The puck drops Friday for the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia with the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders and the hosting Halifax Mooseheads set to face off in the CHL championship opener.
The squads enter Friday’s contest after wrapping up league playoff play which saw the Raiders capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time since 1985, while the Mooseheads pushed the first-place Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to six games in the QMJHL’s President’s Cup Final.
Leading the way for the Raiders is draft-eligible right-wing Brett Leason, whose breakout season saw him put up 36 goals and 53 assists for a team-leading 89 points in just 55 appearances to put his name on the map after he went unselected in the past two NHL drafts.
It’s been a jam-packed year for the Calgary, Alta., native, who was also a part of Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, where he was one of the country’s top producers as he scored at a point-per-game pace. The 20-year-old kept up his big-game production in the WHL playoffs, finishing with 10 goals and 15 assists in 22 games to come just one point shy of the league lead.
Between the pipes, the Raiders get solid support from Toronto Maple Leafs up-and-comer Ian Scott, a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft who this year took home the Del Wilson Trophy, presented to the WHL’s Goaltender of the Year, after he wrapped up the 2018-19 campaign with an impressive 38 wins in just 49 games, alongside a 1.83 goals-against average, .932 save percentage, and a league-leading eight shutouts.
Shifting into the postseason, there was no let up from Scott, who pitched another five shutouts, including two perfect games in the Ed Chynoweth Cup Final versus the Western Conference champion Vancouver Giants. For his efforts, Scott was recognized as the WHL Playoff MVP, adding yet another award to his hockey mantel.
Alongside their Raiders teammates, they will face off against a Mooseheads squad that includes right-wing Raphael Lavoie, the top-ranked player by NHL Central Scouting (20th among North American skaters) who is competing in the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.
After a modest regular season that saw Lavoie finish with 32 goals and 41 assists for 73 points in 62 contests, the product of Chambly, Que., pushed the pace in the postseason as he potted an eye-popping 20 goals in just 23 games, while his 32 points finished just two shy of top spot in the QMJHL playoff scoring race.
While each game of the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia promises to bring plenty of intensity, it may be an easier adjustment for the Mooseheads, as the club boasts several players, including leading scorer Samuel Asselin and centre Antoine Morand, who hoisted the CHL championship trophy last spring as part of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. That familiarity could ultimately prove to be a key difference for the hosting squad.
Catch all the action between the Raiders and Mooseheads on Friday at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW. Fans can also tune in at CHLLive.ca.
Next up: Saturday action sees the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies take on the OHL’s Guelph Storm.
For full coverage of the 2019 Memorial Cup Presented by Kia visit chlmemorialcup.ca.