Memorial Cup Team Preview: Halifax Mooseheads

The host of this year’s Memorial Cup…

has shown they have earned the right to be in the Memorial Cup. While some hosts in recent years have flamed out early in the playoffs, and have not looked like a contender in the tournament, Halifax has shown through the regular season and the playoffs that they are going to be a formidable opponent in the 101st edition of the Memorial Cup. They finished third in the entire QMJHL, and made it all the way to the President’s Cup Finals, before losing to Rouyn-Noranda in six games. Despite the loss, the Mooseheads have a lot to be excited about heading into the tournament, let’s see why.

Lavoie est L’Homme

Every good junior team has at least one player that plays outstanding in crunch time. That player is the team’s go-to guy when they need a big play, and can always be counted on to put up exceptional performances night-in and night-out. The Mooseheads have had that player in these playoffs with Raphael Lavoie. Lavoie has been dynamite this postseason. Despite only scoring 73 points during the regular season, the potential first or second round pick has been at the head of the Halifax offence during their run to the President’s Cup Finals. He finished second in the entire QMJHL in playoff scoring with 32 points in 23 games. His 20 goals were the most in the playoffs, including scoring six goals in the four game sweep of Moncton back in round two. His confidence has been growing through every passing series, and while he has yet to play on such a big stage as the Memorial Cup, Lavoie seems poised to step up once again when put in the spotlight.

He Isn’t the Only One

While Lavoie has been amazing this postseason for the Mooseheads, he could not have done it all on his own if Halifax wanted to make it deep into the playoffs. Arnaud Durandeau was exceptional down the stretch, particularly in the finals against Rouyn-Noranda. The Islanders’ prospect put up seven points against the Huskies, three of which being goals. Durandeau finished the playoffs with 20 points, tied for second on the team.

The player Durandeau was tied for eighth in playoff scoring was Maxim Trepanier. Trepanier did not have the most mind-blowing numbers during the regular season, however score a career-best 47 points. In the playoffs he was extremely active in helping set up the offencive attack for the Mooseheads. Along with his 20 points, Trepanier amassed 14 assists in his 22 games, which were tied for fifth most in the playoffs.

One piece that chimed in when he needed to was Samuel Asselin. While the Mooseheads’ leading-scorer during the regular season did not post the biggest numbers in the playoffs, he was going up against the other team’s top lines and defencive pairings each and every game. Do not let the fact that he averaged below a point-per-game in these playoffs fool you, Asselin still has the ability to be a big time player, especially when the Memorial Cup is at stake.

Defencive Offence

While a defenceman’s job is to do his part to make sure the puck stays out of the net, it certainly helps when they can flip the script and help put the puck into the opponent’s goal. The Mooseheads have a trio of outstanding two-way defencemen in their lineup, Jared McIsaac, Justin Barron and Jake Ryczek. All three produced over 10 points in these playoffs, and all finished with a plus/minus of +5 or higher.

Ryczek has really matured in his second season in Halifax, as he has become much more of a complete player. The Chicago prospect tallied 13 assists in the playoffs, including five in the semis finals against the Voltigeurs. All that after only garnering 24 helpers in the regular season.

The hometown-boy Barron has excelled following a promising rookie season. He is a much more confident defender on the back end, and with that has been able to turn defence into offence. After scoring 41 points in the regular season (20 more than the year previous), Barron scored two goals along with 11 assists for 13 points in the playoffs. That also includes the five points he scored in the Mooseheads’ opening round series against Quebec. Both Barron and Ryczek were tied for fifth in defencemen scoring in the playoffs.

McIsaac has been the number one defenceman for Halifax for the past couple of seasons, and it is easy to see why. A solid defencive presence who can help in the offencive end has been exactly what the Mooseheads asked for from the Truro, NS product. McIsaac ended the playoffs third in defencemen scoring with 16 points, 14 of which being assists. When up against a solid defencive team in Rouyn-Noranda in the finals, the Detroit prospect gave his best offencive outburst of the playoffs, where Isaac assisted the Halifax attack with six helpers in the series. There is no question in the Memorial Cup, he will be tasked, as per usual, with going up against the opposition’s top lines, and be expected to be outstanding at both ends of the rink.

All statistics and records from the QMJHL and Elite Prospects.

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Author: Tyler Kuehl

Born in Michigan, Tyler was bred in Red Wings home. However, through many trips to Ontario, he developed a love for the Leafs and Canada itself. Tyler does hockey play-by-play around Michigan. As a former player, he can give insight inside the locker room and minds of players. He’ll be covering the Canadian Hockey League, as junior hockey is one of his passions. You can also catch Tyler on his hockey show, The Kuehl Podcast.