Thanks for joining me for my final installment of the Memorial Cup preview series on my blog, where I take a look at the key draft eligible players for each of the four clubs competing in the Memorial Cup this week and next in Brandon, Manitoba.
Last up is the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League entry, the Moncton Wildcats, who defeated the Saint John Sea Dogs in six games to earn their first trip to the tourney since 2006 when they were host city and won the President's Cup as league champion, only to lose the Memorial Cup tournament to their Quebec league rival and runner-up, the Quebec Remparts. Former Boston prospect Martins Karsums was on that Wildcats team four years ago, as was Brad Marchand, who is a current Bruin and still waiting for his chance to get into a postseason game here with the B's. Marchand was outstanding in the playoffs and Memorial Cup run with Moncton four years ago, and as a result, was a third-round selection of the Bruins in Vancouver at the '06 NHL draft.
Will the B's end up with one or more of the Wildcats from the 2010 President's Cup winners? They'll need to trade up into the top-10 to land Moncton's best draft-eligible, but anything is possible.
Brandon Gormley, D--
The former first overal selection in the QMJHL midget draft two years ago, Gormley is a native of Prince Edward Island and the top-ranked prospect to come out of that league for the 2010 draft. I have to thank my contacts at Red Line Report and in the NHL for this report, although I did get a chance to watch Gormley in action several times this season in the Top Prospects Game and in the final regular season matchup against Saint John.
The smooth-skating rearguard has nice size (6-2, 190) with room to fill out by the time he reaches the pro ranks.
A superb four-way directional skater, he's exceptionally mobile going backward, allowing him to effectively control gaps and keep the opposing players and puckhandlers in front of him. A fluid skater who effortlessly opens his hips for smooth pivots and turns. Strong lateral mobility makes him an adept point man who is able to glide into shooting lanes along the blue line and let the puck fly. Has a good, hard shot and does well with one-timers.
Gormley sees the ice well and makes good decisions with and without the puck. He has a lot of upside as a two-way defenseman at the highest level because he thinks the game so well on both sides of the ice.
His long, lean frame and lack of upper body strength at this stage of his development is the biggest thing he has to work on, but he should be able to pack on the requisite mass on his tall frame to handle the rigors of the pro game.
His 17 playoff points (2 goals, 15 helpers) in 21 games is second in scoring among blueliners on the Moncton roster only to Tampa prospect Mark Barberio (22 points)
If rumors are to be believed, the B's have a strong interest in Gormley. Not enough of one that they would pass up their chance to draft either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, but you could see them attempt a big splash at the draft to move inside the top-10 to nab Gormley. Veteran hockey scribe Kevin Paul Dupont put forth such a suggestion (though he cited Cam Fowler and Eric Gudbranson as the likely targets) in his column appearing in the May issue of the New England Hockey Journal, so given Boston's multiple picks in 2010 and 2011, plus some young roster talent and prospects available, Peter Chiarelli has the kind of capital to make such a move if things break right for the team and Gormley moves closer to 10 than five.
Gormley has the makings of a top-two NHL defenseman who can play in all situations, and you'd do well to take a good look at him in the upcoming games. From where I sit, he certainly fills a need for Boston, and if the team came away with Hall/Seguin AND Gormley, that would be the kind of draft haul that could set B's up well for the next decade.
Marek Hrivik, RW--
Given the season the big, skilled Slovak winger just had for Moncton, one would think that one of the NHL's Original 30 would have picked him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Instead, he was completely passed over, but could now go as high as the third round from the looks of things.
An OK skater, what makes Hrivik appealing is his big-time shot and superb work ethic/attitude to go along with prototypical NHL size for a winger. He can score from just about anywhere, using a quick release to unload what is an absolute bomb. I saw it firsthand in the season finale against Saint John when he gained the zone and let a wrister fly from along the boards that found the twine.
A 26-goal scorer during the regular season, Hrivik stepped it up in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs against Cape Breton, tallying 10 points in a sweep to lead the league in scoring early on. His production since has tailed off, although he came up big for Moncton in the clinching game against Saint John.
Extremely well-liked and respected by his teammates, he's a hard worker who is out to prove that he should have gotten the call in Montreal. By all accounts, that mistake won't be repeated in Los Angeles (see also: John Ramage)
The Saulnier twins (Allain and Alex) are also draft eligible, given their Aug. 1992 birthdates, but their lack of size and production means that they will likely not be picked, at least, not in 2010.
The Wildcats traded away a couple of other draft-eligible players who will likely get picked in center Matthew Bissonette (Lewiston) and goaltender Louis Boileau-Domingue (Quebec) and have benefited from the veteran play and savvy of Kelsey Tessier (Colorado) and Nicola Riopel (Philadelphia), two overagers who have already been drafted, to go with what has been a sensational playoff performance by Nashville prospect Gabriel Bourque (19 goals in 21 postseason games).
Moncton opens the round robin in Brandon Saturday afternoon against the Calgary Hitmen.
I like their chances in this tourney, and predict that Moncton will play Windsor in the championship game, coming up just short.