Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 CHL Memorial Cup: Young Guns to Watch for 2012 & Beyond

I'm a big fan of taking notice of the game's next crop of stars. For most people who follow the CHL, this stardom takes place in prominent roles for the player's club; however, rebuilding in junior hockey is far more important than it is in the NHL, and I love to see the next batch of CHL stars before they get the chance to shine. A great example of this for me is P.K. Subban, who I watched a lot in his OHL rookie season for Belleville.

One thing that very few of these future stars get to experience is the limelight shone by the CHL's most decorated prize: the Memorial Cup. Typically, teams boasting lineups strong enough win their respected league's titles are filled with players 18-20+ years old, as exemplified this year by both Saint John and Mississauga.

There are, however, a couple of players on Kootenay and Owen Sound that could show a glimpse of their potential at this year's Memorial Cup.

Jarrod Maidens (C, Owen Sound)
After being selected #4 overall in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection Draft, Maidens was described as a "skilled forward that has all the physical tools to be a dominant player at the next level." Unfortunately for the Majors they found that this type of player arrived sooner than expected.

Maidens merited such a gaudy selection after dominating the OMHA ranks with 63 goals and 104 points in 57 games played. After committing to the Attack, Maidens stepped into the lineup in a depth role and, as a lot of young players do, scored in bunches. Jarrod started off the season well with 7 points in his first 9 OHL games but proceeded to follow that up with 13 straight scoreless outings. All-in-all, Maidens had a solid rookie campaign considering his role within his team, posting 21 points in 47 games with a +4 rating.

Maidens continued his solid campaign into the playoffs, notching 7 points in 15 games leading up to Owen Sound's eventual berth into the OHL Finals. While Mississauga proved to be a tough opponent for Jarrod (posting only 1 goal in the first 6 games), Game 7 was Maidens's coming-out party. He and Joey Hishon were tenacious the entire game: Maidens scored the go-ahead goal in the first period to put the Attack up 2-1 then, when his team needed it most, scored the overtime game-winner in locking up the league title.

Already having such esteem heading into his draft year, this year's Memorial Cup could push Maidens into early contention as a high draft pick for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. If the reigning OHL Player of the Week can use his size (6'2", 170 lbs.) to his advantage and play the same tenacious game shown in Game 7 of the OHL Finals, Owen Sound could surprise the Memorial Cup teams the same way they did the Majors.

Sam Reinhart (C, Kootenay)
As I mentioned in my previous post, Kootenay is a team that relies heavily on its veterans in all roles. That said, the Ice have had a special talent with bloodlines in the organization riding this wave of success with them.

Sizing in at 5'11", 160 lbs., Sam Reinhart is exactly what you would expect from an offensive-minded youngster in this day and age. That said, the late '95-born forward - Kootenay's first round pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft - did what he needed to this season in proving his readiness to take the next step in his hockey career: Kootenay called up Reinhart on two separate occassions, playing in only four games for the Ice and scoring 2 goals.

The rest of Reinhart's season was spent with the Vancouver NW Giants in the British Columbia Major Midget League where, in 34 games with the Giants, he scored 38 goals and 40 assists while only logging three minor penalties. The time spent with Kootenay clearly rubbed off on the dynamo as he went on a 14-game, 37-point streak after getting reassigned to the BCMML. In the end, Sam finished second on his team in scoring during both the regular season and the playoffs; however, both of those totals were also good enough to finish second in the entire league. Reinhart and linemate Alex Kerfoot led the powerhouse NW Giants to a BCMML regular season title to go with the playoff championship.

After finishing the year in Vancouver, the Ice called Reinhart back up for their playoff run and he went on to play in four of the team's games leading up to the WHL Finals. After sitting in the press box during Kootenay's Game 1 overtime loss against Portland, Reinhart got into the lineup the rest of the series as the Ice won 4 straight games to lock up the title.

Seeing how he was thrown into the lineup in a high-pressure situation against one of the WHL's elite teams, I wouldn't be surprised to see Sam dressed for the entirety of the Memorial Cup unless his inexperience shines through (as happens a lot with young players).

With a strong showing, Reinhart could find himself toward the top of the rankings for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and would then be in line for a nice increase in role for an Ice team looking to repeat as champions. Having brother Max, a 3rd round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2010, along for the ride should only make things that much easier for Sam.

Others in the Tournament:
  • Adam Rossignol (C, Kootenay; '12-eligible)
  • Erik Benoit (LW, Kootenay; '12-eligible)
  • Mike Simpson (D, Kootenay; '12-eligible)
  • Mackenzie Skapski (G, Kootenay; '12-eligible)
  • Gemel Smith (C, Owen Sound; '12-eligible)
  • Holden Cook (RW, Owen Sound; '12-eligible)

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