The 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup begins Friday and players of color are poised to play starring roles at the major junior hockey championship.
The Saint John Sea Dogs, champs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Seattle Thunderbirds, winners of the Western Hockey League crown, Erie Otters, kings of the Ontario Hockey League, and the Windsor Spitfires, the tournament’s host, vie for the coveted Cup.
The offensively-potent Sea Dogs are powered by right wing Mathieu Joseph and left wing Bokondji Imama.
Joseph, 20, a 2015 Tampa Bay Lightning fourth-round draft pick and a member of the Silver Medal-winning 2017 Canadian World Juniors team, was the Sea Dogs second-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 36 goals and 44 assists in 54 games.
The 20-year old showed that his shot is as hard as his fists by being the Sea Dogs’ fourth-leading scorer with 41 goals and 14 assists, all while accumulating 105 penalty minutes in 66 games.
The Thunderbirds also reached the Memorial Cup tournament because of their impressive offense – from the blue line by defenseman Ethan Bear and up front by right wing Keegan Kolesar.
Bear, 19, who is Ochapowace First Nation, was the definition of an offensive defenseman. He finished third on the Thunderbirds in scoring with 28 goals and 42 assists in 67 regular season games. The Edmonton Oilers 2015 fifth-round draft pick also tallied 6 goals and 20 assists in 17 WHL playoff games.
Kolesar, 20, a third-round draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015, was the Thunderbirds fourth-leading scorer in 2016-17 with 26 goals and 34 assists in 54 games. He had 12 goals and 19 assists in 19 WHL playoff contests.
When it comes to leadership on the Windsor Spitfires, there’s “Addy” and “Chatty.” Left wing Jeremiah Addison, 20, and defenseman Jalen Chatfield are such integral parts of their team that they both were voted captain toward the end of the regular season and alternated wearing the “C’ on their jerseys every other game.
“Our players selected these guys equally. They’re two great people,” Spitfires Head Coach Rocky Thompson said in March. “They are both deserving and both represent what it takes to be a leader.”
Addison was the team’s third-leading scorer with 24 goals and 19 assists in 51 games. Addison, a seventh-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2015, pitched in 5 goals in five OHL playoff games.
Though not as prolific as Seattle’s Bear, defenseman Chatfield, 21, provided some offensive pop from the Windsor blue line. He had 8 goals and 20 assists in 61 regular season games and 2 assists in seven playoff games.
The Vancouver Canucks were impressed enough with Chatfield’s game to sign him to a three-year entry level contract in March.
Windsor right wing Cole Purboo contributed 11 goals and 6 assists in 68 regular season games. The National Hockey League’s Central Scouting ranks Purboo, 17, as the 189th-best North American prospect eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft June 23-24 at Chicago’s United Center.
There are no minority players on the Erie Otters roster.
The 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup games will be televised live in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet and on tape delay on the NHL Network in the United States. However, the network will carry the championship game live on Sunday, May 28.
Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey.