By Bill Whitehead
Unlike the past few years, I didn’t really get to enjoy the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament from Saskatoon this time around. Due to other obligations, I didn’t get to catch the dazzling show that Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin put on as the Halifax Mooseheads raced to their first Canadian Hockey League championship in a 6-4 win over the Portland Winterhawks, who feature potential top overall draft pick Seth Jones.
Apparently, MacKinnon’s dynamic showing has had the Colorado Avalanche, owners of the first pick, rethinking their strategy. And how could they not hesitate a bit? MacKinnon, likely playing his final game in juniors, shredded Portland’s defense, scoring three times, including an empty-netter to ice the championship, and adding a pair of assists in a five-point night.
If you missed it (like I did), here you go:
MacKinnon was spectacular in the tournament, scoring 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in four games. To a lesser extent, so was Drouin, who had perhaps the most overshadowed five-assist night a player can have in a championship game. But the tournament and title game belonged to MacKinnon, who was elevated to the No. 1 overall spot in International Scouting Services’ latest ranking last week. MacKinnon jumped Jones, a defenseman who was the hot commodity as 2013 rolled around. Drouin slots at No. 3 by ISS.
MacKinnon and Jones, the top-ranked North American skater by NHL’s Central Scouting, did meet up before. Here’s what happened in the first meeting in the Memorial Cup tourney:
With all of the trade talk and draft scenarios that have surfaced, much of them likely from Colorado in an effort to dangle the pick — who knows, maybe to Florida in a swap — I still believe the Avs will grab Jones with the first selection in Newark later this month. They and new coach Patrick Roy need defense, plus are stacked up the middle with centers, and the team can’t deal recently signed center Ryan O’Reilly until next February.
I felt really ripped off by the NHL Network showing the majority of the Memorial Cup a day after each game was played, except for the final. However, I did record Halifax’s championship game and have watched one period of play. That’s enough to reinforce my opinion even more: MacKinnon must be the name Florida general manager Dale Tallon calls out in New Jersey.
For me, the hope from here on out isn’t to finish watching that Memorial Cup title game I missed (though I will) but to cover MacKinnon live the next 10 years wearing another red-themed sweater.
The one of the Florida Panthers.