The Memorial Cup begins tonight and there will definitely be some future fantasy hockey talent on display... here's a quick rundown of the key players to keep an eye on. Note: Buzzing The Net has full previews of each of the teams so I'll link to them below, must-read stuff if you need a little refresher.
Mississauga (BTN Preview)
Justin Shugg, LW, 2010 4th round pick of Carolina - Mississauga is a team without a marquee star but Shugg is probably as close as they come here as he led the team with 41+46=87 in 66 games this year. I like this kid, he's not big but plays hard and I tend to think that Carolina knows what they're doing at the draft table so this kid might have a future (just give him a few years).
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW, 2010 2nd round pick of Anaheim - His numbers have been solid but modest the past two seasons so I'm questioning his NHL upside but he's elevated his game in the post-season with a joint-lead in OHL playoff goals with 15 in 20 games. He'll likely play another year in the OHL next season.
Brett Flemming, D, 2009 5th round pick of Washington - This one will be under a few radars... he isn't a flashy offensive dman but seems to play a steady thinking man's game and I'm encouraged that the Caps saw enough and got him signed in December, so he should begin his pro career in Hershey next season.
Owen Sound (BTN Preview)
Joey Hishon, C, 2010 1st round pick of Colorado - Oh baby, now we're talking, I loved this kid even before he was a surprise 1st rounder last year (we had him as the 8th best fantasy prospect in the 2010 draft (in our fantasy prospect rankings)) and all he did to cement his spot was put up 1.74 ppg this year (2nd best in the OHL). Given how the Avs haven't been hesitant to bring their prospects along quickly, I wouldn't be surprised to see him with the big club next year and I don't think it will take him long to start putting up numbers.
Garrett Wilson, LW, 2009 4th round pick of Florida - He's averaged 38 goals the past two seasons but how much of that is due to playing with Hishon?... that the question that you have to ask yourself and Florida might be asking themselves that as well as they've yet to sign him and only have a few days left before he goes back into the draft.
Jesse Blacker, D, 2009 2nd round pick of Toronto - Good numbers this year with 15+55=70 in 84 games (regular season & playoffs) but he'll need to prove himself in the AHL next year before we're sure of what we have here.
Saint John (BTN Preview)
Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, 2011 draft eligible - If you're only interested in undrafted players, then this is the team you want to see as the Sea Dogs employ a wealth of guys who should go high in this summer's draft. Huberdeau leads the way as he's looking like he could be a top 5 pick after a 105 point season and then being named Q playoffs MVP. I like his potential but I do think he's been a little overhyped.
Zack Phillips, C, 2011 draft eligible - He's also a likely 1st round pick who put up 38+57=95 in 67 games playing with Huberdeau this season. Those numbers are very good but lets not forget that this was a dominant Saint John team that scored nearly five goals a game (4.76) this season so his numbers could be a little inflated. I'll be watching to see how he looks when the pressure is on.
Stanislav Galiev, RW, 2010 3rd round pick of Washington - Being right at a point-per-game this season as a 18/19 year old playing on a dominant team like this doesn't impress me that much... I would have liked to have seen more. I'd say he's a longshot but he's in a great situation with the Russian-loving Caps.
Tomas Jurco, RW, 2011 draft eligible - His numbers (31+25=56 in 60 games) this year were a little disappointing but don't look past the fact that he has to take a backseat to a lot of talent on this squad. He's worth watching to see if you get the feeling that he can elevate his game when given the opportunity.
Nathan Beaulieu, D, 2011 draft eligible - Some places have him ranked very high (CS has him #5 amongst NA skaters) but I haven't been blown away in the few times I've seen him and I suspect his point totals were boosted by playing on a powerhouse.
Kootenay (BTN Preview)
Cody Eakin, C, 2009 3rd round pick of Washington - One of my favourite prospects, dude is a player that just finds a way to get 'er done. He didn't really take off until the season after he was drafted and that's why he wasn't picked higher but I wouldn't be surprised if he jumps directly to DC next year and is one of those players that surprises and always tends to overachieve.
Brayden McNabb, D, 2009 3rd round pick of Buffalo - Big, tough & physical dman who may have more offensive ability than a lot of people expected as he was third in the WHL in points by a dman this year (21+51=72 in 59 games). He and Tyler Myers could form a scary pair starting next season.
Max Reinhart, C, 2010 3rd round pick of Calgary - He's shown flashes of some scoring touch this year but I think he projects as more of a worker in the NHL. Then again, given that the Flames don't have much in the system, he could be given more (and faster) opportunities than expected.
Matt Fraser, LW, FA signing by Dallas - Didn't get picked in three drafts but the Stars signed him as a FA last year. He's coming off back-to-back 30+ goals & 100+ PIMs seasons and has shown even more by leading the WHL in playoff goals with 17 in 19 games. He's a bit of a longshot to be a fantasy asset but definitely worth keeping tabs on.