It’s time for this year’s class to get ready for the spotlight. Players like Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier have spent most of their lives honing their hockey skills in pursuit of their dream of making it to the NHL. Now they’re closing in on that reality as we get closer to the 2017 NHL Draft.
Gabriel Vilardi checks off nearly every box of what a team would want from an NHL prospect. His 6-foot-2, 193-pound frame gives him a great foundation to work with when it comes to moulding an NHL body and then there’s all the tangibles he possesses that have made him an elite two-way forward with the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires.
While many young NHL prospects will hear their names called this weekend in Chicago for the NHL Draft, there will also be those players who will not hear their name called.
A CHLer’s season is never really over. While NHL draft-eligibles tested their physical capacity this week at the NHL combine, young goaltenders are beginning the evaluation process for the upcoming year’s national junior teams.
On Sunday, the Windsor Spitfires became the seventh host team to win the Memorial Cup without winning its respective league championship. The win has many criticizing the format, some even spouting off that the Spitfires didn’t deserve to win—but that’s nothing but a lot of hot air.
The best was saved for last at this year’s Mastercard Memorial Cup. A tournament that featured three blowout decisions through six round robin games ended with the closest and wildest affair on Sunday with the host Windsor Spitfires defeating the OHL champion Erie Otters 4-3.
Now an NHL star with the New Jersey Devils, he was fortunate enough to be a Windsor Spitfire for three seasons and was their best player in their back-to-back Memorial Cup runs in 2009 and 2010. On Saturday, he returned to Windsor for a homecoming of sorts during the CHL Alumni Game, held in advance of Sunday’s Memorial Cup.
Taylor Raddysh hopes he has one more big game left in him on Sunday. But if he doesn’t, he’ll be perfectly fine with one of his Erie Otters teammates having a moment of their own too. “None of the guys care who scores, so long as we come out with the win in the end,” said Raddysh, the leading scorer at the Mastercard Memorial Cup with 11 points as the Otters get set to face the host Windsor Spitfires in Sunday’s final.
One thing everyone can count on is a different Saint John Sea Dogs team showing up Friday night in the Mastercard Memorial Cup semifinal. Armed with a second wind, the QMJHL champs will face off against the OHL champion Erie Otters, a team that ran away with a 12-5 thrashing the last time the teams met on Monday.
When HockeyNow published its Memorial Cup issue last week, we did a panel where four of us made our predictions for the tournament results. Three of us picked the Spitfires to finish last, with one of us figuring them for third.
The Windsor Spitfires are one win away from a storybook ending at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. While the junior hockey world questioned what they’d be able to do coming out of a six-week layoff after they were eliminated in the first round of the OHL playoffs, the Memorial Cup hosts have defied most expectations by defeating all three league champions in the round-robin.
Michael DiPietro is more of the extrovert while his Windsor Spitfires teammate Gabe Vilardi seems more subdued. But they’re both all business during the Mastercard Memorial Cup as the Spitfires aim to book their ticket to the final with a win over the Erie Otters in a battle of two undefeated teams to conclude the round-robin.
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