2017 Memorial Cup Preview: Saint John Sea Dogs

Photo par Vincent Ethier

The 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup will begin on Friday, May 19 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario. So far this week I’ve previewed the WHL Champion Seattle Thunderbirds, the host Windsor Spitfires, and the OHL champion Erie Otters. Today, we take a look at the QMJHL President Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs, which will wrap up our Memorial Cup team previews.

Saint John claimed the 2017 President Cup by eliminating the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in a four game sweep. Since entering the QMJHL in 2005, Saint John has a total of three QMJHL championships and a Memorial Cup. They won back-to-back President Cup’s in 2011 and again in 2012. In the 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Mississauga, Ontario the Sea Dogs won their first Memorial Cup. They were the top team in round-robin play in that tournament, and defeated the host Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 3-1 in the championship final. In the 2012 Memorial Cup in  Shawinigan, Quebec Saint John would finish second in round-robin play before falling to the eventual champion the host Shawinigan Cataractes in the semi-final 7-4.

This year Saint John has plenty of motivation to earn their second MasterCard Memorial Cup. Team Equipment manager David Kelly, is back with the team after taking various absences in his battle with a rare form of thyroid cancer. Kelly has remained an inspiration to the team, and the QMJHL alike, as the Team DK movement has taken shape.

Another motivating factor for the Sea Dogs is Oliver Felixson. The Finnish blueliner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March. He has been out of the lineup ever since as he undergoes treatment. Hodgkins lymphoma is very treatable and potentially curable. When team captain Spencer Smallman accepted the cup, he held Felixson’s jersey for the picture with the commissioner and the cup. Felixson and Kelly will help to motivate an already formidable team.

Stats-wise, the Sea Dogs were a very dominant team in the 2017 President Cup playoffs. Mathieu Joseph, a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, led the team and the league in playoff points scoring 13 goals and amassing 32 points in 18 games. Behind Joseph, in third place overall in points, was Halifax native Matthew Highmore. A recent signee of the Chicago Blackhawks, Highmore scored six goals and had 24 points in 18 playoff games. Team Captain Spencer Smallman rounds out the list of Sea Dogs players in the QMJHL’s top 10 in fifth overall. The Carolina Hurricanes prospect finished 11 goals and 22 points in 18 post-season games.

Saint John’s forward depth also includes Carolina prospect Julien Gauthier, and gritty Tampa Bay pick Bokondji Imama. Also, keep an eye on 2018 NHL draft pick and the only player to be granted exceptional status in the QMJHL, Joe Veleno.

Of note on the Saint John blueline, Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot. Since re-joining the Sea Dogs from the Senators earlier this season, Chabot has been a workhorse. He was named QMJHL Defenceman of the Year, and QMJHL playoff MVP for 2017. Chabot also competed for Team Canada alongside teammates Mathieu Joseph and Julien Gauthier. He took home MVP honours in that tournament, helping Canada to a silver medal finish. Chabot finished tops among defenceman in playoff points scoring five goals and 23 points in 18 games. Chabot finished fourth among active skaters this post-season.

In goal, the Sea Dogs are led by Montreal, Quebec native Callum Booth. The 19-year-old has been solid in goal for Saint John since being acquired from the Quebec Remparts at the trading period and brings Memorial Cup experience to the team having participated with the Remparts in 2015 when they hosted the tournament. He led all goalies in statistics this season, playing in all 18 games in these playoffs winning 16 and only losing two. He totalled an impressive four shutouts, had a goals against average of 1.92, and a save percentage of .915. Backing up Booth, is Sherbrooke Quebec native Alex D’Orio. In his rookie season, D’Orio started in 28 games, winning 19 and losing four. He had one shutout, a goals against average of 2.40, and a save percentage of .903.

Saint John will begin its quest for a second MasterCard Memorial Cup on Friday night facing the host Windsor Spitfires to kick-off the tournament. They will then take on the OHL champion Erie Otters on May 22, at 7 p.m.,  before finishing off their round-robin schedule on May 23 against the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. All times are Eastern Time.

Check back to the Q News for continuing coverage of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup, beginning tomorrow.