Five play­ers to keep an eye on at the 2017 Me­mo­rial Cup

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY KYLE CICERELLA

Some of the world’s best ju­nior hockey tal­ent will be on dis­play at the May 18-28 Me­mo­rial Cup in Wind­sor. Here are five play­ers to watch in the bat­tle for Cana­dian Hockey League supremacy:

JOEY VELENO, Saint John Sea Dogs

In 2015, Veleno be­came the first player to be granted ex­cep­tional player sta­tus in the QMJHL. He’s just the third for­ward to be given per­mis­sion to play in the CHL at 15 years old af­ter John Tavares and Con­nor McDavid. Veleno, 17, isn’t el­i­gi­ble for the NHL En­try Draft un­til 2018.

The six-foot-one 190-pound cen­tre has had the lux­ury of play­ing on a Saint John team with ex­pe­ri­ence and depth up front in his first two sea­sons and hasn’t had to carry the weight of his ti­tle. A break­out tour­na­ment would, how­ever, do him some good as many team­mates will be mov­ing on while he’ll be back next sea­son with an in­creased role.

Veleno fin­ished the year with 13 goals and 40 points in 45 games af­ter miss­ing some time with an in­jury that caused him to skip the world un­der-17 hockey chal­lenge. The Kirk­land, Que., na­tive added eight goals and 11 points in 18 play­off con­tests.

THOMAS CHABOT, Saint John Sea Dogs

The 20-year-old Chabot has al­ready had an im­pres­sive sea­son, but will try to take it a step fur­ther with his ap­pear­ance at the Me­mo­rial Cup.

Chabot, Ot­tawa’s first-round pick, 18th over­all, in 2015, was named world ju­niors MVP in Jan­uary for his work with Team Canada, earned QMJHL de­fence­man of the year in April, and added play­off MVP in May af­ter lead­ing the Sea Dogs to the league ti­tle.

Chabot, from Ste-Marie, Que., pro­duced 10 goals and 45 points in 35 reg­u­lar-sea­son games, then put up five goals and 23 points in 18 play­off con­tests. The six-foot-two 190-pound blue-liner will not only be part of the Saint John of­fence, but will be ex­pected to shut down the com­pe­ti­tion’s top lines.

GABRIEL VILARDI, Wind­sor Spit­fires

Vilardi, from Kingston, Ont., is con­sid­ered the top prospect at the tour­na­ment and could crack the top five at the 2017 NHL En­try Draft in June. The 17-year-old for­ward ended the OHL sea­son ranked No. 4 on Cen­tral Scout­ing’s list of North Amer­i­can skaters.

De­spite miss­ing quar­ter of the sea­son with an in­jury, the six-foot-three 200-pound cen­tre led Wind­sor in scor­ing with 29 goals and 61 points in 49 games. He added two goals and six points in a seven-game first-round loss to the Lon­don Knights in the play­offs.

Vilardi, a big body with a right-handed shot and high­qual­ity puck skills, is ex­pected to see plenty of ice time at the tour­na­ment, giv­ing scouts a fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to watch him in game sit­u­a­tions be­fore the draft.

CARL STANKOWSKI, Seat­tle Thun­der­birds

The 17-year-old Stankowski wasn’t ex­pected to do much in his rookie sea­son as he was seen as Seat­tle’s goalie of the fu­ture, but he found him­self lead­ing the way come play­off time.

Seat­tle starter Ry­lan Toth went down with an in­jury late in the reg­u­lar sea­son and Stankowski filled in ad­mirably de­spite only five ca­reer WHL starts to his name prior to the first round. Stankowski went 16-4 in the post-sea­son with a 2.50 goals-against av­er­age and .911 save per­cent­age, lead­ing the Thun­der­birds to their first league ti­tle.

The Calgary na­tive, who is el­i­gi­ble for the 2018 NHL Draft, isn’t a large goalie. He stands just five foot nine and weighs 163 pounds.

DAR­REN RADDYSH, Erie Ot­ters

Raddysh, from Cale­don, Ont., is one of many of­fen­sive stars on Erie’s ros­ter, and he’s play­ing for more than just a Me­mo­rial Cup.

The 21-year-old Raddysh is in his fi­nal sea­son and his ju­nior ca­reer will end af­ter the tour­na­ment. He has been looked over at the NHL En­try Draft and will hope to draw some at­ten­tion from scouts in the hopes of earn­ing an NHL en­try-level con­tract, or at min­i­mum an in­vite to a train­ing camp in the fall.

The six-foot-one 200-pound blue-liner did his part in the reg­u­lar sea­son, earn­ing the OHL de­fence­man of the year and over­age player of the year awards af­ter putting up 16 goals and 81 points in 62 games.

He fol­lowed that up with eight goals and 22 points in 22 play­off games. His younger brother Tay­lor, an Ot­ters for­ward, was drafted in 2016 by Tampa Bay and signed his first NHL con­tract on Mon­day.

Honourable men­tions

Ot­ters for­wards An­thony Cirelli and Dy­lan Strome; Spit­fires goalie Michael DiPi­etro and de­fence­men Sean Day and Logan Stan­ley; Thun­der­birds for­wards Mathew Barzal and Sami Moila­nen.

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