On Friday, the 2013 Memorial Cup will get underway as host Saskatoon takes on OHL champ London in the tournament opener.
But it’s Game No. 2 most will be paying attention to.
On Saturday, WHL champion Portland — led by top-ranked draft prospect Seth Jones — will take on QMJHL Halifax, a team featuring the No. 2 and 3 ranked prospects behind Jones for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft: Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.
“I don’t know if this tournament has ever had the top-three ranked players playing in the Memorial Cup,” NHL director of scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. “We’re looking forward to it.”
“It’s one-stop shopping for NHL scouts,” added Halifax general manager Cam Russell.
In addition to Jones, MacKinnon and Drouin, there will be several other high-profile prospects on hand:
— Three London Knights ranked in North America’s top 25 skaters: center Bo Horvat (15th), center Max Domi (19th) and defenseman Nikita Zadorov (22nd).
— Portland center Nicolas Petan (33rd) and left winger Oliver Bjorkstrand (36th).
— Halifax goalie Zachary Fucale, the top-ranked North American netminder.
“When you get to the Memorial Cup, the team game is most important,” Marr explained. “But when push comes to shove, when something big is on the line, it’s always good to see who can perform under that pressure.
“People will be watching that for sure.”