QUEBEC — There are no strangers in this year’s Memorial Cup tournament.
The four teams that will begin the battle at the Pepsi Colisee on Friday night have been in major junior hockey’s championship tournament repeatedly, although its been 25 years since the Oshawa Generals’ last appearance.
Each team has won it at least once, and all are capable of winning again.
The Kelowna Rockets, led by scoring star Leon Draisaitl, plowed through the Western Hockey League playoffs with a 16-3 record, including a four-game sweep of the top-ranked Brandon Wheat Kings in the final.
The Rimouski Oceanic went 16-4 in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League post-season, but needed a goal by Michael Joly in the second overtime period to beat the Quebec Remparts in Game 7 of the final.
Oshawa, fresh from a 13th Ontario Hockey League championship after going 16-5 in the playoffs, used the best defence in all three leagues to send phenom Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters packing in only five games in their final.
And the host Remparts bring a team of speed and skill led by Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Adam Erne, who scored 21 goals in 22 playoff games.
The Remparts open the round robin portion of the 10-day tournament Friday night against Kelowna, while Oshawa plays Rimouski on Saturday afternoon.
The event features six players who won gold for Canada at the 2015 world junior championship: goalie Zach Fucale and forward Anthony Duclair of the Remparts; defencemen Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey of Kelowna and defenceman Sam Morin and forward Frederik Gauthier of Rimouski.
The Rockets, whose only Memorial Cup win in four trips to the event was in 2004, will have been off 10 days when they face the Remparts. They used that time to practice and study video of their opponents.
Their players to watch include Draisaitl, drafted third overall by the Edmonton Oilers last June. The German had 28 playoff points, one more than draft-eligible centre Nick Merkley.
Bowey, the captain, had 19 points in as many games for a team famous for developing top defencemen. Their alumni includes Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Tyler Myers.
Coach Dan Lambert played at the Colisee in the early 1990s, when he skated in 29 games for the defunct Quebec Nordiques.
The Remparts, looking to become the first host team to win since the Shawinigan Cataractes in 2012, won the Cup in 1971 (with Guy Lafleur) and 2006.
Erne, Duclair and stocky Kurt Etchegary lead the attack, with draft-eligible Dmytro Timashov coming off a 90-point season. Fucale, who won a Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads in 2013, brings big-game experience.
Quebec didn’t miss a beat when owner, coach and general manager Patrick Roy left for the Colorado Avalanche two seasons ago, with Philippe Boucher taking over behind the bench.
The Generals, whose alumni includes Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros and John Tavares, are seeking a fifth Memorial Cup but a first since 1990.
Coach D.J. Smith’s squad is led by New York Islanders first rounder Michael Dal Colle and faceoff ace Cole Cassels, who had 31 playoff points each. Matt Mistele had 13 post-season goals, while Ken Appleby was a standout in goal.
The Oceanic, the former team of Vincent Lecavalier and Sidney Crosby, won its Memorial Cup in 2000 with Brad Richards as its star.
Their attack is led by Alexis Loiseau and Anthony Deluca, but their main strength is on defence with Morin and crafty Czech rearguard Jan Kostalek. Coach Serge Beausoleil saw top goalie Philippe Desrosiers struggle early in the playoffs, but backup Louis-Philip Guindon was brilliant in relief.
Beausoleil went back to Desrosiers to finish off the Remparts. The Dallas Stars prospect will likely start in the Memorial Cup.