already had Jake Neighbours, Dylan Guenther, Logan Dowhaniuk, Josh Williams, and Sebastian Cossa.

Unfortunately for the Oil Kings, Guenther will be out for the Memorial Cup with an injury. But the Oil Kings have the depth to cover it. Jakub Demek came through with two big goals against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Similar to the Bulldogs, the Oil Kings won, with everyone contributing in some way.

The Oil Kings will come in as the team with the most well-known, and star-studded players in this tournament. But they also have built leads and smothered opponents with their speed, skill, and structure. Head Coach Brad Lauer has done a great job building the identity of the Oil Kings. 

Along with the Bulldogs, the Oil Kings will be considered a heavy favourite in the tournament.

It all begins Monday, June 20. The finals are on Wednesday, June 29.