5 players with NHL draft aspirations
Raphael Lavoie the top-ranked player in CHL's big tournament
The majority of draft-eligible skaters in the Canadian Hockey League have run out of time to showcase their skills ahead of this summer's NHL draft with playoffs finished and three league champions crowned.
The lucky few playing in the Memorial Cup have a chance to potentially alter their draft stock, either by gaining the attention or changing the mind of a scout in watching the four-team national major junior championship.
This year's event isn't deep in high-end prospects and no one is bumping American Jack Hughes or Finland's Kaapo Kakko from the top of the rankings. But there are two possible mid to late round first-round picks available and a handful of others that could hear their name when the NHL draft goes in Vancouver June 21-22.
Here are the top five draft-eligible skaters at the 2019 Memorial Cup according to NHL Central Scouting:
Raphael Lavoie (Forward, Halifax Mooseheads)
Lavoie, 18, slid seven spots from No. 13 at the midterm rankings to No. 20 before the post-season began, but might have played his way back up the chart with his run of scoring to get his Mooseheads to the QMJHL final. Lavoie scored 17 times in his first 16 playoff games before ending the post-season first in goals (20) and second in points (32). His Sept. 25 birthday had him miss last year's draft by just days of eligibility, allowing him one more season of junior before an NHL team decides where to take him in the first round. He was awarded the Mike Bossy Trophy, given to the QMJHL's "best professional prospect."
Brett Leason (Forward, Prince Albert Raiders)
Leason, who turned 20 three weeks ago, went unnoticed at two prior drafts and wasn't in the top-200 draft-eligible skaters before having a breakout season with the Raiders as a 19-year-old. He had a league-best 28 goals and 64 points on a 30-game point streak — longest this season in the CHL — to start the campaign that led to an invite and eventual spot on Canada's world junior team. He returned from world juniors and cooled off down the stretch, leading to his ranking dropping from No. 17 to No. 25, but has done enough for an NHL organization to think about taking him in the first round after finishing the post-season as his team's point leader.
Alex Beaucage (Forward, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies)
Beaucage, 17, finished second in the QMJHL this season in goals (39) and third in points (79) amongst draft-eligible skaters, and followed that up with a point-per game pace in the playoffs en route to helping the Huskies to their second league title in four years. His name hasn't been brought up much leading into the draft with him ranked to potentially go in the third round, but moving up the order wouldn't be a surprise with his ability to score or set up a teammate. His father Marc Beaucage, who played briefly in the American Hockey League, also suited up at a Memorial Cup with the Laval Titan in 1992 and '93, but was never drafted.
Keegan Stevenson (Forward, Guelph Storm)
Stevenson, 18, made one of the biggest jumps from mid- to end-of-season rankings by leaping 53 spots from No. 148 to No. 95 despite not putting up the same production as other players in his draft class. After a group of trades in January pushed him down the depth chart, he suffered a shoulder injury in February that he originally believed would end his season. He wound up missing the last nine games of the regular season before returning for a playoff run to the OHL title. He's the son of Jeremy Stevenson, who has over 200 games of NHL experience.
Pavel Gogolev (Forward, Guelph Storm)
Gogolev, 19, went undrafted in 2018 despite scoring 30 goals in 66 games with the Peterborough Petes and didn't start this year too high in the rankings, barely cracking the top 200 (197) before shooting up to No. 140. The Detroit Red Wings gave him an invite to rookie camp in September but that was as far as it went, with no contract. He was acquired by Guelph in a December trade and started strong with nine points in eight outings before breaking his ankle in January and missing two months of action. When he returned in March, the Storm lineup was very different than he remembered because of major trades.