MISSISSAUGA — There are several reasons to believe the Saint John Sea Dogs will contend for the 2012 Memorial Cup.
The Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors? Not likely.
Whether it’s Dave Cameron or someone else who is going to be making personnel decisions for the Majors next season, a full rebuild will not be necessary, but some good players will be gone.
Along with over-agers Marc Cantin, Chris DeSousa and Michael D’Orazio, the Memorial Cup final on Sunday night will likely mark the final junior game for captain Casey Cizikas and Justin Shugg. Cizikas will be eligible for the NHL entry draft in June if he has not signed with the New York Islanders by Wednesday, while Shugg could get his pro career off the ground in the Carolina Hurricanes’ system.
The future of Cameron is cloudy as well. If he moves on to the Ottawa Senators, co-coach James Boyd would likely take over.
Importantly, the Majors will have foundation blocks at each position. Goalie J.P. Anderson and centre Devante Smith-Pelly should compete for jobs with Canada at the world junior. Defencemen Stuart Percy and Dylan DeMelo have their best years ahead of them.
Forwards Riley Brace, Joseph Cramarossa, Gregg Sutch and Mika Partanen will have increased roles. Goalie Spencer Martin, the Majors’ first-round pick in the OHL draft earlier in May, will apprentice under Anderson.
“Most teams, if they go on a run, there is a big turnover,” Smith-Pelly, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, said. “But I feel like our team is going to be in pretty good shape. Leadership, it’s a role I am going to take advantage of.”
The Sea Dogs’ three over-agers — goalie Jacob DeSerres, captain Mike Thomas and Michael Kirkpatrick — were crucial in the team’s success. But when you have nine players, including blue-chippers Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan Beaulieu, who are eligible for the 2011 NHL entry draft, then only good things should happen in the following season. What’s more, it will be a battle-hardened group. Huberdeau might be a top-five pick, but he does not yet appear to be ready for the NHL.
“There is no doubt that we will have a good chance for that next year,” Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant said. “We had a good chance for it last year (when the Sea Dogs lost in the final to Moncton). There are going to be a lot of guys returning.”