The Seattle Thunderbirds are off to their first-ever Memorial Cup Final after beating the Peterborough Petes 4-1 in the semi-finals. Seattle was the better team from start to finish, as they outshot the Petes 47 to 28, with all but four players failing to record a shot on the net. Here are four takeaways from the game.
Thunderbirds Drafted Prospects Shine Bright
Seattle has one of the best collections of NHL-drafted prospects in the entire Canadian Hockey League (CHL), and they were on full display during the semi-finals. Winnipeg Jets’ Brad Lambert and Chicago Blackhawks’ Colton Dach scored the first two goals of the game, while Montreal Canadien’s Jared Davidson finished with a team-high eight shots on goal. Overall, six of their 10 drafted prospects recorded at least a point as they led Seattle to their most important win of the season so far.
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One player that was buzzing all night was Arizona Coyotes forward, Dylan Guenther. Every time the puck was on his stick in the offensive zone, he was able to generate a scoring chance, whether that was through his shot or playmaking ability. It was clear he was doing everything he could to finally get in the goal column, but like most of the team, couldn’t beat Petes’ goaltender Michael Simpson. If he replicates his play from this game in the Final vs. the Quebec Remparts, the Thunderbirds have a great shot of winning the championship.
The Legend of Kyle Crnkovic Grows
Kyle Crnkovic has been fantastic for Seattle all season but has taken his game to another level during the Memorial Cup. He now leads the tournament in goals with five and is the only participant to be named Player of the Game twice this season. One of the clubhouse leaders when it comes to tournament MVP, he is making the most of what are his final few games as the CHL leader.
The question that surrounds Crnkovic is whether or not his performance this season and in the tournament has warranted a contract. The 21-year-old, undrafted forward is currently a free agent and will be looking for a place to play next season. A player who has consistently shown up when his team has needed him most, his performance at this year’s Memorial Cup should help his chances at landing a pro contract for the 2023-24 season.
Michael Simpson Once Again Stands On His Head
Once again, Simpson was incredible for the Petes in net, stopping 43 of the 46 shots he faced. This was the second consecutive game where he made 43 saves as he did everything he possibly could to keep the Petes’ season alive. In the end, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoff MVP stopped 161 of the 180 shots he faced, recording the most saves in a tournament since Max Paddock stopped 168 for the Regina Pats in 2018.
At 20 years old, Simpson is eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft and could very well be back in the OHL as an overager during the 2023-24 season. If he is, he will be one of the favourites for OHL Goaltender of the Year based on his performance in the last few months. He was arguably the best player in this year’s tournament and showed that he has a bright future ahead of him.
Brennan Othmann Has Game to Remember
If this is Brennan Othmann’s final CHL game, he went out with a bang, scoring the Petes’ only goal and leading the team with seven shots on net. He was noticeable all game, whether that was on the forecheck or creating scoring chances for him and his teammates. While Simpson may have been Peterborough’s best player in the game, the New York Ranger prospect was a close second as he finished the tournament with a team-high five points and 21 shots on goal.
Whether it was winning gold for Team Canada at the World Juniors or his performance during the OHL playoffs, Othmann led by example and showed why the Rangers took him 16th overall in 2021. He was the heartbeat of this Petes’ team throughout this journey and will be missed as he makes the jump to the pros next year. There is no doubt he has the potential to be an impact player at the NHL level; the question now is how long until he gets his shot on Broadway.
The Memorial Cup Final Is Set
After eight exciting games in Kamloops, the Memorial Cup is set with the Remparts, set to face off against the Seattle Thunderbirds. As mentioned, this will be Seattle’s first final, while the Remparts will be looking to win their third championship and first since 2006. The Final is set for Sunday, June 4 at 4 pm PST/7 pm EST as these two powerhouses battle to be crowned 2023 Memorial Cup Champions.