Players to Watch During 2023 Memorial Cup

The 2023 Memorial Cup is fast approaching, with some of the best players and teams from across the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) in Kamloops ready to compete for the historic trophy. In a short tournament format like this, it is imperative that each team comes ready and prepared and makes the most of their opportunities every time they step on the ice. Here is a look at four players that will be looked upon to lead their teams to victory at this year’s Memorial Cup.

Kamloops Blazers – Olen Zellweger

Kamloops Blazers and Anaheim Ducks’ Olen Zellweger has had a very eventful past 12 months. Not only did he help Canada win gold twice at the World Juniors, but he was also named the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Defenceman of the Year for the second straight season after finishing second in the league among defenders with 80 points in 55 games. He then followed up his strong regular season with a remarkable playoff run, finishing second in the league with 29 points in 14 games. He is the best defenceman in this year’s Memorial Cup and will look to show off what he can do against the league’s best.

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Since being traded to Kamloops by the Everett Silvertips at the trade deadline, Zellweger has seen an increase in his point production and goal-scoring. In the 45 regular season and playoff games he played for the Blazers leading up to the tournament, he scored 33 goals and recorded 79 points. Comparing his 49 total games with the rest of the league’s regular season statistics, that would place him tied for 24th in goals and tied for 21st in points. As for his 1.76 points per game during that time, it would be tied with 2023 NHL Draft prospect Andrew Cristall for fourth in the WHL. A crucial member of this Kamloops team, his play will determine just how far they go in the tournament.

Seattle Thunderbirds – Dylan Guenther

Dylan Guenther has been everything the Seattle Thunderbirds hoped for after he was assigned to the WHL late in the season by the Arizona Coyotes. The 2021 ninth-overall pick has scored 29 times in his 39 regular season and playoff games, which included a 13-game goal streak that started on March 11 and ended during Game 4 of the WHL’s second round. The only player across the league to eclipse the 100-shot mark during the playoffs, he has added another dimension to this already stacked Thunderbirds team that cruised through the postseason, only losing three times.

Dylan Guenther Seattle Thunderbirds
Dylan Guenther, Seattle Thunderbirds (Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

What makes Guenther so dangerous is his willingness to shoot the puck as many times as possible during a game. In the 19 playoff games he played, he finished with 102 shots on goal, recording at least four or more shots in 14 of those games. He even hit double digits twice, including once against their Memorial Cup opponents, Kamloops. The chemistry he has developed with linemates Winnipeg Jets Brad Lambert and Nashville Predators Reid Schaefer is evident every time the trio steps on the ice and is a big reason why Seattle is considered the Memorial Cup favourites. Look for him to be amongst the tournament leaders in goals and points as he looks to help the Thunderbirds capture their first Championship in franchise history.

Peterborough Petes – Tucker Robertson

The only player on this list to start the season with their Memorial Cup-bound team, Tucker Robertson, is ready to shine on the CHL’s biggest stage. He recorded 22 points during the Peterborough Petes’ 23 playoff games, including scoring the goal that sent the Petes to the Memorial Cup and will need to be on his A-game if they want to pick up their second Championship in franchise history. A fourth-round draft pick of the Seattle Kraken in 2022, expect to see his number on the ice plenty as he has developed into one of Peterborough’s most important forwards this season.

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Throughout the postseason, Robertson has come up in big moments for the Petes. He was tied for the OHL lead with three game-winning goals and recorded at least a point in each series-clinching game. While most of the focus will be on players like Montreal Canadiens Owen Beck or New York Rangers Brennan Othmann heading into the tournament, do not be surprised if the Kraken prospect’s name is brought up when discussing team MVP after the trophy is handed out.

Québec Remparts – Justin Robidas

Since being acquired from the Val-d’Or Foreurs in mid-December, all Justin Robidas has done is produce points and deliver big moments for the Québec Remparts. He finished the season with 36 points in 36 games for the Remparts before leading them in scoring during the postseason with 27 points in 18 games. On top of his offensive performance, he was also strong in the faceoff dot, winning 52.6% of his 287 faceoffs, and also was one of Québec’s top penalty killers, which included registering a shorthanded goal and assist.

While Robidas may not get the hype that players like Ducks Nathan Gaucher or St. Louis Blues Zachary Bolduc get, he proved throughout the postseason just how valuable he can be to this team. Based on his playoff performances so far, it is possible that the Carolina Hurricanes prospect may draw more difficult matchups throughout the tournament. Still, he needs to find a way to continue to produce for the Remparts to be successful. If Québec has plans on lifting its third trophy in franchise history, they will need him to continue his strong play from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) postseason into the Memorial Cup tournament.

An Exciting Tournament Expected

The Memorial Cup is always exciting as it is not only an opportunity to win a national championship but also the last games some will play during their CHL careers. Over the years, there have been plenty of massive performances from now NHLers like Nathan MacKinnon leading the Halifax Mooseheads to their first Championship back in 2013, or Milan Lucic putting on a performance to remember for the Vancouver Giants as he lifted the historic trophy in front of the home town fans for the first time in franchise history back in 2007. This year’s tournament is sure to create plenty of memories, with games kicking off in Kamloops on May 26, 2023, when the hometown Blazers take on the Remparts.

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