How they got here
Simply put, the Hamilton Bulldogs dominated in 2021-22.
The Bulldogs were the only team in the OHL this season to cross the 100-point plateau as they set a new franchise high with 107.
They entered the OHL Playoffs on a 10-game win streak and pushed that to 22 games on the back of three straight sweeps to open the postseason after series victories over Peterborough, Mississauga and North Bay.
While they steamrolled through the regular season and the first three rounds of the OHL Playoffs, their biggest payoff came in the OHL Championship.
The Windsor Spitfires took the Bulldogs to a decisive Game 7 where their dominance showed in a 6-1 rout behind an Avery Hayes hat-trick as they claimed their second J. Ross Robertson Cup in just their sixth season.
All in all, Hamilton’s 300 goals were the second most in the OHL while their 176 goals against led the league. Owners of the second best power play (27.6 per cent), Hamilton were ranked in the CHL Top 10 on 13 occasions including three straight weeks at no. 1, where they concluded the season.
Morrison, Hayes and Ryan Winteron are three of 15 players drafted by the Bulldogs while Mason McTavish, along with captain Colton Kammerer and Nathan Staios, are three of seven players acquired via trade. Jan Mysak, alongside Artem Grushnikov, came through the CHL Import Draft.
Stars to watch
While Mason McTavish will draw a lot of the attention, no player enters the Memorial Cup in better form than Logan Morrison.
The 19-year-old tallied an astonishing 39 points (17 goals) in just 19 games and registered at least one point in every Bulldogs playoff game as he claimed the Wayne Gretzky ‘99’ Award as OHL Playoffs MVP. His 39 points were tied for the 20th most in an OHL postseason and came on the heels of a 100-point regular season.
As for McTavish, this is what he was acquired for. The Anaheim Ducks prospect joined the Bulldogs Jan. 9 in a trade with Peterborough and in 24 regular season games, tallied 14 goals and 40 points. In the OHL Playoffs, he added 16 goals and 29 points.
Hayes was second in postseason scoring for Hamilton with 34 points and tallied at least one point in 14 of the 16 games he played in.
Winterton (SEA) and Arber Xhekaj (MTL) also each impressed during the OHL Playoffs while the Bulldogs roster also includes Canadiens prospect Mysakas well as the undrafted Staios, who was recently named OHL Defenceman of the Year.
The team will be without Kammerer for the tournament as the captain will miss out due to injury.
What was said
Head coach Jay McKee:
“Coming to this event is very unique. It’s not a playoff format so to go through that tough series [against Windsor] and play that Game 7 in a do-or-die situation kind of mimics what we could be doing here.”
“It’s about dialing back in and realizing that we’re in for another one here against the best teams in the CHL. You want to enjoy the OHL win but we know it’s a whole new tournament and every team is amazing here so it’s resetting and getting back to our game.”
“It’s the biggest and hardest tournament to win and we’re super excited to be here … we were super happy [after the Game 7 win] and celebrated a lot but we flipped the switch now and we’re back to game mode.
“We have to focus on the Bulldogs but seeing new faces out there and facing teams from different leagues will be really fun.”
For a team that only joined the OHL in 2015-16, the Hamilton Bulldogs have an impressive history already.
A two-time J. Ross Robertson Cup Champion (2018 and 2022), this will be the Bulldogs second Memorial Cup in three seasons. Their 2018 effort ended in the semi-finals after a 4-2 defeat to Regina.
Across 402 games and six seasons, the Bulldogs own a franchise record of 205-156-41.
Over the course of those six seasons, the Bulldogs have produced nine NHL Drafted players. Most recently, Winterton was taken 67th overall by the Seattle Kraken while the Bulldogs have had one player drafted by an NHL team in five straight seasons.
Arther Kaliyev, who is Hamilton’s highest ever draft pick at 33rd overall by the Kings in 2019, is the team’s all-time leader in goals (126) and points (248) while current Bulldogs Morrison and Hayes ranked fourth and fifth respectively on the team’s all-time goals and points leaderboard.
Matthew Strome’s 260 games and 132 assists are franchise records while Kaden Fulcher has 112 wins in goal for the Bulldogs.