Every year, the battle for the Memorial Cup is a delight full of wild twists and turns. After the trade deadline, the playoff picture and league favourites become much clearer than they were. I’ve decided to rank the teams in each of the three leagues based on their chances of making it to the Memorial Cup. I’ve also put the teams into tiers to give a better perspective than only numerical rankings.
In the Western Hockey League, I expected more teams to make big deals at the deadline, but few transpired. Despite this, the WHL is very competitive this year and the race for the Ed Chynoweth cup is going to be a good one. Many teams stand a chance as 13/22 teams have won more games than they’ve lost and only three have won twice as many as they have lost.
1. Prince Albert Raiders: 40-5-2 (Tier 1)
Heading into the deadline, the Raiders were already first in the league. They made a trade for overager Dante Hannoun to bolster their lineup even more. At this time, they are the far and away the favourites to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
2. Everett Silvertips: 33-12-2 (Tier 2)
A defense first team, the Silvertips have soared their way to a 33-12-2 record. The Silvertips have picked up Artyom Minulin, Max Pattersson, Zack Andrusiak and Robbie Holmes along the way. From leading scorer Connor Dewar to young starter Dustin Wolf, Everett is a team that is ready to compete.
3. Vancouver Giants: 29-12-2 (Tier 2)
Led by Bowen Byram, the top defensemen in the upcoming draft, the Giants are ready to make a run at the postseason this upcoming spring. The Giants made an effort to improve their roster before the deadline, picking up Jadon Joseph and Dallas Hines ahead of their push for the playoffs.
4. Portland Winterhawks: 27-13-5 (Tier 3)
The Winterhawks find themselves near the top year after year. This year’s Winterhawks, led by superstar Cody Glass, may be able to score their way through the opposition come the start of the playoffs. They added G Joel Hofer at the deadline to improve their goals against situation.
5. Spokane Chiefs: 24-15-5 (Tier 3)
Spokane came into the season with hefty expectations. While they haven’t been a disappointment, they did not have an ideal start. With Jaret Anderson-Dolan back in the fold, the Chiefs currently find themselves amongst the favourites in the league. Spokane was quiet at the deadline, but Luc Smith was a big addition in November.
6. Saskatoon Blades: 28-13-6 (Tier 3)
The Saskatoon Blades are led by Canadian forward Kirby Dach who will be a Top-10 pick when selected in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Saskatoon places near the top of the WHL leaderboard and they are as good a team as they have been since their Memorial Cup trip in 2013.
7. Edmonton Oil Kings: 25-14-8 (Tier 3)
Edmonton Oil Kings star forward Trey Fix-Wolansky is one of the best players in the WHL and is a huge reason for the success of the Oil Kings this season. Backed by a decent core, Fix-Wolansky and the Oil Kings are a solid team who will give any club a run for their money in the playoffs.
8. Lethbridge Hurricanes: 24-13-8 (Tier 3)
Lethbridge made the biggest splash of any team this season, trading for forwards Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry from Regina and G Liam Hughes from Seattle. The Hurricanes on paper are locked and loaded to make a playoff run.
9. Red Deer Rebels: 27-14-3 (Tier 3)
Red Deer surprised many by becoming buyers over the course of the season. The acquisition of Brett Davis and Cameron Hausinger from Kootenay earlier in the season was an important trade and will go a long way for the Rebels as they look to squeeze into the playoff race.
10. Moose Jaw Warriors: 25-11-7 (Tier 3)
Team Canada coach Tim Hunter returned from the World Juniors to Saskatchewan to find his team playing rather well. After loading up last season and coming up short, the Warriors are trying to make another playoff run, this time with a less talented roster.
11. Medicine Hat Tigers: 26-16-4 (Tier 3)
The Tigers have been quietly good this season, working their way to a 26-16-4 record. They aren’t a flashy team by any means, but they get the job done. The acquisition of forward Brett Kemp for forward Josh Williams will help their championship chances.
12. Calgary Hitmen: 21-19-4 (Tier 4)
Led by Mark Kastelic, the Hitmen have been an average team in every sense of the word, owning a 21-19-4 record and a -1 goal differential. The Hitmen haven’t done anything spectacular this season, but they will make the playoffs and put up a good fight.
13. Tri-City Americans: 24-16-3 (Tier 4)
After making some noise in last year’s playoffs, the Americans saw what many would call a huge roster turnover. Despite having a negative goal differential, the Americans are sitting at 24-16-13, a rather impressive record considering the roster that they have.
14. Victoria Royals: 23-20-1 (Tier 4)
The Royals came flying out of the gate this season but have trailed off since, struggling to produce and record wins. They may have a winning record right now, but with a -8 goal differential and leading scorer Dante Hannoun now in Pennsylvania, the Royals may be in tough for the remainder of the season.
15. Brandon Wheat Kings: 19-18-6 (Tier 5)
The usually talented Wheat Kings have failed to ice as good a team as they normally do. Although they will likely find themselves within a playoff position, the Wheat Kings are a younger team consisting of many top prospects. They will remain competitive next year and into the years to come ahead.
16. Kelowna Rockets: 19-22-4 (Tier 5)
Usually in the mix to win the entire league, the Rockets are in the midst of a rather difficult year. The attention is all turned to next season coming up as Kelowna will play host to the yearly annual Memorial Cup. Many changes will have to be made if the Rockets want to have a legit chance to both compete and put up a fight.
17. Kamloops Blazers: 17-24-3 (Tier 5)
Most expected the Blazers to be better than they’ve been this season. Things have not quite gone their way this season, but a strong group of young players that includes Connor Zary and Logan Stankoven will make them competitive soon enough.
18. Seattle Thunderbirds: 17-21-5 (Tier 5)
The Thunderbirds find themselves in a rebuild after deciding to sell at the January 10th trade deadline. With some good young pieces currently put in place, Seattle will look to build their way back to the top in the next few years.
19. Prince George Cougars: 16-24-5 (Tier 5)
With little to no expectations placed on them before the season began, the Cougars have been a pleasant surprise since the puck first dropped in October. While they haven’t been good, they also haven’t been as bad as some, including me, thought they would be.
20. Kootenay Ice: 10-30-8 (Tier 6)
Kootenay has had a poor track record the past few seasons, and this one is no different, another one in which they are struggling. However, the young core looks promising with the likes Peyton Krebs, Connor McClennon and Carson Lambos within the fold.
21. Regina Pats: 12-33-2 (Tier 6)
The Regina Pats participated in the Memorial Cup last season, but after trades and graduating losses, the Pats aren’t nearly the team they were the past two seasons.
22. Swift Current Broncos: 9-33-3 (Tier 6)
After winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup at the conclusion of last season, the Broncos have fallen off a cliff in the first year of a rebuild for Swift Current.