The Journey: Memorial Cup-date (Morrison, McTavish, Poirier, Sourdif)

Welcome back to The Journey, where we follow hockey prospects and their paths to the NHL, providing fantasy predictions and analysis along the way.

The Memorial Cup, a Champion's League for Canadian junior hockey (WHL, OHL, QMJHL), concluded on Wednesday this week with the Saint John Sea Dogs overcoming the Hamilton Bulldogs by a score of 6-3. William Dufour, highlighted here last week, first propelled the Saint John Sea Dogs into the finals with a huge four-goal game, then cemented the championship with another goal and an assist. He finished with seven goals and eight points in only four games and was named tournament MVP. Now, of course, his fantasy stocks are trending straight up. This week, we'll take a look at some other players from the Memorial Cup who poolies should have on their radar.

Besides Dufour, the next player that bears mentioning is the Bulldogs' regular season scoring leader and OHL playoff MVP, Logan Morrison. Morrison's eight points in five games locked him into a three-way tie with Dufour and teammate Mason McTavish for the tournament scoring lead. Although Morrison was first eligible for the 2020 draft, his 45 points in 59 games that year weren't compelling enough to overcome his shortcomings—most notably his edgework, agility, and lack of physicality. The 19-year-old was then another casualty of the cancelled OHL season in 2020-21 and went undrafted again in 2021. The 2022 draft will be his last chance to hear his name called before moving into the free agent pool. His 100 points in only 60 games (1.67 points per game), which was sixth in the OHL, should give teams enough incentive to take a swing on him this time—even if it's in the later rounds.

To put Morrison's season into perspective, Dufour is the same age and scored 116 points in 66 games (1.76 ppg) this year—and that was in the QMJHL, known to be higher scoring than the OHL. Applying Mason Black's PNHLe model to account for league differences, it turns out that Morrison actually had a higher PNHLe (67) this season than Dufour (62). So where's the hype?

Put on your GM hat for a moment. In which round would you aim to take a player like Logan Morrison in this year's draft? Third? Fourth? Earlier? His PNHLe in 2021-22 was good for 21st among all prospects in Black's Rank King app who haven't played more than a few NHL games. He clearly has upside but feels comparable to 2022-eligible Jordan Dumais in that his production is enormous but scouts have substantial enough concerns about his game to keep him projected for the third round.

Many of these concerns applied to Morrison, at least in his draft year. Now that he's a double overager, it remains to be seen how far NHL teams will feel he has improved and rounded out his skill set. Tenacity and high IQ are strengths commonly noted by observers, and those are attributes that should help him make the jump to the next level.

Looking elsewhere on the Bulldogs' roster, not much more needs to be said about Morrison's teammate, Mason McTavish (ANA 3rd overall, 2021). He's rapidly shaping up into a skilled bulldog type in the mould of Flyers great Bobby Clarke—a tenacious scorer and all-situations player who leads by example. McTavish, ranked #17 on Dobber's Top 200 Forward Prospects list, will be tough to get your hands on if you didn't already snag him in the draft. Given how well his brief NHL audition went directly out of the draft (three points in nine games), it's actually surprising he's not ranked higher. With 40 points in 24 OHL games, he tied Morrison for the team lead in points per game (1.67), though his age and brief NHL and AHL success inflated his PNHLe (76) past both Morrison and Dufour into blue-chip territory—11th overall on Rank Kings.

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Other names of note on the Bulldogs roster include Jan Mysak (MON), Arber Xhekaj (MON), Artem Grushnikov (DAL), and Ryan Winterton (SEA).

Let's turn our focus now to Hamilton's opponents and hosts, the Sea Dogs. While the three other teams—Hamilton, The Edmonton Oil Kings, and the Shawinigan Cataractes—were each champions of their respective leagues, the Sea Dogs were only involved in the tournament because they were the host city. Checking out Saint John's roster, it's easy to see why they proclaimed themselves under(sea)dogs heading into this matchup, even though they actually finished 14 points ahead of the QMJHL champions, Shawinigan, in the regular season. Aside from Dufour, who was far and away their scoring leader, there was not a lot of high-end NHL talent here.

Jeremie Poirier (CGY) is probably the most interesting Sea Dogs prospect for fantasy other than Dufour. He was considered a high-risk, high-reward pick when he was drafted 72nd overall in 2020 after scoring 0.83 points per game. He is a crafty, high-octane option from the back end who can drive an offence and direct a power play, but his scoring has more or less plateaued in the two years since, a fact that should concern those of us who took a swing on him in fantasy. The risk with him was always on the defensive side of the puck, so Flames fans will be hoping that the strong but stagnant production is a sign that Poirier is focusing on cleaning up the habits that made him a liability earlier in junior. He'll make the jump to the Flames' AHL affiliate in 2022-23, and if he does well there, his stocks are sure to see a boost.

Defensemen with Poirier's offensive creativity and dynamism don't come along every day. Look at a prospect like Ryan Merkley as a comparable in terms of a timeline for him reaching the majors: Merkley was drafted two years before him and posted bigger numbers in junior, but heading into his D+5 season next year, Merkley's still not a lock to stick with the Sharks full time. Poirier may require a similar wait while he adjusts to the pro game, so he definitely qualifies as a member of the "potential star if you can afford to wait several years" category.

It's perhaps surprising that we didn't end up with a Shawinigan – Edmonton final. Both those rosters are somewhat more star-studded than Saint John and Hamilton: Shawinigan boasts the unearthly trio of Mavrik Bourque (DAL), Xavier Borgault (EDM), and Olivier Nadeau (BUF), while Edmonton has a deep lineup of top NHL talent with Dylan "spicydyl" Guenther (ARI), Jake Neighbors (STL), Kaiden Guhle (MON), Sebastian Cossa (DET), and Justin Sourdif (FLA).

Bourgault was profiled in The Journey back in December heading into the World Juniors as a player with a high PNHLe score poised for a breakout and then again in February as part of a deep dive into the Oilers' system. He was of course injured in the first game of the WJC and then the tournament was cancelled, but he had a very successful season with 97 points across 59 regular season and playoff games—on top of scoring seven points in only four Memorial Cup appearances. He's a wicked goal scorer who is hopefully only a couple years away from making an impact with the Oilers.

Nadeau was likewise highlighted back in November as an under-the-radar prospect with a high NHL equivalency. He has now led the Cataractes in scoring for the last two years over his two higher-profile teammates, Bourgault and Bourque—though their point-per-game marks were much higher; Bourque in particular scored at a ridiculous 2+ ppg this year (68 points in 31 games; 2.2 ppg). The Dobber writers ranked Bourque 10th overall among prospects who haven't yet played an NHL game in the Fantasy Prospects Report. It's special anytime a prospect can exceed the two-point-per-game mark, so keep an eye on this guy as he makes the jump to pro hockey. He feels like a player who will be helping the Stars stuff the scoresheet sooner rather than later—personally I like him even more than his two fellow high-profile Stars prospects, Logan Stankoven and Wyatt Johnston, though he is primarily a playmaker and might post lower shot totals at the next level than we'd like to see.

Guenther is likely the closest blue-chipper in this bunch other than Bourque to making an impact at the NHL level, and lack of shots will not be a concern for him. He was profiled here back in March when both he and Brennan Othmann broke the 40-goal mark, but while Othmann went on to hit 50, Guenther ended up with 45 goals on the strength of 296 shots—that's an astounding five shots per game. He was ranked 3rd overall by the Dobber writers' consensus and, like McTavish, will be very pricey to acquire if you don't already own him at this point. Look for him to team up and make instant magic with Clayton Keller for the Coyotes in the near future.

Justin Sourdif is more of a value option at #150 in Dobber's Top 200 Forwards list, which is always intriguing for those of us in deeper keepers and dynasties. He is an undersized (5-11, 165 lbs) winger who isn't yet a household name because his production has been good but not great over four WHL campaigns: 205 points in 195 games. A midseason trade saw him go from starring alongside the dynamic Fabian Lysell (BOS) as the captain of a struggling Vancouver Giants team to playing more of a supporting role behind Guenther on the dominant Oil Kings. The fact that his point totals didn't fluctuate much with the trade suggests that he is capable of producing regardless of his role or who he is paired with. Despite his smaller stature, Sourdif is a player who may bring hits, shots (3.1/game this year) and clutch goals to your fantasy squad two or three years from now if everything breaks right.

Sourdif may not end up being a big-time producer at the next level like some of his Memorial Cup peers, but he is no slouch and can likely still be acquired cheaply at this point. Get him now before he features again on Canada's submission to the rebooted WJC in August 2022.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @beegare for more prospect content and fantasy hockey analysis. By the way, Curtis Rines, who covers the Nashville Predators for Dobber Prospects, will be pinch hitting for me over the next three weeks while I'm away on vacation. Thanks, Curtis!

The Journey: Memorial Cup-date (Morrison, McTavish, Poirier, Sourdif)