|The Saint John Sea Dogs celebrate their franchise-first Memorial Cup victory. (Photo courtesy CHL)|
However, I have a different theory for the quality of play.
All of the teams that participated in the Memorial Cup this year were full of recently drafted or draft eligible players. This is especially true for the Memorial Cup champions, the St. Johns Sea Dogs. There is a possibility of 3 or 4 of their players going in the first round not to mention another 8 who could be drafted before the end of the 3rd round. This abnormal wealth of young talent inspires competition not only between the teams but also between the players within one team. In addition, this was a tournament that was accessible to many viewers through network television. Most of the players had not even played on tv before. The pressure that they felt must have been almost unbearable. However, with the futures of their professional hockey careers looming in front of them, all of the players stepped up their game and fought for every puck and every inch of the ice. Some of them wanted to improve their stock come draft day while others tried to prove that they want to, and can, fight for a roster spot in the AHL or even the NHL.
As a Capitals fan myself, I was very interested to see how Cody Eakin and Stansislav Galiev would react to the pressure of playoff hockey. What I saw was more than I ever could have expected or even dreamed of. Both of the promising prospects skated their hearts out, scored clutch goals, and made brilliant plays to help their team. It makes me fell much more secure about the future of the team. I am sure that many other teams feel the same way. In addition, the jobs of general managers across the league became much easier after seeing the potential draft picks on the biggest stage of their young careers. The GMs now know that whomever they end up picking come draft day can stand up to the pressures of the playoffs and still manage to produce and help his team win.
Come this time next year, I know that I will be watching the Memorial Cup along with many other true hockey fans whose only desire is to see great hockey.