Mon May 28 10:12pm EDT
For some players at the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, it was a lot more than just attempting to reach major junior hockey glory. This tournament was a great opportunity to show National Hockey League teams they have a future in the pros.
This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity wasn't taken lightly by a handful of players. Several prospects turned heads throughout the tournament, quite likely spiking their draft stock on scouts' lists.
Here is a look at some 2012 draft eligible players who shined at the Memorial Cup.
Anton Zlobin, wing, Shawinigan Cataractes — Zlobin's outstanding tournament was topped off by scoring the overtime game-winning goal for Shawinigan that earned the Cataractes the 2012 Memorial Cup over the London Knights.
The Russian native clicked on a line with team captain Michael Bournival and star sniper Michael Chaput, scoring five goals and nine points in six games, finishing tied for second with teammate Brandon Gormley in points.
The 5-foot-11, 198-pounder, who was passed over in last year's draft, has been on the draft radar all year as a 19-year-old. He was ranked 137th among North American skaters by NHL's Central Scouting Service. His impressive showing on the big stage has undoubtedly spiked his draft stock. Prior to this tournament it appeared Zlobin wasn't a lock as a 2012 draft pick. Now that doesn't seem to be the case.
Henrik Samuelsson, centre, Edmonton Oil Kings — Samuelsson led the Oil Kings on the score sheet with two goals and five points in four games. Some of his goals weren't pretty. But they all count just the same in the end.
The son of former NHL defenceman Ulf Samuelsson also showed he's very valuable defensively, as an agitator and on the penalty kill. He blocked shots, played positonally sound, and racked up eight minutes in the sin bin.
NHL's Central Scouting Service only ranked Samuelsson 75th among North American skaters in their final rankings. Nevertheless, these rankings were released before the 6-foot-2, 195-pound centre's excellent showings in Edmonton's playoff run and at the Memorial Cup. That said, over the course of April and May, Samuelsson's name was likely bumped up on the vast majority of scouts' lists.
Seth Griffith, wing, London Knights — Griffith didn't let up from his impressive post-season performance for the Knights. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder thrived in his high-tempo energy role. He also made a dent on the score sheet, posting a goal and three points in four games.
Griffith went unlisted on Central Scouting's final rankings. That list was released before the OHL playoffs and obviously the Memorial Cup, though.
It seems quite possible an NHL team will call Griffith's name this June. This is something that couldn't have been confidently said in January.
Michael Houser, goaltender, London Knights - Houser stood tall between the pipes for the Knights, especially in the championship game. He only let 11 pucks get by him throughout his four starts, maintaining a 2.58 goals-against average.
Houser was ranked 16th among North American goalies by Central Scouting. After his strong showing in Shawinigan, he still isn't a lock as a draft pick. But with hundreds of scouts seeing him at his best, there should be at least two or three teams willing to give the 19-year-old a look this September.
Stephane Legault, wing, Edmonton Oil Kings — One wouldn't know by his Memorial Cup performance that Legault was a depth scorer for Edmonton this year. The 5-foot-11, 178-pounder stepped up his game, notching one goal and four points throughout four games.
The 5-foot-11, 178-pound winger was passed over in last year's draft. Even though he impressed on the big stage, it's possible he could be looked over again this year. Nonetheless, he should at least receive an NHL tryout.
The Rupert brothers
Despite their small 5-foot-9 frames, London's Matt and Ryan Rupert played big in Shawinigan. They consistently won puck battles, outhustled opponents, and got under their skin. This exciting play made them fan favourites. And more importantly, grabbed the attention of scouts and general managers.
Ryan Rupert netted London's lone goal against Shawinigan in the championship game. He also notched a goal, an assist, and eight penalty minutes throughout the Knights' other three games.
Matt Rupert assisted Ryan's big goal against the Cataractes. The 17-year-old finished the tournament with two assists and four penalty minutes.
Even though the Rupert twins were two of the biggest impact players in this tournament, they aren't locks to have their names called on the 2012 draft floor. However, if one or both are passed over, NHL tryouts should quickly come their way.
The two big defenders stay strong
Knights' Olli Määttä and Oil Kings' Griffin Reinhart didn't exactly steal the show; nonetheless, they kept their mistakes low and made an impact at both ends of the ice.
Despite going pointless, Määttä was still able to show off his offensive skills by making smooth breakout passes and keeping pucks deep.
Määttä also showcased his impeccable composure in his own end. The Finish blueliner boxed out opponents and knocked away loose pucks with his active stick.
Reinhart used his 6-foot-4, 202-pound frame to his advantage, finishing his checks and playing tough against opponents in tight areas. His minus-5 finish in the tournament is not an accurate testament to his defensive play.
Reinhart also proved he's a lot more than just a shut-down blueliner in the Oil Kings' opening game against Shawinigan when he sniped a goal top corner on an end-to-end rush. The Vancouver native also added an assist against the Cataractes.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen