Hello and welcome to Part 1 of my 3 part QMJHL season preview! In this series I will take a look at current and (potential) future NHL prospects in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. I will cover each team in alphabetical order with six teams per part. For those of you who don’t feel like reading everything, I have left a convenient table at the bottom of the article.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titans went 26-35-5-2 last season and lost to Blainville-Boisbriand in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs. This team has no NHL draftees on their roster. The Titans were active in the off season trading away one of their top prospects Christophe Lalancette to Drummondville for a 2014 1st round pick. They then traded their 2013 5th round pick to Halifax for Dominic Beauchemin and Joel Blanchard. Blanchard and Beauchemin have immediately made an impact this preseason. Blanchard has 7 points (4G,3A) this preseason in four games, and Beauchemin has 4 assists in three games.
The Titans also have Mason McDonald as an option in net. McDonald made the Canadian roster for the U18 Ivan Hlinka tournament. He didn’t see any action in net, but to make the Canadian roster is quite impressive with the amount of young talent coming out of Canada. Two other players of note are defenseman Alex Pisarik and left wing Patrik Zdrahal from the Czech Republic. Both of these young guys have seen success on the international level with the Czech U18 team. Zdrahal has 4 goals on 6 shots in 2 preseason games this year, including a hat trick against Moncton.
Some of you may not have heard that a Titan prospect died suddenly during their training camp on August 12, 2013. Jordan Boyd was a promising young prospect and was a friend to many of his teammates. The Acadie-Bathurst Titans will be playing this season in his honor, and will wear a sticker on their helmets with “JB17” printed to remember their lost teammate. This could be their rally cry, and could propel a losing team last year to the next level. Don’t count the Titans out this season!
The Baie-Comeau Drakkar went 44-19-2-3 last season giving them the second seed in the QMJHL playoffs. They made it all the way to the finals where they lost to the offensive juggernaut that was Halifax last season. This impressive season led to four of their players being drafted to the NHL in 2013.
Two Drakkar rookies were taken in the second round of the NHL draft in 2013. Russian winger Valentin Zykov was drafted 37th overall by the L.A. Kings. Zykov finished among the top ten goal scorers in the QMJHL last year with 40 goals in 67 games. He then went on to have 10 goals and 19 points in 19 playoff games for the Drakkar. Fellow winger Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau was drafted 49th overall by the San Jose Sharks. Gabryel had 63 points in 67 games his rookie year with the Drakkar and finished one point behind Zykov in the playoffs with 18 points in 19 games.
Baie-Comeau is led up the middle by two centers drafted in 2013. Felix Girard (95th overall by the Nashville Predators) was the captain of the Drakkar in 2012, and likely will lead their team this season too. Girard had 61 points in 58 regular season games, and 15 points in 19 playoff games. Girard is most impressive on the dot where he posted an outstanding faceoff percentage of 63.8% during the regular season and 56.4% in the playoffs (FYI most elite centers in the NHL hover around 60%). Jeremy Gregoire looks to be the clear cut second line center this season and was taken with the 176th pick by the Montreal Canadiens. Gregoire is a typical power forward center listed at 6’0” 187 lbs. Gregoire had 32 points in 62 games in the QMJHL last year with 100 PIMs to boot. Jeremy dialed up the scoring with 16 points in 18 playoff games for the Drakkar, and he already has 5 points (2G,3A) in two preseason games this year.
Two more players of note for Baie-Comeau are returning goalie Philippe Cadorette, and rookie Russian Denis Gorbunov. Cadorette played a majority of the regular season games for the Drakkar, and really shined in the playoffs winning 12 games with a .914 Sv% and a 2.27 GAA. I expect Cadorette to improve on those numbers this year. Gorbunov seems to have found instant chemistry with his new team, and already scored a hat trick and has 5 goals in 2 games during this preseason.
The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada went 41-19-2-6 to finish third in the QMJHL standings. Their playoff run was stopped by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and was capped off by this bench clearing brawl. The Armada have three NHL draftees on their team.
Assistant captains Christopher Clapperton (122 overall by the Florida Panthers), and Marc-Olivier Roy (56 overall by the Edmonton Oilers) are expected to lead the 2013-14 squad. Clapperton had 77 points (34G,43A) in 67 regular season games at left wing, and led the Armada with 20 points (6G,14A) in 15 playoff games. Roy posted 67 points (29G,38A) in 65 games during the regular season at right wing, and 19 points (6G,13A) in 15 playoff games.
It seems unlikely that their third prospect will stick around with the team. Ryan Tesink was drafted in 2011 by the St. Louis Blues at 162 overall. Tesink has suffered a few injuries, and was suspended two games for his role in the aforementioned brawl. Despite the injury and drama, Ryan signed a 3 year entry level contract with the Blues in March. If Tesink isn’t ready for the AHL, he could take an entry level slide and be sent back to the Armada later this year. Keep your eye on defenseman Julien Bahl this year for the Armada. I have seen his name thrown around a few times on the interweb as a probable 2014 draftee.
CAPE BRETON SCREAMING EAGLES
The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles did not make the QMJHL playoffs last year, and finished the season with a disappointing 14-46-3-5 record. The Screaming Eagles were abysmal at defense last year. Letting in more than 4 goals per game on average. To try and stem the bleeding they traded for undrafted Dallas Stars goalie prospect Maxime Lagace. NHL Central Scouting also placed Cape Breton’s other goalie Alex Bureau on the 2013-14 futures list. Both goalies should see plenty of action if this season is anything like the last.
The Screaming Eagles have two 2012 draftees at defense who have hopefully grown a lot from the 2012-13 season. Taken with the 103rd pick in 2012 by the New York Islanders, Loic Leduc is a formidable force listed at 6’6”. Leduc’s game right now is strictly a defensive defenseman (he only posted 2 assists in 38 games last year) who is still growing into his body. Justin Hache was taken with the 208th pick in the 2012 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. Justin is an offensive defenseman and the counterpart to Leduc, scoring 33 points in 68 games last year. Despite a solid scoring year for a defenseman, Hache needs to work on his defensive game. Even with his 33 points, Hache had a pretty terrible plus/minus of -48.
The shining star for the Screaming Eagles this year will likely be William Carrier. Carrier was drafted 57th overall in the 2013 NHL draft by the St Louis Blues. On a team that gave up this many goals, Carrier managed a respectable -14 plus/minus and put up 42 points (16G,26A) in 34 games with very little support. One kid to watch in Cape Breton is Clark Bishop who will be eligible for the 2014 NHL draft. Depending on how his season goes we could see him move up some draft boards by the end of the year.
The Charlottetown Islanders went 41-23-3-1 as the P.E.I. Rocket last season to finish with the 7th seed in the QMJHL playoffs. Despite a solid season, they were upset by Val-d’Or in the first round of the playoffs for an early exit. That will not be the case this year, as I believe Charlottetown are my preseason favorites to win it all this year. The level of talent on this team is impressive. Here we go!
The Islanders have three returning 2013 NHL draftees at each position. The Phoenix Coyotes drafted center Yan-Pavel Laplante at 62nd overall. Listed at 6’4” 220 lbs. Ryan Graves was drafted 110th overall by the New York Rangers, and finally goalie Antoine Bibeau was taken with the 172nd pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Each of these guys had good seasons, and are expected to improve in the 2013-14 season, but who I really want to talk about are the 2014 draft eligible stars on this team.
The Charlottetown Islanders have had 4 1st round picks in the last two QMJHL Entry drafts, and those picks are about to have a big impact on the team. The most exciting of them all is Alexis Pepin. Pepin is listed at 6’2” 238 lbs. and is predicted to be a 1st round talent as a power forward. Next up we have potential leaders Alexandre Goulet, and Kameron Kielly. Both seem to be pretty raw, with good potential. Finally we have 2015 draft eligible Daniel Sprong who amassed an incredible 2.90 point per game in 49 AA games. It seems he will likely skip AAA and go straight to the Q at 16 years of age. These prospects have me very excited to watch the Islanders this year!
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens went 30-31-2-5 to finish the QMJHL in 12th place, and would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs. The Sagueneens are lead by captain Charles Hudon at left wing. Hudon had 71 points (30G,41A) in 56 games last season, and led the team with 10 points (5G,5A) in 6 playoff games. He posted similar numbers in 11-12, and his consistency earned him the 122nd selection overall in the 2013 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens. Center Laurent Dauphin was taken with the 39th pick in the 2013 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. Dauphin had a very impressive year at AAA that included a playoff MVP award, and followed it up with an equally impressive rookie year for the Sagueneens. Dauphin had 57 points (25G,32A) in 62 games last year in the QMJHL, and had two goals and two assists in 6 playoff games.
Chicoutimi has two impressive young players that will be eligible for the 2014 NHL draft as well. Their top goalie is Julio Billia. Julio led the Canadian U18 team to a gold medal at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. In 5 games Billia posted a 1.58 GAA, .919 Sv%, and 2 shutouts. I expect Billia to be a mid round draft pick, but his play this season will determine if he moves up or down in the rankings. Another prospect for the Sagueneens is new Finnish forward Janne Puhakka. Puhakka was on the Finnish U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka tourney and scored 4 goals in 5 games. So far this preseason Janne has 4 points (2G,2A) in two games, and looks to be a skilled scorer who could do well for Chicoutimi this year.
Check back next week for part 2 of my QMJHL season preview where I will take a look at Drummonville, Gatineau, Halifax, Moncton, Quebec, and Rimouski! Here’s that table for you!
NHL Drafted Players
|2013||2||57||STL||William Carrier||LW||Cape Breton|
|2012||4||103||NYI||Loic Leduc||D||Cape Breton|
|2012||7||208||PHO||Justin Hache||D||Cape Breton|
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