This is hockey's modern-day version of Magic vs. Bird.
The top two 2013 NHL prospects – Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones and Halifax Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon – will clash in a Memorial Cup for the ages Sunday night at Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre.
"It's going to be a lot of fun, it's going to be an exciting game for sure," Jones said. “Our team is looking for a bit of redemption. Nathan had way too much time with the puck in the first game.”
Halifax scored five second-period goals in the 7-4 victory over the 'Hawks last Saturday. MacKinnon scored three of those, including blowing by Jones on one of them.
“I've kind of forgot about it,” MacKinnon, the 17-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., said. “It's last week. Old news. Portland is going to be even tougher to play. I'm sure they're going to be a lot tighter than seven goals. We have to be prepared to win 1-0.”
Neither young star is focused on the head-to-head matchup everyone will be watching. Jones and Co. also have to worry about MacKinnon's linemate, No. 3 prospect Jonathan Drouin, and solve top-rated Halifax goalie Zach Furcale.
“It's not going to be a Nathan vs. Seth kind of thing,” MacKinnon said. “It's going to be everybody.”
Jones and MacKinnon are both represented by the same agency – Creative Artists Agency – led by Pat Brisson. Though they opposed each other at the world juniors in Ufa, Russia, they know each other well and have roomed together before.
“On the ice, I'm not the type of guy who's going to slash my buddy or chirp him the whole time,” MacKinnon said. “I want to play really hard against him. He's going to play really hard against me. “I'm sure it's going to be Seth's last junior game so he's going to try to make the most of it.”
The hype over the two friends and foes enhances the Cup, according to Halifax coach Dominique Ducharme.
“This is great and this is something, good stories for people watching and good for media,” he said, “but this is something that surrounds the game. (Sunday) they're going to be on the ice and both guys playing and both want the same thing and they'll do their best to help their team win.”
One of them will go to New Jersey for the NHL draft as a champion.
“Right now, we're keeping our emotions in check,” MacKinnon said. “It's going to be a fun, exciting game. I think over-thinking it kind of hurts you. Hopefully, both of us can have a lengthy career down the road. I'm sure we'll look back and appreciate the memories.”