Photo: The NHL Combine has long been an important event leading up to the Draft. This year it was particularly important as many of the top eligible prospects had their seasons cut short by injury. (Ken McKenna/HF)
Last week, the National Hockey League engaged in its annual ritual of interviewing, testing, and examining the top players eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft. The 105 prospects that attended the Combine were poked, prodded and questioned, as well as given psychological tests. The difference this year is that there were many more second-year eligible prospects in attendance, and maybe more importantly, many draft eligible prospects had endured injury shortened seasons, which resulted in different concerns on the part of the NHL teams.
Photo: OHL Commissioner David Branch presents London Knights forward Austin Watson (NAS) with the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award, given to the player most valuable to his team in the OHL playoffs. Watson managed 10 goals and seven assists in 19 playoff games, helping London to their second OHL championship. The Knights will need Watson to keep up his scoring if they hope to win their second Memorial Cup. (Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
A defending champ, a host unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs earlier than expected, a former champ crashing the party one year early, and the new kid on the block — out of 59 teams from nine Canadian provinces and four U.S. states, the 2012 CHL championship will be contested by a quartet of squads that couldn't be more different — save for the common goal of raising the Memorial Cup.
Photo: Michael Bournival is one of the top centers in the QMJHL this season. In an injury-shortened regular season, Bournival managed 30 goals in only 41 games. (Photo courtesy of Dave Connell/HF)
Ever since the 2012 Memorial Cup host was named last season, the Saint John Sea Dogs and the Shawinigan Cataractes have been on a collision course. Both teams had put forth bids to host the CHL championships when the event rotated into the QMJHL. Most felt that Saint John, having the best regular season record for two seasons in a row at the time and on their way to win the QMJHL championship and the 2011 Memorial Cup, would be named the host for the 2012 Memorial Cup, but it was Shawinigan's bid that ended up winning the day.
Photo: Tomas Jurco (DET) is one of many drafted players on the Saint John Sea Dogs roster. Jurco managed 30 goals in only 48 regular season games in 2011-12. (Photo courtesy of Dave Connell/HF)
There are plenty of reasons why the Saint John Sea Dogs are the favorite to repeat not just as QMJHL champions this year, but also to successfully defend their Memorial Cup win from last season.
First and foremost, the Sea Dogs were the top team in the regular season for a record-setting third consecutive year. They've followed that momentum into the playoffs, where they are currently in the third round and so far have out-scored their opponents by a combined total of 79-28.
All this offensive firepower is thanks to the depth of the Sea Dogs roster and no where is that depth more noticeable than when you consider the forwards on Saint John's roster in the context of the top forwards in the QMJHL.