We are under way in Quebec City, and it is time to enjoy the highest level of competition in junior hockey. Throughout the tournament I will share my thoughts on the games, as well as player notes and observations.
Kelowna Rockets vs Quebec Remparts
Final Score: 4-3 Quebec
Some years, the team hosting the Memorial Cup can seem out of place against the three league champions, but not this year. Quebec pushed Rimouski to a double-overtime game 7, falling just short of a QJMHL Championship. They came out looking to send a message in the tournament’s first game, and did just that against a team many consider the favorites.
Both goalies played well. A slight edge goes to Quebec’s Zach Fucale, although Kelowna’s Jackson Whistle was left to fend for himself a little bit more. Quebec played with more intensity, were first to the puck, forced turnovers, and were more dynamic than the Rockets. Their puck movement on the powerplay was tremendous, although at times they could have benefited from shooting more, rather than making one extra pass.
Josh Morrissey and Leon Draisaitl allowed Kelowna to remain in the game. Draisaitl is the best player in this tournament, and needs to continue playing at that level. Defensively, Kelowna made too many mistakes, leading to turnovers. Nerves? Offensively they did a good job of gaining the zone and getting the puck in good shooting positions, but frequently lost the puck trying to complete a perfect play, or missing the net. I expect them to bounce back in a big way next game.
Zach Fucale: Fucale was truly outstanding in the Quebec net, and is not to blame on the goals he allowed. He was positionally sound and tracked the puck well. The calm he displays in his crease reminds me of another Montreal Canadiens goaltender…
Adam Erne: This was not his best game but he remains a dangerous player. Despite not being very noticeable or involved in all facets of the game, he managed to get some quality scoring chances, and is a real offensive threat.
Vladimir Tkatchev: I have my doubts as to how he will transition to the professional level. There are flaws in his game, especially defensively. But the skill he displays with the puck shift after shift makes him such an exciting player, and it is impossible not to notice him.
Ryan Graves: The New-York Rangers prospect is a personal favorite of mine. He plays with an edge defensively, has a big shot from the point, and can contribute offensively. He is a key player for the Remparts.
Leon Draisaitl: He is the best player in this tournament, and looks as though he is five years older than his competition. He skates well with the puck, and is a constant threat with the puck. He was very combative on the forecheck, and created chances for himself.
Josh Morrissey: From previous viewings, I was already impressed with Morrissey’s offensive instincts, puck control, and puck movement. He showed this game that he was reliable defensively, making several key plays to break up Quebec chances.
Madison Bowey: The effort was certainly there but he struggled this game, giving the puck away in dangerous situations. Will need to be more patient with the puck in order to make the optimal play. From previous viewings, this game was below his usual level of play, and he should bounce back. He has the tools to be a dominant defenceman in this tournament.