Justin Shugg's 41 goals and 87 points led the Majors this season. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The Memorial Cup starts Friday and thanks to Owen Sound’s dramatic overtime win in Game 7 of the Ontario League final, host Mississauga will have revenge on its mind; Kootenay of the Western League and Saint John of the Quebec League round out the field. Elsewhere, the United States League held its entry draft for players born in 1991 and younger. Here’s a wrap-up of the players involved in that action who we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Justin Shugg, LW - Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
Shugg has the rare opportunity to win three straight Memorial Cups and he’s doing it on his second OHL team. The former Windsor Spitfire has seen what overpowering offense can do, but now he’s on a defensively stout squad. Nonetheless, he likes the situation he’s in.
“In Windsor, the organization built a dream team,” Shugg said. “Here, we all have to work together; there are no superstars.”
Shugg himself would be one of the closest candidates, though. His 41 goals and 87 points in 66 regular season games this year represented a career-best and led the Majors in both categories. In the OHL playoffs, he was basically a point-per-game producer.
“I’m an offensive type of player,” he said. “I want to be that go-to guy you can put on in the last minute if you need a goal, or if you need to prevent one.”
With two Memorial Cup titles under his belt already, Shugg knows how to close the deal. And though he said he doesn’t want to be “that guy with the ego” because of his prior success, he has talked to teammates about the experience when asked. The next step now is guiding his new team to the promised land. Drafted 105th overall by Carolina in 2010.
Mikael Granlund, C – HIFK (Fin.)
How can we not give props to Granlund this week? His Mike Legg-style goal against the Russians at the World Championship was an international highlight and his overall dangerousness helped Finland win gold over archrival Sweden. Nine points in nine games was pretty impressive, too. Drafted ninth overall by Minnesota in 2010.
Jordan Binnington, G – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Talk about walking into a pressure situation. With the Attack operating on a three-man goalie crew, Binnington hadn’t played at all in nearly a month before jumping in as the starter in Game 6 of the OHL final with his crew down 3-2 in the series. But the quick-reflexed netminder shut the door on Mississauga in two straight games to snatch away the title, putting up a 1.94 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in the process. Draft eligible in 2011.
Jarrod Maidens, C – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
The big 6-foot-2 rookie picked the right time to get hot, notching three goals in the final three games of the OHL final, including the game-winner in overtime of Game 7. Physically mature for his age, Maidens has speed and a great shot and was named OHL player of the week for his efforts. Draft eligible in 2012.
Stanislav Galiev, LW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
When the Dogs needed offense, Galiev was there during the very tough ‘Q’ final versus Gatineau. In a pivotal Game 4 win, the Russian playmaker tallied assists on all four Saint John goals and had eight points overall in the series, which went the distance. The Russian import has great on-ice vision, but now his sites are on a Memorial Cup. Drafted 86th overall by Washington in 2010.
Joakim Ryan, D – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
The New Jersey native - who plays internationally for Sweden thanks to dual citizenship - was instrumental in Dubuque’s semifinal win over Sioux Falls with three points in four games. Now, the Fighting Saints are locked in battle with Green Bay for the Clark Cup and they’ll need the swift-skating puck-mover to keep it going. Draft eligible in 2011.
Cody Eakin, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
The Ice paid a king’s ransom to get Eakin from Swift Current this year, but the move has certainly paid off. Along with leading the Ice past a loaded Saskatoon squad, the scrappy and gifted center piled up nine points in a five-game triumph over another powerhouse, Portland, in the WHL final. Drafted 85th overall by Washington in 2009.
Eddie Wittchow, D – Burnsville Blaze (Minn. HS)
A 6-foot-3, 185-pound blueliner with a lot of skill, Wittchow was taken fourth overall in the USHL draft by Waterloo. Great on the power play, Wittchow had nine goals and 23 points in 25 games for a very good Burnsville team this year. Draft eligible in 2011.
Riley Bourbonnais, C – Berkshire Bears (Mass. HS)
The speedy Bourbonnais was one to watch when Central Scouting’s initial list came out, but his name has since fallen off the rankings. Nonetheless, he was picked up by Cedar Rapids in the USHL draft this week and if he ends up with the RoughRiders next season, he’ll be given a bigger stage on which to perform. Draft eligible in 2011.
Joel Lowry, LW – Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
A swift riser in the draft rankings, the son of former NHLer Dave Lowry is a classic late-bloomer with size (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and skill. His 67 points in 42 games ranked second on the Grizzlies, but it was his 17 points in 12 playoff games that really put him on the map. Draft eligible in 2011 (undrafted in 2010).
The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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