What a finals week for the Hurricanes prospects. Warren Foegele decided he was ready for the next level in a big way, earning OHL Playoff MVP honors, and the Sea Dogs juggernaut rolled to a QMJHL title, but that’s last week’s news. More importantly, the Memorial Cup starts at the end of the week, with four top Hurricanes prospects scheduled to participate. The best juniors teams from each of the three Major Junior leagues, plus the super-lucky host Windsor, will gather to battle it out for the title of North America’s top team.
Look, we’ll get into the individual prospect performances momentarily, but first and most importantly: If you never watch another CHL game in your life, you will want to find a way to watch this one. On Monday, May 22 at 7pm, Foegele and the Erie Otters will take on Smallman, Gauthier, Booth and the Saint John Sea Dogs. The Memorial Cup will likely be one of the most important series of games of their lives to date. And this battle royale of Hurricanes prospects is one this writer will be watching with great interest. The game will be broadcast on NHL network.
Hurricanes Prospect Playoff Power Rankings
1. Warren Foegele – Erie Otters
13 Goals – 13 Assists – 26 Points in 22 games
Did I say Warren Foegele wasn’t a prolific scorer last week? Shame on me. Foegele scored 7 points in 3 games this week, including a game where he had a hand in ALL 5 of his team goals (3 goals, 2 assists), and ended up winning the Caniac Prospect Playoff Scoring Title by a fair margin. Coincidentally, the Otters finished off Mississauga for the OHL title in 5 games, and Foegele got his MVP. Next up for the Otters is the Memorial Cup starting Saturday, where Foegele and friends will line up against the surprise WHL champs, the Seattle Thunderbirds. Suffice it to say, Foegele has made the most of his final months in the juniors. As for where his 2017-18 ceiling lies, well your guess is as good as mine, because if his play translates at the higher level, he could be special.
Playoff MVP Warren Foegele has been incredible in clutch situations. Can’t count the number of breakaways he had in this series. pic.twitter.com/rLp1WOSSAO
— Iain Colpitts (@IainMissiNews) May 13, 2017
2. Callum Booth – Saint John Sea Dogs
16-1-1, 1.67 GAA, .923 Sv Pct
Who needs Julien Gauthier? Not Booth and the Sea Dogs apparently. Saint John won both games of Gauthier’s questionable suspension, with Booth allowing just one goal over those two. He had his good and his not-so-good games throughout the playoffs, but with his team playing suffocating defense, Booth was just the backstop to guide the Sea Dogs to the QMJHL championship. Booth finished 1st in wins, GAA and shutouts (including two in the championship series), while finishing 3rd in save percentage, just 5 thousandths of a point back from the leader. He may not have been challenged all that much throughout the playoffs, but he clearly was up to the task. Apparently more so in clutch late game situations?
— Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow) May 3, 2017
3. Spencer Smallman – Saint John Sea Dogs
11 Goals – 11 Assists – 22 points in 18 games
Smallman helped pick up the slack for his highly touted teammate, putting up two goals and an assist in championship-winning game, and wrapping a fine bow on a QMJHL title season for the Sea Dogs’ captain. He ended up 5th in the Q (yet 4th on his team) in playoff scoring and tied Gauthier for 3rd in the Q in goals. Interesting tidbit on Smallman, in 18 playoff games, he served just two minutes in the penalty box. In a league where players tend to rack up the time in the sin bin, I felt this was interesting, and could speak to the intelligence and discipline Smallman plays with on the ice. Of all our prospects, I have watched Smallman play the least, so I will be fascinated to keep my eye on him in prospect camp and beyond. The career-defining question for Smallman will be can he contribute on the ice as much as he will contribute off of it.
— Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow) May 11, 2017
4. Julien Gauthier—Saint John Sea Dogs
11 Goals – 6 Assists – 17 Points in 16 games
Gauthier’s suspension-worthy hit looked pretty clean to me, and serves as a glaring notice to all players NOT TO SKATE WITH THEIR HEAD DOWN (See Skinner, Jeff). In any case, the team really had no problem cleaning up without Gauthier, but the team will surely be happy to have him back in Windsor for the Memorial Cup next week. His overall playoff performance may have been less stellar than what we’d hoped from the former 1st round pick, but his play still suggests that he has significant value as a scorer at the NHL level.
— julien gauthier (@ju_gauth12) May 11, 2017
Final Hurricanes Prospect Playoff Scoring List (Memorial Cup not included)
Warren Foegele– 13 G – 13 A – 26 P; 1.18 PPG in 22 games
Spencer Smallman– 11 G – 11 A – 22 P; 1.22 PPG in 18 games
Nicolas Roy– 8G – 13 A – 21 P; 1.24 PPG in 17 games
Julien Gauthier– 11 G – 6 A – 17 P; 1.06 PPG in 17 games
Steven Lorentz– 9G – 7 A – 16 P; 1.33 PPG in 12 games
Janne Kuokkanen– 10G – 6 A – 16 P; 1.14 PPG in 14 games
Who Exactly Are We Going to Watch in the CHL Next Year?
As has been widely noted, on many a Hurricanes fan site, Carolina will see a glut of juniors talent graduating to the professional level next season. We’ve already discussed the wide spectrum of options where these players may fit next year, but let’s discuss the players that will be remaining in juniors another year. Obviously, we have an entire draft class of prospects we don’t even know yet that we’ll be following, which is good, because the juniors cupboard is about to get massively depleted. Here’s who we know is likely CHL-bound for another year:
Jake Bean: Only 18 years old and three years in to his juniors career, Bean would have to pull a miracle run for an NHL roster spot to not see another year with the Calgary Hitmen. Unless he’s the second coming of Erik Karlsson, he’ll be back in juniors
Jeremy Helvig: He fell significantly behind Callum Booth in the Carolina goalie-of-the-future competition, but he was the No. 1 guy for Kingston this year, and will likely be the guy again next year. Here’s hoping another year of experience has him taking a big step forward
Hudson Elyniuk: He is an interesting situation as he IS AHL-eligible. Given the number of players jumping to pro however, it would shock me if GMRF and friends didn’t want to see Elyniuk spend an overage year back in the WHL to further his development.
Noah Carroll: Yes, he is still a Carolina prospect. He will need to take massive stride forward next year to secure a future with the Hurricanes, but he’ll also be in his best situation yet, given a full year with a Sault Ste Marie team that returns a lot of talent.
As for the rest, we still have yet to see who will fill out these rankings next season. In the meantime make sure your DVR’s are set for Monday, and continue to enjoy what is turning out to be a surprisingly sweet summer for hockey. I’ll keep sharing Canes prospect news when I have it, so follow @coryfogg on Twitter for the updates and stay tuned for next week’s rankings!